The Heartland

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 May 2019

Member Reviews

I found this intriguing, thought-provoking and wide-ranging exploration of what is actually meant by the term The American Heartland most interesting. It seems to have divided reviewers between those who love it and those who hate it and many criticisms have been made about some of the author's contentions. However, whatever the rights and wrongs of her interpretations of history, it’s a great read. Her main thesis is that contrary to popular opinion the heartland has never been insular and isolationist but has always looked outward and has always been eager to make global connections. In fact the very existence of the heartland depended right from the start on international trade and commerce. The book focuses on Champaign County, Illinois, which for the author is emblematic of the heartland and where she is a Professor of History at the University of Illinois. I can’t comment on the accuracy or otherwise of her claims, but I found the book enlightening and it gave me a whole new perspective on the meaning of that perhaps overused term “heartland”.
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A wonderfully introspective look at an area of the United States which is often forgotten or simply relegated to "the flyover states"
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THE HEARTLAND is an American history written by Kristin L. Hoganson, the Stanley S. Stroup Professor of United States History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Here, Hoganson argues that "our assumptions about the heartland are so deeply rooted that they can withstand counter-evidence howling as loud as the prairie winds." At one point, she describes the heartland as "a psychic fallout shelter in which to seek refuge from a changing and dangerous world. ... America bound the center of their country up in myth."  Using Champaign, Illinois as a starting point, she explores themes of "human mobility, border brokering, economic ties, alliance politics, geographic awareness, and homeland insecurities."  Her chapters discuss displacement of the Kickapoo people, foreign university students in the early 1900s, and an agrarian society's relationships with the larger world. THE HEARTLAND received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly. That second review says, "Hoganson's book will attract many scholars as well as general readers who like innovative, challenging history," but are those the readers who reside there and who may fail to appreciate the Native American and immigrant heritage, the global ties and connections described in this book? 

Hoganson herself notes, "Americans persist in imaging a heart" and she made me think of a quote from Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs: "right at the place the country's heart would be if it placed its hand across its chest to say the Pledge of Allegiance," referring to Kentucky. That in turn, led me to recent work by the Rockefeller Institute on individual states' balance of payments. Just look at Kentucky (third from the bottom) which pays in a little over 30 billion dollars and receives over 70 billion, for a subsidy of around 40 billion, roughly nine thousand dollars per person per year. Yet, when we have a dialogue about "handouts," the recipients are often characterized as people of color, even though Kentucky is more white (88% vs. 64% nationally) and native born (96 % vs. 87%) - also less educated (22% with bachelor degrees vs. 30%) - than the country as a whole. Overall, there is much more immediacy regarding economic and political issues in titles like the award-winning Heartland by Sarah Smarsh or The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior. I frankly wonder to what extent ANY of us – whether we live in flyover country or not, really understand the heartland. Have we become too separated, too enmeshed in our own silos? What does that portend for democracy? Hoganson comments, "no wonder the heartland myth came to seem so commonsensical: its scaled up localness was far easier to grasp than the vast complexity of the real world."
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This is a serious book to be sure. It was a little bit of work to get through it. An important read for anyone interested in this topic to be sure. It won't land perfectly for some readers. The author did her homework and deserves kudos for putting this information and history together.
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I found this fascinating, particularly as a reader from the UK.  I feel as though I learnt a lot, and was engaged throughout.
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The Heartland by Kristin L. Hoganson is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-April.

Bucking myths and stereotypes on who inhabits the Midwest, and what it’s really all about through sociology, regional history and economy (particularly Champaign, IL), tribal experiences (particularly the Kickapoo), tending livestock, exporting agriculture, the use of railroads to supply and service the entire area, its own particular ecology and weather, and maintaining contact and relevancy with the rest of the US. It's rather a lot like it’s a weather report: the Midwest seems like it’s being pointed at, but really circled around its general area, instead.
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The author's exploration into the history of the "American heartland" of the Midwest, demonstrating through its own historical record how the mythology surrounding the heartland is inconsistent with its lived experience.

The author has done a deep dive into the historical records of Champaign, Illinois, and uses it as representative of the Midwest in general.  The "heartland" is often seen as open, empty space, waiting for settlement; she shows how the Kickapoo were run out of the land so as to make it seem open and empty, and chronicles the dispossession and inhuman treatment the Kickapoos experienced as they were driven west and later south.  The "heartland" is often seen as insulated, remote and disconnected from the issues of the world; she shows how the farmers and institutions of Champaign County were deeply enmeshed in the world of the day, growing crops and raising hogs and cattle with connections from Britain to Canada to Mexico, literally feeding the forces of empire during World War I, driving economic expansion, and thus by no means innocent of the projection of empire around the world.  

And so the "heartland" shares in the spoils and the snares of the Anglo-Saxon project in Britain and America, and was very much a part of it.  

A thoroughly engaging work.
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The Heartland is a brief snapshot of middle America, focusing primarily on Illinois and the community of Champaign, since the author works at the local university. She begins by addressing all the nicknames for the Midwest, including the flyover states, a label I personally detest because it's denigrating. The Midwest has much to offer and its citizens' values are often scoffed at, but midwesterners are hardy, stable, reliable, and loyal. Hoganson explores the Kickapoo history and the rich agrarian history of the region. Overall, it's a good overview to promote the value of the region. I'm not quite sure why the author felt the need to write it, unless she believed it was necessary to substantiate that the Midwest Is valuable. I am a proud native Midwestern who lives not too far from the primary region focused on in the book and I encourage all readers to explore the vast history and richness of the "middle west."
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I have lived my entire life in the Midwest and I had trouble finishing this book.  This is really dry and overly academic and I'm not entirely sure what it is trying to accomplish.  I'm glad the history of the heartland is being explored, though, so it is good to see more of these books being published by in the mainstream
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Review of:
The Heartland
By Kristin L. Hoganson

I found reading this book extremely difficult for two reasons.  I read this book as an early release and credit (discredit) the publisher for the first problem.  The text was broken up by misused hyphens, poor spacing between lines, and broken punctuation.  All of this added to the problems that I had which meant that I did not finish reading the book; there was no flow to it. It reminded me of reading an elementary school primer where practice reading sight words was the objective.

The other problem that I had with the book is that it was not written in the form of a story.  I felt as if I were reading a research paper submitted by a non-professional writer. It was full of facts but that was about it.  No story line, just facts about who, where, when, and perhaps a why.

I grew up in The Heartland and was hoping for some enlightenment about the places I’d lived and visited, but was disappointed that there was nothing new revealed.  

I’m curious if The Heartland was not originally written as a thesis and the author tried to publish it as a book.

Ed Raner
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A well written informative book about the heartland.Full of historical facts on to  present times issues .An important book for our times would be excellent for book club discussions or classrooms.#netgalley #penguinpress
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