cover image American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland

American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland

Marie Mutsuki Mockett. Graywolf, $28 (408p) ISBN 978-1-64445-017-8

San Francisco author Mockett (Picking Bones from Ash) takes a road trip in the summer of 2017 to “flyover states” with a crew of wheat harvesters in this well-written but dense take on farming, race, and religion. Mockett embarked on the trip—which included stops in Idaho, Oklahoma, and Texas—at the invitation of a farmer named Eric, the head of a harvesting crew who for decades has cut the wheat on the Mockett family farm in Nebraska. He wanted Mockett, who was born and raised in California and spent her childhood summers on the farm, to see more of her country and meet its rural residents. Mockett, who is half Japanese, discusses being surrounded by whiteness on her trip and offers history lessons—on Native American displacement and the impact of the transcontinental railroad, among other topics—as she travels and meets farm workers, most of whom are churchgoing Christians who often engage in long conversations about the Bible. As for farming itself, Mockett explains that every year workers like Eric take a “harvesting route” across the middle of America with tractors and combines, and discusses the realities of crop production and of “organic” farming (“It is marketing,” Eric says. “Do not fall for it”). Filled with rich descriptions, this illuminating memoir wonderfully captures farming life in Middle America. (Apr.)