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