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Going Driftless: Life Lessons from the Heartland for Unraveling Times

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Going Driftless: Life Lessons from the Heartland for Unraveling Times

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Something truly fascinating is afoot in a region of the Upper Midwest commonly known as the Driftless that runs counter to many of the trends in the rest of the nation and just might be blueprint for the future of a downsized United States. Covering parts of four states—Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota—that share a shoreline with the Mississippi River, the Driftless area was spared the glacial activity that leveled the rest of the Midwest landscape. What is left is a common culture of tucked away hills and valleys, where small-scale farming, a respect and love of nature, and close-knit community are a way of life.


Lyons has written a book of people and their place: of the outsized characters who seek sanctuary in the region's hills. In particular, he's interested in the idealists--with their small-scale farms, co-ops and intentional communities--who have gravitated to the Driftless since the 1970s..."Going Driftless" is anything but driftless. These character profiles anchor the book. It is grounded and earthy, inspired by the way a place nurtures us. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Fun read...colorful characters, doing curious work, in interesting places. What fun to listen in on their stories, told by this natural-born storyteller.  (Hearts & Minds Booknotes)

"Find out what life is like in the Upper Midwest region known as the Driftless area," in this Wisconsin Public Radio interview with author Stephen J. Lyons:  wpr.org/shows/going-driftless

The book isn't a travel guide to the region, but rather a portrait of the people and enterprises that make it a separate world. (MinnPost.com)

Journalist Stephen J. Lyons explores the "driftless" zone of the Upper Midwest - including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois - to find out what binds us all together amid the hills and dales, the family farms and the close-knit communities. (OnMilwaukee.com)

Stephen J. Lyons muses on a remarkable region of the U.S. in Going Driftless: Life Lessons from the Heartland for Unraveling Times. 'The Driftless' spans a small area of southwest Wisconsin, northwest Illinois, northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota. A distinctly unglaciated history defines certain geographic parts, and a network of streams provides variant topography. In these pages, Lyons explores that landscape and the cultural experimentation born there. The remote hills and valleys of the Driftless are uncharacteristic of the Midwest, and these steeper slopes have sheltered alternative lifestyles for decades, from the back-to-the-landers who arrived in the 1970s to naturalists, traditional and organic farmers, artists, musicians and other singular souls living there today. Over several years, Lyons visits various Driftless communities, chatting with their leaders as well as others encountered by chance. He surveys farming and dairy cooperatives, families living off the grid, small business owners, food co-ops, a Zen monastery and successful planned communities. . . .Going Driftless comprises a series of sketches of people, places and organizations, and steers clear of judgment or conclusion in favor of quiet contemplation. Lyons gently suggests near the book's end that these unobtrusive lifestyles have something to offer in unstable times. Discover:An admiring profile of the successful, low-impact communities in a little-known region of the Midwest. (Shelf Awareness)

About the Author

Stephen J. Lyons is the author of The 1,000-Year Flood, A View from the Inland Northwest: Everyday Life in America and Landscape of the Heart. He is two-time recipient of a fellowship in prose writing from the Illinois Arts Council and has published articles, reviews, essays, and poems in numerous anthologies and publications, including Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, The Sun, Washington Post, Salon, and High Country News. He lives in Illinois.
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