Midwest Futures (Hardcover)
Author: Phil Christman
Publisher: Belt Publishing (2020)
What does the future hold for the Midwest? A vast stretch of fertile farmland bordering one of the largest concentrations of fresh water in the world, the Midwestern US seems ideally situated for the coming challenges of climate change. But it also sits at the epicenter of a massive economic collapse that many of its citizens are still struggling to overcome. The question of what the Midwest is (and what it will become) is nothing new. As Phil Christman writes in this idiosyncratic new book, ambiguity might be the region's defining characteristic. Taking a cue from Jefferson’s grid, the famous rectangular survey of the Old Northwest Territory that turned everything from Ohio to Wisconsin into square-mile lots, Christman breaks his exploration of Midwestern identity, past and present, into 36 brief, interconnected essays. The result is a sometimes sardonic, often uproarious, and consistently thought-provoking look at a misunderstood place and the people who call it home.
"To write about the Midwest is to risk joining a succession of truisms that tread and retread the same ground. In Midwest Futures, Christman sidesteps this fate. Rather than try to pin the region to a single argument or narrative, he makes a mosaic out of its multiplicity."
–Megan Marz, The Washington Post
"As the country stumbles through ever-growing crises, Christman’s book taps into a broader conversation about the future of the country—of how it’s shaped and who is shaping it—and in doing so, offers an extraordinarily insightful, potential path forward for the Midwest."
–José Pablo Fernández García, Midstory
"Equal parts lyrical journalism, historical reckoning, and vision statement, Midwest Futures is slight in size yet sprawling in scope....Drawing from a reservoir of hope, Christman stakes claim to his corner of a growing New Midwestern canon, alongside the likes of Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland and Hanif Abdurraqib’s poetry as documentary."
–Aarik Danielsen, Rain Taxi Review of Books