Political and economic history gives way to analyses of books and movies, which give way to Christman’s personal reflections on life in Michigan, where he lives. You could describe the form as disparate things in similar containers that together create a larger whole, which is pretty close to the way Christman describes his fellow Midwesterners. Thus does the book, like some concrete poetry, take a shape that conveys what it also puts into words ... striking lines...ground abstract concepts in concrete metaphors ... If the trajectory he sketches—land grabs, oppression and environmental destruction occasionally mitigated by idealism —sounds more like the story of the United States than the story of a particular region, that’s not an accident. The Midwest...has long connoted normalcy, averageness, representative Americanness. But if there’s anything Christman’s Midwest teaches us, it’s that these qualities are red herrings.
Midwesterners, Christman argues, are seen as average ... Of course, there are dangerous implications that underlie these long-held notions, which Christman brilliantly unravels. He provides a perceptive take on how capitalism, environmental destruction, and oppression are intertwined throughout the region’s history ... Christman is snarky, sarcastic, and undeniably funny, providing quips and facts I’d love to use the next time I argue with my family members about why they can’t vote for Donald Trump again ... while Christman writes with fact-based and intellectual arguments, I found the critical work validating and even hopeful. As Christman unpacks the complicated narratives surrounding the Midwest and argues for a sort of radical compassion for the very diverse people living in the region, the easier it is for me to understand my own complex relationship to the Midwest. The writer requires that we think more deeply about what can be gained from laying bare the hypocrisy hidden in the well-known stories about Midwestern values and life.
...an engrossing meatloaf of a text comprised, among other things, of a tour of land-use policy in the Midwest, a discussion and critique of literary representations of Midwestern loneliness, and an investigation of the region’s troubled history with race ... Christman’s summation of the phenomenological state of the Midwest is clever, crisp, and engaging—it is, he writes, a place perpetually delayed, perennially othered, and subjected endlessly to temporal reframings, a region that exists in the minds of its inhabitants 'as a huge blur, one that they lob descriptions at rather than describing.' ... Christman’s vision of the Midwestern soul is complex and theory-drenched, but never less than human ... What Christman does especially well is foregrounding the way this constitutional fuzziness—the ambient non-ness of the Midwest—trends toward the elision of complex histories of exploitation ... What he ultimately finds in the region isn’t simply a mass of unrestrained space, but a retreat for difference, and a site of resolution—one whose very nebulousness makes this so.