Not Just Any Land


Not Just Any Land

A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands

John Price

240 pages


November 2007


$16.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Though he’d lived in Iowa all his life, the allure of the prairie had somehow eluded John Price—until, after a catastrophic flood, a brief glimpse of native wildlife suddenly brought his surroundings home to him. Not Just Any Land is a memoir of Price’s rediscovery of his place in the American landscape and of his search for a new relationship to the life of the prairie—that once immense and beautiful wilderness of grass now so depleted and damaged as to test even the deepest faith.

Price’s journey toward a conscious commitment to place takes him to some of America’s largest remaining grasslands and brings him face to face with a troubling, but also hopeful, personal and environmental legacy. It also leads him through the region’s literature and into conversations with contemporary nature writers—Linda Hasselstrom, Dan O’Brien, William Least Heat-Moon, and Mary Swander—who have devoted themselves to living in, writing about, and restoring the grasslands. Among these authors Price observes how a commitment to the land can spring from diverse sources, for instance, the generational weight of a family ranch, the rites of wildlife preservation, the “deep maps” of ancestral memory, and the imperatives of a body inflicted with environmental illness. The resulting narrative is an innovative blend of memoir, nature writing, and literary criticism that bears witness to the essential bonds between spirit, art, and earth.

Author Bio

John Price is an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His essays on nature have appeared, among other places, in Orion, The Christian Science Monitor, and Best Spiritual Writing 2000.


"Price is a gifted writer. . . . His journey leaves him transformed as it may well transform the reader."—Booklist

"In consecutive chapters about nature writers of the disappearing grasslands of the Great Plains, Price seamlessly combines several literary modes. . . . Price shows a talent for asking the right questions and for listening carefully and critically to his subjects."—Choice

“From the first captivating ‘calligraphic figure of a blue heron’ the reader will be bound with Price on his journey to connect with the land. . . . Price’s personal and literary journey is a deftly woven tapestry that connects all who have chosen to rest for a moment or two in the great sea of grass, and invites those who have not to experience that natural history of the grasslands.”—Jean Snodgress Wiedenheft, Wapsipinicon Almanac

"This 'memoir' is grassland exploration and ecology literature search at its best. . . . Price's insightful questions and sense of humor make the book's subject highly accessible and memorable. Great Plains enthusiasts, as well as those wanting to understand this often-overlooked region. . . .'where surprises can live and grow,' will delight in his extensive use of quotations from well-known writers."—Twyla Hansen, The NCB News

“Price cleverly invites his readers to join him, as he drives across the plains, visiting and interviewing those prairie conservationists whose books he has admired. Along the way, he integrates his own thinking, his reading of the prairie classics into the conversations that he has with his unseen readers. . . . The message of Not Just Any Land is idealistic, emotional, and strongly appealing, presented with good humor and a living perspective.”—Glenn M. Busset, The Manhattan Mercury

“The personal and literary dimensions of his journey through the American grasslands provide a thoughtful and very readable contribution to the ongoing discussion about regionalism and the ethical responsibilities of regional and environmental writers.”—Western American Literature

“Price makes an important contribution to the community of writers who care about the landscapes that have become places of solitude, healing, and home. . . . A personal narrative, imbued with vivid prose and keen insight.”—Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Environment

“A curious and enjoyable blend of diverse elements. It is partly a book of nature, a quest to create ‘a new connection to my home landscape. . . . a grasslands bioregion I’d lived in all my life but never seen, never known.’ It is partly a literary survey, with extended interviews with influential Great Plains writers. . . . It is more memoir than scholarly treatise—a series of physical journeys to remote corners of the prairie states, and a more personal journey of self-discovery and a growing sense of place.”—David Bristow, Nebraska Center for the Book

“In this well-researched and image-filled memoir, Price takes readers on a spiritual journey to rediscover the land. As he visits with contemporary nature writers and explores the effect that nature has on the soul, Price touches on the importance of preserving the grasslands.”—Kansas!

“Although the focus of Price’s first full-length work is on the writings of four Great Plains writers, his discovery of his relationship with this complex, beautiful, and damaged environment forms his work’s narrative. . . . Through his pilgrimage to the prairie and his conversations with those who intimately live with and write about its undulations and grasses, its animals and people, its memories and stories, Price comes to be able to tell his own story of caring and acting both persuasively and poetically.”—Elizabeth Schultz, American Studies

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - The First Miracle of the Prairie: Buffalo Gap, South Dakota
Chapter 2 - Reaching Yarak: The Peregrinations of Dan O'Brien
Chapter 3 - Not Just Any Land: Linda Hasselstrom at Home
Chapter 4 - Native Dreams: William Least Heat-Moon and Chase County, Kansas
Chatper 5 - A Healing Home: Mary Swander's Recovery among the Iowa Amish
Chapter 6 - What This Prairie Will Awaken: Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge

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