Words by Evan Harms
Something that I absolutely beat to death in this blog is the idea of creating Midwestern journalism and media for Midwesterners, by Midwesterners. We’ve needed this long before Trumpism, and it’s a concept that transcends that anyway – our fate is tied to our identity. Our identity is tied to the ability to coalesce and relate to one another across divides of class, race, locale and any other extraneous factor. This blog certainly won’t save the Midwest, but it’s a small effort to open up a conversation that needs to take place between communities, politicians and, most importantly, individuals like you and me.
This week, we’ll be taking a look at Daniel Kay Hertz’s review of two books put out by the always-phenomenal Belt Mag (from which I gather most of my inspiration from), “The New Midwest: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction of the Great Lakes, Great Plains, and Rust Belt” and “How to Speak Midwestern,” by Mark Athitakis and Edward McClelland, respectively.
Both “slim” books seek to look at the past and traditions of the Midwest (Scandinavian accents, homesteads), but ultimately leave us realizing that these traditions are changing, part of the old guard, part of something I want to call “White Midwesternism.”
“And if you happen to be a schoolteacher or sales rep in a blue midwestern city, or black or Muslim or undocumented, it’s unclear how much of this wave of midwestern journalism sees you as a reader or as a subject,” Hertz writes. Many of the issues I’ve addressed so far in No Coasts have largely dealt with my own experience as a white male of European descent growing up in a suburb of Cleveland.
That certainly doesn’t excuse anything, however. He’s referring to the treatment of the Midwest by political reporters and pundits in the wake of the Trump election, largely carried by white Midwesterners who felt motivated to vote. First off, we don’t need this “colonial” type of reporting. If we did, we need a greater depth of anthropological understanding, something Athitakis’s collection of fiction appears to address (I haven’t read it myself yet), looking at authors who seek to reestablish a more inclusive and realistic Midwestern paradigm for the future.
In part, the responsibility falls on those with a platform: writers, artists, media folks and storytellers of all stripes. More importantly, the responsibility falls on today’s Midwestern youth. We are responsible for our image and voice in a quickly evolving (devolving, perhaps) political and social climate.
I’m excited to see what we’ve got.