‘Lincoln Journal Star’ reviews ‘Natives of a Dry Place’

This is a book of stories about a North Dakota town before the oil boom changed everything, about the virtues displayed in the place the author grew up. This may not seem like much of a promising premise for a memoir, but the book is surprising, inspiring, deeply personal—and a page-turner.

Edwards - Natives of a Dry Place (CI)

Edwards grew up in Stanley, North Dakota, one county south of the Canadian border and smack dab in the Bakken oil deposits that transformed western North Dakota in the past few years into an overpopulated, industrialized, polluted area with all the ills of a fast-moving oil boom that now seems to be dying down. This is all covered in the introductory chapter in which the old and new Stanleys are contrasted.

The heart of the story of Old Stanley is in a series of eight virtues inherent in a small Great Plains farming community that are illustrated with the lives and actions of the town’s inhabitants. The stories are unique to Stanley but similar to the history and culture of many such places on the Plains. Each virtue has its own main characters and stories, often daunting and all providing their own kind of heroes.

The virtues are resoluteness, steadfastness, devotion to community, pluck, commitment, dauntless optimism, spirit of adventure and modesty. That residents of a small North Dakota town can so supremely exemplify these universal qualities of hope and life is a tribute to Plains culture in America.

Richard Edwards is the director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a longtime professor of economics with a Ph.D. from Harvard and has served as chairman of the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

 

R Edwards photo a 3.27.15

 

Find Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota before the Oil Boom at sdhspress.com for $16.95, plus shipping and handling.

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Pre-order “Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota before the Oil Boom”

Edwards - Natives of a Dry Place (CI)“As a child, I thought of my town—as most children probably do—as just an ordinary place. . . . Yet I have come to think that there were exceptional things in the lives of its people and especially in the values and virtues that they believed in and aspired to.”—Richard Edwards

Before the oil industry transformed western North Dakota, the natives of Stanley went about their normal, everyday lives. Postmen, farmers, housewives, doctors, and other residents of the bustling town held certain qualities close as they cultivated the cultural fabric of the Great Plains. For generations, inhabitants of this wheat-growing region developed a combination of resoluteness, steadfastness, devotion to the community, and ever-present modesty.

Contrasting these values with the trials of the modern oil-boom community, author Richard Edwards examines the old town’s virtues through the stories of those who built and sustained a community on the dry, open plains in the twentieth century. A deeply personal look at a small North Dakota town, Natives of a Dry Place focuses on a not-so-distant past and takes readers on a journey of reflection to a time before big oil. Edwards uses his experience as both a historian and an economist to delve into the overarching questions of what makes a community and how it survives during times of upheaval.

R Edwards photo a 3.27.15Richard Edwards is director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of
Nebraska–Lincoln. He has written twelve books and numerous articles and has spent a lifetime working in academia. Edwards received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and also served as chair of the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota before the Oil Boom will be released at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood on September 25, 2015. It will be available for $16.95, plus shipping and tax.

Pre-order Natives of a Dry Place at www.sdhspress.com or by calling (605) 773-6009.

Contact Jennifer.mcintyre@state.sd.us for publicity information, a review copy, or to schedule an interview or event with Richard Edwards.