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The Heartland

An American History
Narrated by: Gabra Zackman
Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A history of a quintessentially American place - the rural and small-town heartland - that uncovers deep yet hidden currents of connection with the world.

When Kristin L. Hoganson arrived in Champaign, Illinois, after teaching at Harvard, studying at Yale, and living in the DC metro area with various stints overseas, she expected to find her new home, well, isolated. Even provincial. After all, she had landed in the American heartland, a place where the nation's identity exists in its pristine form. Or so we have been taught to believe. 

Struck by the gap between reputation and reality, she determined to get to the bottom of history and myth. The deeper she dug into the making of the modern heartland, the wider her story became as she realized that she'd uncovered an unheralded crossroads of people, commerce, and ideas. But the really interesting thing, Hoganson found, was that over the course of American history, even as the region's connections with the rest of the planet became increasingly dense and intricate, the idea of the rural Midwest as a steadfast heartland became a stronger and more stubbornly immovable myth. In enshrining a symbolic heart, the American people have repressed the kinds of stories that Hoganson tells, of sweeping breadth and depth and soul.

In The Heartland, Kristin L. Hoganson drills deep into the center of the country, only to find a global story in the resulting core sample. Deftly navigating the disconnect between history and myth, she tracks both the backstory of this region and the evolution of the idea of an unalloyed heart at the center of the land. A provocative and highly original work of historical scholarship, The Heartland speaks volumes about pressing preoccupations, among them identity and community, immigration and trade, and security and global power. And food. To read it is to be inoculated against using the word heartland unironically ever again.

©2019 Kristin L. Hoganson (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“[A] sophisticated, complex work.... Deeply researched with a well-proven argument, [The Heartland] will attract many scholars as well as general readers who like innovative, challenging history.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A revelatory examination... [A] brilliantly reasoned, meticulously researched book, which refreshingly pushes against stereotypes at every turn.... With lively prose, Hoganson delivers an eye-opening, outside-the-box book that is mind-bending in all the right ways.” (Kirkus

“As broad and wide as the prairie itself, The Heartland challenges both national and global histories by proposing a whole new way of thinking about the nature of place. The heartland isn’t the isolated homeland of American myth, Hoganson argues; it’s a site of circulation, experiment, and renewal.” (Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States

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Probably not worth the time unless you love minutia.

Here’s the book in a nutshell:

Midwesterners treated Native American badly and stole their land.

Many midwesterners traveled internationally, traded internationally, and had lots of international contacts, Particularly when it came to agriculture.

If you need excruciating detail to accept the aforementioned conclusions then get the book. Otherwise, save your time.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Nothing of interest happened in the Midwest after 1918 except for further abuse of native Americans in Oklahoma and Mexico.

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Very Specific Book

This book is a history of agriculture in Illinois and it and the University of Illinois’ connection to the rest of the globe. The first segment is a history of the Kickapoo. I enjoyed this book and learned a lot, but I am not sure a broad audience will love it.