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Dakota: A Spiritual Geography Paperback – April 6, 2001

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Dakota: A Spiritual Geography + The Cloister Walk + Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith
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Product Details

  • Series: Dakotas
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st Mariner Books ed edition (April 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618127240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618127245
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

After 20 years of living in the "Great American Outback," as Newsweek magazine once designated the Dakotas, poet Kathleen Norris (The Cloister Walk) came to understand the fascinating ways that people become metaphors for the land they inhabit. When trying to understand the polarizing contradictions that exist in the Dakotas between "hospitality and insularity, change and inertia, stability and instability.... between hope and despair, between open hearts and closed minds," Norris draws a map. "We are at the point of transition between east and west in the United States," she explains, "geographically and psychically isolated from either coast, and unlike either the Midwest or the desert west."

Like Terry Tempest Williams (Refuge), Norris understands how the boundary between inner and outer scenery begins to blur when one is fully present in the landscape of their lives. As a result, she offers the geography lesson we all longed for in school. This is a poetic, noble, and often funny (see her discussion on the foreign concept of tofu) tribute to Dakota, including its Native Americans, Benedictine monks, ministers and churchgoers, wind-weathered farmers, and all its plain folks who live such complicated and simple lives. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Nearly 20 years ago, poet Kathleen Norris and her husband moved from New York to the isolated town of Lemmon in northwestern South Dakota, home of her grandparents. Living there radically changed her sense of time and place, forcing her to come to terms with her heritage, her religious beliefs and the land. Norris learned to value the prairie landscape and to cope with the harsh climate. She found small-town life a mass of contradictions: generous hospitality mixed with suspicion of strangers, inertia and a sense of inferiority. One boon to her new life was a community of Benedictine monks; with them she recaptured her (Protestant) Christian faith and discovered inner peace. This is a fine portrait of the High Plains and its people as well as a very personal memoir of a spiritual awakening.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Kathleen Norris is the award-winning poet, writer, and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace, and Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. An oblate of Assumption Abbey, Norris divides her time between Hawaii and South Dakota.

Customer Reviews

The book is about living on the Plains, about small towns.
This beautiful, striking, and awe inspiring landscape is brought to life by Norris.
So many books, so little time
I've been wanting to visit Dakota ever since I read the book.
Ralph Ranieri

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Joe Sherry on July 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Kathleen Norris is the author of Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, and The Cloister Walk. She is a poet. Dakota was her first work of nonfiction/memoir. Having read both Amazing Grace and The Cloister Walk, I had an idea of what to expect from Norris's work. She writes deeply personal and deeply spiritual books. Dakota has the same type of feel to it, but the location and the subject is different.
Kathleen Norris's past lay in western South Dakota, but for twenty years she had abandoned both her faith as well has her history. She went to school in New York but decides to move back to Lemmon, SD with her husband. Her book is subtitled "A Spiritual Geography". She writes early on that geography comes from the words for earth and writing, and so knowing that this is a spiritual geography we immediately know that this is a spiritual discussion of the Dakotas, as well as also being about Norris herself.
Norris writes about small town life and small town church, and a semi-history of the town of Lemmon. Since most of the details are told in anecdote, it makes things easier to read. One thing that struck me was how she was comparing monastic life to small town faith and how much things tied together like that. The focus on monastic life and on monks is a theme and a topic that will run throughout the book as well as into her subsequent books. Kathleen Norris may not have a mainstream Christian faith, but she has a deep reverence and respect for the Christian tradition and faith, especially that which has come from the monasteries.
This is a slow moving, peaceful book. It is thoughtful, intelligent, and moving. It is filled to the brim with a steady faith in Christ and in some ways, it moves like time spent in a monastery. I don't know if this sounds like a recommendation, but it is meant to be. I found Dakota to be very interesting and along with Dakota, I would recommend Norris's later book: Amazing Grace.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
I had previously read two other books by Norris: The Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace:A Vocabulary of Faith. I had given copies of both to friends and family. To be honest I didn't expect Dakota to be any better than those two, but I was mistaken. Norris' descriptions of her corner of South Dakota were breathtaking and almost made me want move there. I share a similar faith journey to Norris'and I find her understanding (and lack of understanding)of God as she is learning to know him to be very believable and at times very moving. Norris has to be one of the best writers currently writing about Christianity. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a closer relationship with God, and also to anyone who appreciates good writing.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By meyerfre@iw.net on April 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
In the 1970's, Kathleen Norris and her husband adopted the principles of voluntary simplicity long before it became fashionable, leaving New York City for Lemmon, South Dakota. But western South Dakota could put even those who crave voluntary simplicity to the test--rural living within 50 miles of a major city is quite different from rural living 90 miles from the nearest Greyhound bus stop! Even the landscape, which allows one to see farm lights 50 miles away, is stark. "Seeing" the details in the landscape requires attention to the movement of grasshoppers in a plain devoid of trees. The people, isolated from the outside world, are often content with their lack of information and proud of their independence from it.
But such simplicity allows the spirit to find itself in the stillness, as Norris discovers. And to find and extend true hospitality, as the Benedictines and rural South Dakotans so warmly do.

I wish I had read this book before I moved to southeastern South Dakota in 1996....it gave me many insights into its people and philosophy. I guess I thought that living in a college town would be more "cosmopolitan", but there's an awful lot of rural South Dakota even in its college towns.

As I prepare to move back to suburban St. Louis, I realize that my two years in South Dakota have been an enriching, growth experience which have given me a changed perspective (also found a wonderful church with some Benedictine influence....I will miss the sense of community I found in my smaller parish.)

Kathleen Norris has written a poignant tribute to rural life, but it's not a Chamber of Commerce travelogue. Moving to South Dakota is not for the fainthearted!
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41 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Carlton on July 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Norris is quite amazing, having overcome the natural fault of looking at the world through her previous pre-conceptions...i.e., a New Yorker who just has to comment on how different real small town life is. She is one of the few who can actually convey the essence of a small town (and her credibility is strengthened by her fair mention of both pros and cons).
My Dad had an uncle who homesteaded in Lemon, SD (where Norris lives) and I spent most summers on my Mom's family's ranch on the James River. Norris helped me understand what all those years were really about.
The stark spirituality of her monastic experiences are powerful. This is why the book is not a slow read (as many have commented)....it is a quiet read.....and from that forgotten strength in our busy world, this book is a remarkable refuge.
Read this in quiet.....understand small town life on the starkly beautiful great northern plains......and become a better person for the time you give Norris' writing. I predict you will find another small piece to the puzzle of where you fit into the great scheme of things....whether it be your religious beliefs or your sense of history, geography, art, or self....it's in there and she will help you to reach it in her own quiet and mysterious way.
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