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Back to the Land: The Enduring Dream of Self-Sufficiency in Modern America (Studies in American Thought and Culture) Paperback – May 20, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in American Thought and Culture
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (May 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299250741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299250744
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,385,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“What a splendid account of a movement that’s usually caricatured. It taught me a lot about my state of Vermont, but also about the political and committed history of back-to-the-landers across American history. Forget your stereotype of the rugged individualist: this story turns out to be a lot more interesting than that!”—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“A compelling work of extraordinary richness—a singular quilt of Americana concerning those who lived the ever-changing back-to-the-land movement and those who wrote about it as well. Cultural and agricultural history are happily wed here.”—Michael Kammen, Cornell University

“A useful corrective to the idea that the country living movement is strictly an effort to get right with Mother Earth.”—The Wilson Quarterly

“In historian Dona Brown, the back-to-the-land movement has found its supremely elegant and most empathetic chronicler. Brown lifts the movement out of its now obscure classical origin—the late-19th-century US—and foregrounds it in modern American contemporary concerns, such as food security, organic farming, and renewable energy. She does this so deftly that her work at once reads as a scholarly account of Americans’ enduring romance with the countryside as well as a nostalgia-filled, emancipatory anthem to ‘Jefferson bumpkins.’ More importantly, her deeply researched work debunks the simplistic reading of the back-to-the-landers as seekers of hippie nirvana in country life. . . . Summing Up: Essential.” —CHOICE

Back to the Land is well researched, smoothly written, and often sharp and witty. The book does not engage with Vermont history specifically throughout its length, but Vermont and neighboring New England states play prominent roles in many of the stories that Brown tells. There is a great deal here to appeal to audiences from a range of backgrounds and with a range of historical interests. . . .[T]oday’s back-to-the-landers will want to spend time reading and thinking about Brown’s findings while they get down to the practical business of living and writing the next chapter in this longer American story.”—Vermont History

Book Description

For many, “going back to the land” brings to mind the 1960s and 1970s—hippie communes and the Summer of Love, The Whole Earth Catalog and Mother Earth News. More recently, the movement has reemerged in a new enthusiasm for locally produced food and more sustainable energy paths. But these latest back-to-the-landers are part of a much larger story. Americans have been dreaming of returning to the land ever since they started to leave it. In Back to the Land, Dona Brown explores the history of this recurring impulse.

            Back-to-the-landers have often been viewed as nostalgic escapists or romantic nature-lovers. But their own words reveal a more complex story. In such projects as Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Farms, Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City,” and Helen and Scott Nearing’s quest for “the good life,” Brown finds that the return to the farm has meant less a going-backwards than a going-forwards, a way to meet the challenges of the modern era. Progressive reformers pushed for homesteading to help impoverished workers get out of unhealthy urban slums. Depression-era back-to-the-landers, wary of the centralizing power of the New Deal, embraced a new “third way” politics of decentralism and regionalism. Later still, the movement merged with environmentalism. To understand Americans’ response to these back-to-the-land ideas, Brown turns to the fan letters of ordinary readers—retired teachers and overworked clerks, recent immigrants and single women. In seeking their rural roots, Brown argues, Americans have striven above all for the independence and self-sufficiency they associate with the agrarian ideal.

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0 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On page 237, in the Epilogue, the author states that Carla Emery "still warned in her 2008 edition" (of her own book)...
While Carla Emery's book is still in print, Carla Emery passed away in 2005. Some fact checking would have turned up this fact.
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