Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands

Though he’d lived in Iowa all his life, the allure of the prairie had somehow eluded John Price—until, after a catastrophic flood, a brief glimpse of native wildlife suddenly brought his surrounding home to him. Not Just Any Land is a memoir of Price’s rediscovery of his place in the American landscape and of his search for a new relationship to the life of the prairie—that once immense and beautiful wilderness of grass now so depleted and damaged as to test even the deepest faith.

Price’s journey toward a conscious commitment to place takes him to some of America’s largest remaining grasslands and brings him face to face with a troubling, but also hopeful, personal and environmental legacy. It also leads him through the region’s literature and into conversations with contemporary nature writers who have devoted themselves to living in, writing about, and restoring the grasslands. Among these authors Price observes how a commitment to the land can spring from diverse sources, for instance, the generational weight of a family ranch, the rites of wildlife preservation, the “deep maps” of ancestral memory, and the imperatives of a body inflicted with environmental illness. The resulting narrative is an innovative blend of memoir, nature writing, and literary criticism that bears witness to the essential bonds between spirit, art, and earth.

Praise for Not Just Any Land:

“John Price finds his way to the heart of the grasslands that our ancestors called the great inland sea. Riding and listening and reading along with [Price], we learn not only about the prairie, we also learn how to be at home in our own place.” — Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Private History of Awe

“Price’s considerable wisdom and poetic vision spring from both the prairie and great prairie books. With nature as his compass and literature as his map, he conducts us on a powerful journey not just in the American grasslands, but in understanding the relationship between our identity and the places that blood and history define for us as home.” — Julene Bair, author of One Degree West: Reflections of a Plainsdaughter

“Price gives us moments of genuine, self-deprecating humor, which, in his hands, is also wisdom.” — Christopher Cokinos, author of Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds

“Price is a gifted writer….His journey leaves him transformed as it may well transform the reader.” — Booklist

“[A] remarkable book.” — America

“John Price makes an important contribution to the community of writers who care about the landscapes that have become places of solitude, healing, and home. Like Scott Russell Sanders and Terry Tempest Williams, Price makes a case for “staying put”….Not Just Any Land is a personal narrative, imbued with vivid prose and keen insight, which illustrates that to understand oneself, one must acknowledge roots in a community and establish an intimacy with the land.”—Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Environment

“From the first captivating ‘calligraphic figure of a blue heron’ the reader will be bound with Price on his journey to connect with the land…Price’s personal and literary journey is a deftly woven tapestry that connects all who have chosen to rest for a moment or two in the great sea of grass, and invites those who have not to experience the natural history of the grasslands.”— Wapsipinicon Almanac

“[Price’s] book offers valuable ecocriticism, vivid portraits of writers, and a compelling account of Price’s learning what it means for him to be ‘native to a place.’”—Walter Isle, Great Plains Quarterly

“A thoughtful and very readable contribution to the ongoing discussion about regionalism and the ethical responsibilities of regional and environmental writers.” — Western American Literature

“Price seamlessly combines several literary modes….Price shows a talent for asking the right questions and for listening carefully and critically to his subjects….Highly recommended. Lower undergraduates through faculty.”—Choice

Selected Works

Nature Anthology
“Finally, here is a lovingly gathered bouquet of prairie wildflowers. This collection does not stop at commemorating all that we’ve lost, but revives the wildness in our imaginations—the first step toward restorative action.”—Julene Bair, author, The Ogallala Road
Memoir
"If David Sedaris and Annie Dillard had a literary love child and raised him in Iowa, he would write like this." The Iowan
Memoir
“…Price knows how to find beauty in quiet moments…A winsome, perceptive coming-of-age memoir.” Kirkus
“[A]n environmentalist version of The Pilgrim’s Progress.” Virginia Quarterly Review

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