The Big Empty


The Big Empty

Contemporary Nebraska Nonfiction Writers

Edited by Ladette Randolph and Nina Shevchuk-Murray

306 pages


May 2007


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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May 2007


$21.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

A vast, barren landscape or a place of subtle natural beauty; the middle of nowhere or the gateway to the cultural and historical riches of the West; many things to many people and a cipher to many more—the great state of Nebraska is by force of circumstances a place of possibilities. What these possibilities are and what they promise are precisely what the writers of The Big Empty tell us.
Exploring the state from its rural reaches to its urban engines, from its marvelous ecosystems to its myriad historical and cultural offerings, these narratives evoke Nebraska in all its facets. Writers as diverse as Ron Hansen, Ted Kooser, Michael Anania, Bob Kerrey, Mary Pipher, Delphine Red Shirt, and William Kloefkorn, among many others, bring a wealth of perspectives and styles to topics such as the Oregon Trail and the Cheyenne Exodus, farming and Internet cafés, politics, weather, and family secrets. The result is a portrait whose broad strokes and rich detail capture the mysterious character of Nebraska.

Author Bio

Ladette Randolph, the associate director and humanities editor at the University of Nebraska Press, is the author of This Is Not the Tropics, a collection of short stories, and the editor of A Different Plain: Contemporary Nebraska Fiction Writers, available in a Bison Books edition. Nina Shevchuk-Murray, a former editorial assistant at the University of Nebraska Press, is a Ukrainian-born poet and translator whose work can be found in a number of literary magazines.
Contributors: Michael Anania, Ron Block, Alan Boye, Bob Gibson, Merrill Gilfillan, Ron Hansen, John Janovy Jr., Paul Johnsgard, Bryan Jones, Bob Kerrey, William Kloefkorn, Lisa Knopp, Ted Kooser, Kenneth Lincoln, Kem Luther, Mark Monroe, Mary Pipher, John Price, Delphine Red Shirt, Michael Rips, Bob Ross, Joe Starita, Ruth Thone, Jack Todd, Robert Vivian, Eamonn Wall, and Roger Welsch.


“A wise friend once recommended learning about an unfamiliar place by reading the works of authors who live there. That theory proves true with this collection of 27 previously published essays and excerpts by Nebraskan nonfiction writers. . . . This diverse collection enables the reader to experience life in Nebraska. An excellent selection for regional libraries and academic literature collections.”—Library Journal

“Read The Big Empty slowly. Savor the depth of thought, the breadth of subjects, the richness of language. Distance surrounds us, and these Nebraska writers, ‘who pass through it with open eyes,’ as Ron Block says, open ours.”—Linda Read Deeds, Nebraska Life

“This book is a pleasure to read. . . . These writers take unflinching looks at racism, the Vietnam War, rural poverty, environmental degradation, and other unflattering episodes in the state's history. The book is nevertheless filled with humor. . . . It’s certain that readers will never look at a barbed-wire fence or a buffalo chip the same way again.”—Bloomsbury Review

“This is a well-crafted book of short stories about life in Nebraska.”—Rick Galusha, City Weekly (Omaha, NE)

“Ladette Randolph and Nina Shevchuk-Murray have assembled a powerful collection of essays in The Big Empty. . . . [I] found myself wishing two things: that this text—or segments of it—will be used in classrooms to further students’ knowledge of the history, sociology, and culture of the Plains, specifically Nebraska; and that I could assemble all of these authors in my living room to continue the discussion their essays have invited. The Big Empty gives readers “The Big Picture.” It also gives a real boost to the essay form which I believe any reader will find enjoyable throughout the text, regardless of topic. . . . Bravo to the editors for a job well done.”—Great Plains Quarterly


Winner of the 2008 Nebraska Book Award - Anthology Category, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book

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