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.
Preface: Wish You Were Here
Introduction: Your True Regionalist
Part I: Young at Heartland
The Perfect Community
Part II: Escape Velocities
Jack and Jill
Young and the Restless
Part III: Country Love Songs
Mona Lisas of the Prairie
Afterword: Why We Come, Why We Stay
About the Author
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