Wish You Were Here: Love and Longing in an American Heartland

Zachary Michael Jack

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In essays whose settings encompass the diversity of the Heartland—from wooded hills to verdant croplands, from tightly knit small towns to booming suburbs—Jack considers how growing up country helped shape his life and the lives of his ancestors, inviting readers to reflect on the wellspring of connections between place and personality, demographics and destiny, at work in their own lives.

Listen to Zachary Michael Jack discuss “Wish You Were Here” in this interview!

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Description

Wish You Were Here offers a clear-eyed yet tender look at life in the modern Midwest from the perspective of a seventh-generation ruralite. Championing the romance of wide-open spaces in a rapidly urbanizing world, Zachary Michael Jack challenges the stereotypes of rural and small-town midwestern life in a well-grounded and deeply felt counter-narrative of love and longing sustained in communities where young and old alike plant roots. In essays whose settings encompass the diversity of the Heartland—from wooded hills to verdant croplands, from tightly knit small towns to booming suburbs—Jack considers how growing up country helped shape his life and the lives of his ancestors, inviting readers to reflect on the wellspring of connections between place and personality, demographics and destiny, at work in their own lives.

Contents

Preface: Wish You Were Here

Introduction: Your True Regionalist

Part I: Young at Heartland

Hinterloves

The Perfect Community

Prairie Sweethearts

Youth Votes

Digital Divides

Part II: Escape Velocities

Jack and Jill

Young and the Restless

Part III: Country Love Songs

Mona Lisas of the Prairie

Wonder Women

Afterword: Why We Come, Why We Stay

Selected Bibliography

About the Author

Authors

Zachary Michael Jack is an award-winning author and editor of many books on rural life. Twice nominated for the Theodore Saloutos Award for the year’s best book in agricultural history and a national runner-up in his class for the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year, Jack teaches courses in writing, rural, and place studies at North Central College and is on the board of the Midwestern History Association. The author was raised on a heritage farm on land that has been in continuous family ownership since before the Civil War. His ongoing legacy on the land includes living in and operating farm homes in Iowa and Missouri, states his ancestors helped pioneer. Jack is the seventh generation in his family to make his home in the rural Midwest.

Reviews

In a nation filled with relentless, high-volume self-promotion, the modest Midwest is reduced to flyover country, but Americans occasionally escape the littoral madness to reconnect with history, and earth. The seventies, as Jack notes, was a time of rural retreat, and the Internet may soon facilitate another such migration.  The pendulum swings back and forth.  Thus Jack’s quiet tales of a not-so-very-important Midwest life become a shared history, a blueprint . . . and a very enjoyable read.
—David Pichaske, author of Rooted: Seven Midwest Writers of Place

Jack cries out from what the coasties see as the “nation’s brain-drained midlands” to remind the world that millions of people still dwell in the rural Midwest and, from his posts in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, gives voice to the “unlikely tale of the stayers,” the people who remain rooted in the Midwest. Through his brilliant essays and books in recent years, Jack has become an essential voice of the Heartland in the national cacophony, one of our best hopes for maintaining a genuine democratic pluralism.
—Jon Lauck, author of The Lost Region: Toward a Revival of Midwestern History and president of the Midwestern History Association

Readers treated to Jack's gifts as a storyteller will appreciate the quilt he has constructed from his own narrative, sewn into coherence with fabric from the past.
—Julianne Couch, author of The Small-Town Midwest: Resilience and Hope in the Twenty-First Century

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