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Denison, Iowa: Searching for the Soul of America Through the Secrets of a Midwest Town

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3.51  ·  Rating details ·  82 ratings  ·  19 reviews
A critically acclaimed author and photographer of the Pultizer Prize-winning book And Their Children After Them present an illuminating new work that turns a searing lens on America's heartland.
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Free Press
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Nancy
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
As a fan of several of the books that author Dale Maharidge and photographer Michael Williamson have collaborated on, I went into this book excited about reading about Maharidge's observations about small town life but came out disappointed.

Maharidge choose to live in Denison, Iowa, a former agrarian small town that has taken a blue-collar turn and has had a recent influx of Latino immigrants to work at the meat packing plants in the area. He frames Denison as a microcosm for other towns that a
...more
Alison
Jul 03, 2017 rated it liked it
The book had started strong to introduce this unique Iowan town, but ended up falling a little flat for my taste. I thoroughly read the first three quarters and skimmed the last quarter. I didn't care for the writing switches between the first to the third person point of view, nor some content of the writer's experience which seemed to lack something more relationally meaningful. It also seemed to get a little bogged down in historical facts.
However, I did learn more about the balance of life
...more
Brendan
Jun 16, 2007 rated it did not like it
It’s a mixed bag being the soul of America. You get to be a poem, a ballad even, but you’re also a depressing failure.

At least that’s how it goes for poor Denison, Iowa, the unfortunate subject of an unfortunate new book, Denison, Iowa: Searching for the Soul of America Through the Secrets of a Midwest Town. The authors, journalist Dale Maharidge and photographer Michael Williamson, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for And Their Children After Them, about another writer-photographer team, James Ag
...more
Wordsmith J
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anybody curious about real small town life and culture.
Shelves: haveread
The town, Denison, Iowa, profiled in this book could have been my own hometown...or any other number of small, agrarian communities on railroad lines across the midwest. A really fascinating look at the sociology of the shift in demographics, and the subtleties of culture in a small community. Meticulous feature writing, done in book form. What I would expect of a talented print journalist.
Joe Keefhaver
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read the book because it discussed how a Midwest meatpacking town was coping with the influx of Hispanic immigrants. The book covers that topic, giving valuable insights into the thinking of the immigrants, as well the perspectives of the non-Hispanic population. In addition, the book deals with the broader history of Denison, its treatment of its German population during World War I, and how it has handled changes caused by economic pressures over the decades. The author is generally sympathe ...more
Dave
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
There’s about a million fuckin town these sad sacks could have written about. Why this one? 2020 It’s still on the map, I guess rumors of its demise were exaggerated.
John Desaulniers, Jr.
I picked up this book because I wanted to like the town of Denison, and yet I didn't. My first time through, as a fan of "It's a Wonderful Life," I was disappointed at how disinterested the town was in its star, Donna Reed. My second time through was a poor business week, coupled by a cellular dead zone. I'd tried twice to like Denison and it didn't work either time.

Maharidge's book, while not making me fall in love with the town, softened greatly my understanding of what Denison was, is, and is
...more
Andrea
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
The author, who won a Pulitzer Prize for a previous book, sets out to explore the changes in a small rural town that sees its homogenous community descended from Western European immigrants, transformed as immigrants from South and Central America move in to take jobs at local packing plants, and Caucasian families leave the dwindling farm economy and increasingly low pay and dangerous packing plant jobs. Maharidge, however, never really gets beyond surface appearances and his own fantasies to d ...more
Marvin
Aug 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: midwest
This is a rather bizarre (to my taste) book with no linear development, something along the lines of Stephen Bloom's book about Postville, though I think this author made a greater effort to actually listen to the voices of the people he was observing as he lived in the town for a year. Denison is a meatpacking town, & the main theme seems to be the changes wrought by the influx of Latinos into this dying Iowa town & how the town--especially its elites who are determined to find a way to keep th ...more
Miles
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I heard it said once that there are only two stories: man comes to a town and man goes on a journey. Maharidge drops himself in the deep middle of "flyover" country, a town of 8000, Denison, Iowa, and explores it for a full year in all its warmth and pettiness and despair and sexual frustration and city council meetings and cultural conflicts. What is it like to live out on the plains in a small town in the mid-2000s? I found it fascinating, and a quick read.
Marilyn
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was not well written--there was a lot of disjointed information thrown in at random places but when I got to the end of the book, it all made sense and I understood why the author included the data he did. This is an unbiased look at a small town that was going through some cultural and economic changes that are at times devastating and enlightening.
Lynn
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was attracted to this book because my son recently moved to Denison. I really liked the book because it was well written. The cultural changes that have and are still taking place in this small town are significant to say the least. Are they prophetic for the whole country? Do they reflect the attitudes of most Americans? Hmmm...
Lisa
Dec 04, 2007 rated it liked it
How funny to glance at a bookshelf in the DC library and see a book named after a small town where my aunt lives! Of course, when I saw it, I had to read the book. In some places the story drags a little, but overall it was a good read. I wish he had spent a bit more time talking about the young man in Denison who restored old buildings.
Marie
Mar 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Since I am from Iowa, I thought I should read something about what has been happening since I moved away more than 20 years ago. A big city journalist moves to Iowa for a year to explore the drastic changes taking place in the heartland of America. Are Mexican immigrants replacing the Native Americans driven out of this country?
Erik Potter
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very readable and engaging. I thought the author was a bit too much in the story for my taste. I'd have preferred more about the townspeople's stories than about his perceptions of their stories. But he's a pretty perceptive guy, so it still works well.
Erik
Apr 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a book that paints a portrait of - from what I can gather - the real Midwest at the turn of this century. Immigration, globalization, sense of place, politics, religion, everything. A very good sociological study of a meatpacking town in Iowa.
Lisa
Sep 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Interesting historical portrait of the changes in an Iowa town, and the economic strictures. As topical today as when it was written.
This is the type of book I really enjoy, american studies.
Ted Mallory
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm sure that there are plenty of people around here (surrounding county outside of Denison) that will disapprove of me because they were offended by this book, but I'm really enjoying it so far.
Les
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about the town I live in. Gave me even a more understanding of this town I care about.
Jackson
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BeckyT
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I'm a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. I've published ten books, including And Their Children After Them, which won the 1990 non-fiction Pulitzer Prize. The most recent is Bringing Mulligan Home/The Other Side of the Good War (PublicAffairs). Before that I released the paperback edition of Someplace Like America/ Tales from the New Great Depression(University of Ca ...more

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