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.
–Mid-List Press, 2000
Praise & Reviews:
“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
“Julene Bair’s One Degree West provides a truly authentic voice of the new West. … Of all the recent changes in the West, the industrialization of agriculture and the concurrent decline of family farming may have the most historic significance. Families like the Bairs have left legacies not only on the soil, but also in democratic politics. The agrarian ideal of productive work, meaningful civic participation and lively community life is captured and reflected in Bair’s own clear, populist voice. She reminds us that a nation “one generation beyond the farm” risks losing much more than its farmers.” —Catherine McNicol Stock, Chicago Tribune
“One Degree West is a truly lovely personal history that transcends its genre to become something universal and wondrous. … [It] will appeal to all lovers of the spiritual seeking essay. Its prose poetry lingers in the mind and heart.” —BookWatch
“With careful eloquence, Bair traces the fault lines within her family, divisions deepened by gender, colliding dreams, and death. … The beauty of One Degree West is exactly this span: in following those moments of family reunion, whether in celebration or grief, in chronicling the tensions and rivalry that bound the family, in acknowledging the need to love and be loved, Bair’s lyrical reflections take on archetypal weight.” —Susan Maher, Western American Literature
“With One Degree West, Julene Bair ensures that her past is appreciated; she shows her keen awareness of the spirit of the plains, and argues passionately for the value of the unownable.” —Patrick Madden, Creative Nonfiction
“Bair’s writing in One Degree West does not presume to offer solutions to the problems of familial and ecological dysfunction. It is an exploration of experiences, a substantial bread she has made from the gleanings of one life. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys good writing.” —Monica R. Hansen, Northern Lights
“…a compelling feminist critique of the gender divisions in [Bair’s] rural home and affecting memories of her own self-realization.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“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, University of Montana Library, Missoula, Library Journal
“…the real value of Bair’s book is not its environmentalist lessons or its demographic truths, valid as these are. She is, as she says, a Plainsdaughter, and her thoughtful, articulate “reflections” on the land and the culture that, for a while, flourished there are a daughter’s thoughts.” —Elizabeth Dodd, Great Plains Quarterly
“…more than a collection of nostalgic stories of farming in the 1950s. They’re a woman’s search for herself in a world dominated by men.” —New York Times bestselling author Sandra Dallas, in The Denver Post
“A haunting family saga, an eloquent tribute to a passing way of life by a person who passed it by—a new farming classic.” –Carl Klaus, author of Letters to Kate and Essayists on the Essay.
“Self-discovery and spontaneity combined with rich and textured descriptions of home and family make these essays sensitive and compelling.” –Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction