Midwest Futures (ebook)

By Phil Christman

“Phil Christman is a beautiful writer with a sharp analytical mind—readable, engaging, and funny as hell, while also maintaining intellectual rigor. You don’t have to be a Midwesterner to feel connected to this book and its people.”—Tressie McMillan Cottom, National Book Award Finalist and author of Thick: And Other Essays

A tour de force of high-flying writing and fiercely independent thought, Phil Christman's Midwest Futures grapples with grace and dark humor with the past, present, and future of the country's most misunderstood region.

Inspired by the Jeffersonian grid, the famous rectangular survey of the Old Northwest Territory that mapped everything from Ohio to Wisconsin into square-mile lots of 1,000 square feet, Midwest Futures is structured as 36 brief, interconnected essays — six “rows” each containing six “plats” — of approximately 1,000 words.

Elaborating on ideas first given voice in his celebrated 2018 essay “On Being Midwestern,” Christman here leverages his formidable creativity to explore the idea of the region as a site of technological change and hope in a perilous future. Sardonic, often uproarious, and consistently surprising, he deftly connects the growth of the railroads and Chicago’s futures market to the Great Migration, the recession, and pivotal place of the Midwest and the Great Lakes in the face of climate change — all the while taking readers on a looping ride through Midwestern literature and culture. 

A former substitute teacher, shelter worker, and home health aide, Phil Christman currently lectures in the English department at University of Michigan. His work has appeared in The Hedgehog Review, Commonweal, The Christian Century, The Outline, and other places. He holds an MFA from the University of South Carolina-Columbia. He is the editor of the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, a journal sponsored by the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project.


More praise for Midwest Futures:

"A combination of history, memoir, reportage, and lit-crit that taught me a lot about a region I’ve reported on....Check it out."—James Fallows, The Atlantic

"This is a fantastic book by one of the most underappreciated writers of my generation on a topic that isn’t easy to write about. It’s such a joy that I zipped through it in a single day."—Scott Beauchamp, The Washington Examiner

Christman's text is pointed and often very funny as he ponders a subject that has been hiding in plain sight. ... A provocative analysis. You'll never think of Peoria in the same way again. Kirkus Reviews

Midwest Futures is a remarkably rich and clear-eyed meditation on the region. While the Midwest has long been bound up with the myth of national destiny, Christman reminds us that its history was neither fated nor inevitable, but chosen by human actors. What emerges is a place far more protean and variable than the caricatures that so often dominate the popular imagination. In thinking deeply and imaginatively about the region's history—its injustices and inequities, its social experiments and utopian visions—Christman uncovers a multiverse of possible futures, asking us to consider what might have been and what still may be. ” —Meghan O Gieblyn, author of Interior States

“An affectionately critical exploration of a place wrung out of easy epiphanies. Phil Christman’s deeply funny and clear-eyed Midwest Futures is the antidote to outsider appraisals and lets us see the Midwest as place, a template, a symbol, but most of all, as region where people live on the edge of possibility.” —Elizabeth Catte, author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia

“Phil Christman is mapping new territory. He is surveying the intricacies of the forgotten Midwest, and he is an expert guide, taking the reader, grid-by-grid, through a landscape we must know better.” —Jon Lauck, Editor-in-Chief, Middle West Review


APRIL 7, 2020 | ISBN: 9781948742610 | HISTORY | HARDCOVER | 5 X 7.25 | 160 PAGES