In "Midwest Futures," Michigan author Christman challenges what you thought you knew about the Midwest, from the economics of railroads, Native American genocide, "racial quarantines," and whether these states are really any better positioned to ride out climate change disruption. The title refers to where the nebulous "Midwest" is headed, and also to the Chicago Board of Trade whose futures exchange serves as an example for the many "innovations" in these states that have both helped, and then gone on to harm the same people. (The small farmers who first saw their grain prices stabilized by the futures market, later went on to lose their farms to the agribusinesses that could exploit it better.) The author shows us in 36 short interlocking essays that speculators, not settlers have always controlled the Midwest's fortunes: he wants us to summon up the collective will to change that.
What does the future hold for the Midwest? A vast stretch of fertile farmland bordering one of the largest concentrations of fresh water in the world, the Midwestern US seems ideally situated for the coming challenges of climate change. But it also sits at the epicenter of a massive economic collapse that many of its citizens are still struggling to overcome. The question of what the Midwest is (and what it will become) is nothing new. As Phil Christman writes in this idiosyncratic new book, ambiguity might be the region's defining characteristic. Taking a cue from Jefferson's grid, the famous rectangular survey of the Old Northwest Territory that turned everything from Ohio to Wisconsin into square-mile lots, Christman breaks his exploration of Midwestern identity, past and present, into 36 brief, interconnected essays. The result is a sometimes sardonic, often uproarious, and consistently thought-provoking look at a misunderstood place and the people who call it home.
About the Author
A former substitute teacher, shelter worker, and home health aide, Phil Christman currently lectures in the English department at University of Michigan. His work has appeared in The Hedgehog Review, Commonweal, The Christian Century, The Outline, and other places. He holds an MFA from the University of South Carolina-Columbia. He is the editor of the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, a journal sponsored by the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project. He lives in Ann Arbor, MI.