Leaving Nebraska: Revisiting Willa Cather in the Pandemic

Willa Cather can make you believe that Nebraska is a little more idyllic than your particular piece of America. Prairie flowers bloom near fields of waving wheat. Sturdy immigrant farmers build sturdy farmhouses and some residents install hammocks on the upper porch to sleep out under the stars on summer evenings. Even the fierce winter […]

Saying Their Names: Jesmyn Ward’s Mississippi Memoir

Jesmyn Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, derives its title from an arresting Harriet Tubman quote that appears in the book as an epigraph: It’s an interesting frame for the story of a young African-American woman’s life, especially one who has been as successful as Ward. With Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing, Ward has […]

An Old Man Remembers Love, (and You’ll Want to Read It)

I made the mistake of introducing myself to Philip Roth by reading one his later work. Indignation, a 2008 novel, drew on some of Roth’s familiar themes—Jewish identity, American identity, relationships—but it had none of the spark I was hoping for. It felt like an older man’s attempt to imagine himself back into first love. […]

#9 – Out of Darkness, Shining Light: Heartlands Best Reads of 2019

As we continue the countdown of best reads of 2019, we come to Out of Darkness, Shining Light by the Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah. It’s a vivid imagining of the company that escorted the body of Dr. David Livingstone, the famed explorer and missionary, back to the coast following his death in central Africa. Gappah’s novel […]

Love And Fire Children: Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here

I don’t know why it’s the late spring of 1995 when Nothing to See Here begins. Perhaps it’s because it’s a time blessedly free of cell phones and texting and the narrative complications they introduce. Maybe it’s because politics had a few more norms such that a main character who is a senator could imagine […]