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Those of us committed to the Midwest and its literature can and should mourn the damages done to our region by our habits of transience. But we must also recognize, as these two books help us do, that it is not just the Midwest, but life itself, that is “fluid and impermanent.”
In sum, Finding a New Midwestern History is an exemplary compilation of historical interpretations both renewed and new. The enthusiasms of Garland, Wright, and Turner—registered a century and a quarter ago—have found compelling new voices, testifying to the Midwest’s remarkable past, and present.
I lived much of my adult life under Terry Branstad’s multiple tenures as governor of Iowa, and I think he did a “pretty fair...