The American Midwest

The American Midwest

An Interpretive Encyclopedia
Edited by Richard Sisson, Chris Zacher and Andrew Cayton
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/08/2006
Format: Hardback 354 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-34886-9
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2007 AAUP Public and Secondary School Library Selection

This first-ever encyclopedia of the Midwest seeks to embrace this large and diverse area, to give it voice, and help define its distinctive character. Organized by topic, it encourages readers to reflect upon the region as a whole. Each section moves from the general to the specific, covering broad themes in longer introductory essays, filling in the details in the shorter entries that follow. There are portraits of each of the region’s twelve states, followed by entries on society and culture, community and social life, economy and technology, and public life. The book offers a wealth of information about the region’s surprising ethnic diversity—a vast array of foods, languages, styles, religions, and customs—plus well-informed essays on the region’s history, culture and values, and conflicts. A site of ideas and innovations, reforms and revivals, and social and physical extremes, the Midwest emerges as a place of great complexity, signal importance, and continual fascination.

Author Bio

Richard Sisson is Provost and Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Ohio State University. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Christian Zacher is Professor of English at Ohio State University and Director of its Institute for Collaborative Research and Public Humanities. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Andrew Cayton is Distinguished Professor of History at Miami University. He lives in Oxford, Ohio.


“The American Midwest offers a wealth of information about the region's history, culture, ethnic diversity, values, and conflicts. A place of ideas and innovations, reforms and revivals, and social and physical extremes, the Midwest emerges as a place of great complexity and importance. Whether you are a serious researcher or a casual browser, there are facts to pique everyone's interests in this vast, informative, and engaging volume. ”

“What geography can give all Middle Westerners along with the fresh water and topsoil, if they let it, is awe for an Edenic continent stretching forever in all directions. Makes you religious. Takes your breath away. ”
 — Kurt Vonnegut

“No matter what I write I begin there. ”
 — Toni Morrison

“Although the essence of a place can never be definitively captured—even in a work stretching to almost two thousand pages—this ambitious publication productively engages the question.Vol. 37, No. 2”
 — South Dakota History

“You'll close this new book and start spouting fascinating—and even useful—facts to your friends long before you realize that.”
 — Trevor Meers, Midwest Living

“This book is an essential text for all Midwestern libraries. . . . Middle-American people, landscapes, and culture all stand to benefit from this weighty work of scholarship, as it provides us with a holistic guide for understanding ourselves, our neighbors, our regional landscape, and our place on the national stage. Summer 2007”
 — Ohioana Quarterly

“[A] welcome and instructive volume, which treats the vernacular Midwest . . . as a coherent and unified region. Vol. 104, September 2008”
 — Indiana Magazine of History

“Any way you look at it, The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia is impressive.”
 — Minnesota History

“A collection of provocative readings that may inspire further research.”
 — Choice

“Spanning 1,890 pages and weighing in at 8 pounds, the encyclopedia is a lot like its subject: big, brawny, hardworking, plainspoken, and yes, far more interesting and outrageous than you ever imagined. May 5, 2007”
 — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“At 1,800 oversized pages, brimming with hundreds of lively essays on every imaginable Midwestern subject, it's an autodidact's delight, and a great addition to any serious reader's library. December 1, 2007”
 — Northern Ohio Live

“This ambitious volume, the culmination of nearly ten years of effort by hundreds of scholars . . . [presents] a comprehensive and scholarly treatment of its subject while at the same time challenging the reader's expectations of what an encyclopedia should be.Spring 2008, Vol. 115”
 — Ohio History

“Best suited for browsing or targeted searches via the excellent index, this essential encyclopedia is suitable for patrons of all public and academic libraries.”
 — Julienne L. Wood, American Reference Books Annual Vol. 39

“Unlike some state and regional encyclopedias, which seem to inundate the reader with facts and figures but never really relay a feel for their subject, this one was clearly created with the aim of endowing the reader with a sense of the American Midwest and its people. . . . This encyclopedia also gets kudos for one of the most comprehensive sections on labor- and class-related issues that it has been my pleasure to read . . .Spring/Summer 2009”
 — Western Folklore

“Best suited for browsing or targeting searches via the excellent index, this essential encyclopedia is suitable for patrons of all public and academic libraries.2008”
 — Julienne L. Wood, American Reference Books Annual Vol. 39

“The American Midwest was a tremendous undertaking, and the final product is a well-balanced and extremely useful volume for scholars, researchers, and casual readers interested in learning more about all aspects of midwestern geography, history, and culture. Spring 2008, Vol. 34, No. 1”
 — Michigan Historical Review

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Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Landscapes and People
1. Portraits of the Twelve States
2. Images of the Midwest
3. Geography
4. Peoples
III. Society and Culture
5. Language
6. Folklore
7. Literature
8. Arts
9. Cultural Institutions
10. Religion
11. Education
12. Sports and Recreation
13. Media and Entertainment
IV. Community and Social Life
14. Rural Life
15. Small-Town Life
16. Urban and Suburban Life
V. Economy and Technology
17. Labor and Working-Class Culture
18. Transportation
19. Science and Technology, Health and Medicine
VI. Public Life
20. Constitutional and Legal Culture
21. Politics
22. Military Affairs