Things are never as difficult as they appear; they are always far more difficult.” A friend of mine once heard this bit of advice from his professor. And although the professor was speaking of theological study, the saying surely applies with equal force to doing an analysis of America, particularly in the era of Donald Trump and COVID-19.

In her new book, American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland, journalist Marie Mutsuki Mockett reckons with that complexity with more care and maturity than nearly any other writer operating in what has become a crowded and tedious space: the Trump-country travelogue.

Ever since polls began showing Trump atop the Republican primary field, journalists and media outlets have been producing pieces meant to explain his popularity among some Americans to those who find it inexplicable. At its worst, these pieces are derivative, condescending, and trite, leaving us with little more than the fact that Trump supporters support Trump, as journalist Ashley Feinberg has shown.

That being said, understanding America in 2020 remains difficult, as many of the nation’s journalists struggle to capture that complexity in their work. There are differences of geography—city versus country versus suburb versus exurb. There are racial differences. There are religious differences. There are socioeconomic differences.

And as Mockett demonstrates in her book, any explanation of contemporary America that focuses exclusively on one of those factors is bound to be reductionistic. The people Mockett meets, like the overwhelming majority of people we meet in our day-to-day lives, are complicated, surprising, and interesting, if only we will take the time to see them.

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American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
Book Title
American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland
Graywolf Press
Release Date
April 7, 2020
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