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Short Fiction
One Degree West
by Julene Bair

Price: $16.00
192 pages
trade paper
ISBN: 0922811458
LCCN #: 00-028067

One Degree West: Reflections of a Plainsdaughter describes Bair’s struggle for independence and acceptance within the male-dominated farming and ranching culture of her birth. As a portrait of one young woman’s coming of age, One Degree West is a stunning mosaic of shared history. Through the eyes of an observer as gifted as Julene Bair, the personal doubts and the cultural insecurities of the 1960s retain an extraordinary luminescence and freshness. And as a documentary of three generations, the individual players—mother and father, sister and brothers, and grandson—emerge from a maze of rivalries, hard feelings, and miscommunication to become a family.

In the book’s final essay, “The Tossed Purse," Bair writes about attending a writer’s conference in Vermont, “where greenery formed a tangle all the way to the ground.” She again feels the tug of home and all that place has come to represent: “Originally a plainswoman and now a westerner, I’m accustomed to greater spaciousness, and it seems only natural that my unconscious returned me to my mother’s and my original home, our farmhouse on the High Plains of western Kansas, where we both grew up.”

2001 WILLA Literary Award for Essays/Memoir

“These eleven carefully crafted essays provide an exploration of the individual as Bair escapes, recaptures, and rebuilds her identity beyond the place where she was raised.”—Library Journal

“A compelling feminist critique of the gender divisions in [Bair's] rural home and affecting memories of her own self-realization.”—Publishers Weekly

“Small, beautiful vignettes.”—Booklist

“A truly authentic voice of the new West. The agrarian ideal of productive work, meaningful civic participation and lively community life is captured and reflected in Bair's own clear, populist voice.”—Chicago Tribune

One Degree West is a bittersweet paean to a place, a time, and a way of life. This lyrical, evocative collection combines descriptions of a vital and demanding farming culture with the author's reflections on her own personal evolution. The book is a deeply human story of one woman's connections to her family and the land, as well as a compelling narrative about generational conflicts, romantic yearnings, separations and reconciliations.”—Michael Steinberg

“With the big Kansas sky and endless acres of wheat as a backdrop, One Degree West is a luminous account of life on the western plains. Told both from the solitary and soulful perspective of a girl gazing at the immense night sky, the toes of her boots poked though a wire fence, and the thoughtful and intelligent woman she becomes, these stories are profound and beautiful, utterly compelling.”—Jo Ann Beard

“From childhood to motherhood, from seed time to harvest, One Degree West vividly bears witness to the bittersweet lot of a woman's life on the farm. Fraught with the challenging weather of existence on the edge the Plains, Julene Bair's memoir is much more than a personal story. It's a haunting family saga, an eloquent tribute to a passing way of life by a person who passed it by--a new farming classic.”—Carl Klaus

“‘I have found, in writing, a means of expressing my innermost self, but that self is a mixture of confused impulses,’ writes Julene Bair. It is precisely that combination of self-discovery and spontaneity, combined with the rich and textured descriptions of home and family, that make her essays so sensitive and compelling.”—Lee Gutkind

“As consistent as the seasons, this collection of elegantly written essays traces Bair's childhood on the farm, her departure at age eighteen of her annual summer sojourns as an adult. Eleven luminous meditations ponder (among other things) the role of a daughter to aging parents and the hardships of being a single parent of a teenage son. This is a readers' memoir, a perfect example of what literary form strives to be. Each sentence is perfectly crafted … a remarkable book by a highly skilled author.”—ForeWord Magazine

“Fluid prose, keen observations, and revealing introspection. [The] writing is crisp and spare, and not a word is wasted. A valuable window to another world. A pleasurable and thought-provoking read.”—Cedar Rapids Gazette

“Attention to detail strengthens the historical applications of this work, but it is the dynamic tension of juxtaposed images and incidents that give this work a psychological and sociological depth. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys good writing.”—Northern Lights

“A truly lovely personal history that transcends its genre to become something universal and wondrous. Haunting, tear-drenched, beautiful, and unique. One Degree West will appeal to all lovers of the spiritual seeking essay. Its prose poetry lingers in the mind and heart.”—The Midwest Book Review


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