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 1960′s 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.
• Women Writing the West WILLA Award
• Mid-List Press First Series Prize
• Mountain and Plains Booksellers' Reading the West Award
• Bakeless Prize
• Glasgow Prize
★ Praise & Reviews ★
"At night we had distant yellow lights to remind us that we did have neighbors, but when those blinked off at bedtime, only the moon and stars penetrated the dark. Coyotes howled in our front yard." This sense of place and isolation frames Bair's account of her childhood in rural Kansas during the 1950s, and it festers during her adult years as she returns to and again leaves these same fallow prairies. She tells the story of her place in a family made up of a father who lives to work the land, of fieldhand brothers with disparate futures, and of a mother who has "a policy of not asking," as well as an extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. These 11 carefully crafted essays provide an exploration of the individual as Bair escapes, recaptures, and rebuilds her identity beyond the place where she was raised. Recommended for public libraries and academic libraries supporting creative writing programs. -Sue Samson, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula (Library Journal)
Bair grew up in western Kansas and left as soon as she was able to do so--vowing, as many plains children do, never to return. But years later, pregnant, alone, and recovering from two consecutive abusive relationships, she came home and began the process of rebuilding and healing her life. In this collection of essays, Bair explores her childhood, adulthood, the difficulty of reconciling the way she was raised with the way she is living, and single parenthood. While the essays do not always pertain to her life as a "plainsdaughter," her upbringing is always at the forefront of who she is and how her character was molded by plains life. These essays are a way for Bair to come to terms with who she is and who she was, and to let go of the mistakes she has made in the past. Though the commentaries could have been self-important and merely cathartic, her writing skills elevate them to the level of small, beautiful vignettes about life. -Ellie Barta-Moran, American Library Association.
"This is a readers' memoir, a perfect example of what the literary form strives to be." -Rebecca Maksel, ForeWord
Told both from the solitary perspective of a girl gazing at the immense night sky, the toes of her boots poked through a wire fence, and the thoughtful and intelligent woman she becomes, these essays are profound and beautiful." -JoAnn Beard, author of Boys of My Youth and In Zanesville.
"Julene Bair has written a powerful elegy--flinty and tender--for American farm life, and a daughter's story of fierce family struggle and even fiercer love. These linked essays have the immediacy of fiction and an enduring wisdom attaining to history." -Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist's Daughter.
"In lyrical essays about love, the stars, family, dirt, and how home always remains our center of gravity, Bair--who was raised on the high plains of western Kansas--has created an achingly beautiful elegy for American farm life." -Karen Olson, Utne Reader