Tomorrow, the United States celebrates 242 years of independence. Though the U.S. declared independence on July 4, 1776, it took more than a year before another country, Morocco, acknowledged the American claim of independence. That formula—declared independence, followed by recognition by other countries—is how all but a few countries have joined the world’s some 200 sovereign nations. But what happens when a group of people declare independence, but nobody recognizes their claim? Slate writer, Joshua Keating, tries to answer that question in his new book, Invisible Countries: Journeys to the Edge of Nationhood. He looks at places like Kurdistan, Catalonia, and Abkhazia, where people have declared independence, but are stuck in international limbo for political, economic, or legal reasons. Very few countries have received recognized independence since the end of the Cold War.