Long Loves in a Small Coastal Town: A Review of In West Mills

De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s debut novel begins with an arresting scene. Pratt Shepherd is in the middle of a fight with his free-spirited girlfriend in a small, coastal North Carolina town on the eve of World War 2. However, Azalea ‘Knot’ Centre, a sometime teacher at the local school for African-American children, is nobody’s possession. When […]

Good God, What Happened to the Heartland?: Laughing and Lamenting with Lyz Lenz

Lyz Lenz is so funny sometimes that you can forget that she has written a hard book. As, for instance, when she’s surveying the physical layout of cookie-cutter megachurches and says that “the decor looks like a Hobby Lobby vomited all over the place.” (115) That’s the vibrant Lyz that you want giving you the […]

God is in the Countryside (and Country Churches)

Maybe it’s because I’m getting ready to do a workshop on storytelling this weekend, but I’ve been thinking about the parables of Jesus. The Nazarene had a way of incorporating the stuff of the world around him into his messages. Farmers and seeds, shepherds and sheep, tenants and landowners—these were things Jesus’ listeners knew about. […]

Why Don’t Country People Just Get Out? – Episode 3

It’s happened again. Writers in The New York Times are once again wondering aloud if country people shouldn’t just give up and move to the city to deal with problems of economic insecurity. Which means, it’s time for another episode of “Why Don’t Country People Just Get Out?” In an article titled “The Hard Truth […]

The Shame of Rural America: The Heartlands Interview with Robert Wuthnow Concludes, 3 of 3

In the last part of my interview with Princeton sociologist, Robert Wuthnow, we talked about rural churches.  In this segment we pull back the lens and look at shame, among other things… You say in the book, The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America, that part of your effort is to explain to other […]

Still Kinda In Kansas: Talking Politics with Robert Wuthnow, Part 1 of 3

Robert Wuthnow is that rare academic who still keeps a foot in the heartlands.  Wuthnow is a respected Professor of Social Sciences at Princeton University but he’s as apt to talk to you about his native Kansas as he is the cultural capitals of DC and New York. I caught up with Wuthnow a few […]