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What Kansas Means to Me

Twentieth-Century Writers on the Sunflower State

Edited by Thomas Fox Averill

xii, 244 pages, 25 woodcut illustrations, 6 x 7-1/2
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-0710-5, $12.95

Book Cover Image"To understand why people say 'Dear old Kansas!' is to understand that Kansas is no mere geographical expression, but a 'state of mind,' a religion, and a philosophy in one," writes historian Carl Becker in the classic 1910 essay that leads off this volume. Like Becker, the twelve other essayists and four poets try to map the spiritual topography of Kansas and explain why this particular patch of prairie is so dear. They share the conviction that Kansas represents something powerful, something significant, something noteworthy.

The seventeen selections are put into perspective by Thomas Fox Averill's headnotes and introductory essay, which makes its own contribution to our understanding of Kansas. The essays and poems (all previously published except for the last essay) are arranged chronologically, from the earliest (1910) to the most recent (1990).

"No state struggles more self-consciously with its image than Kansas," Robert Smith Bader has observed. To the reader wanting to grasp the meaning of Kansas, this insightful collection demonstrates that some of those self-conscious struggles have led to self-understanding.

"This superb collection of writings by seventeen skilled observers focuses on why Kansas has engendered such loyalty among its citizens and how they feel about it. Every Kansan can enjoy and benefit from this delightful and stimulating collection, and anyone seeking a better understanding of the Kansas character, the shaping forces behind the Kansas heritage, and the thinking involved in the Kansas 'state of mind' will find this book essential and rewarding reading."--Wichita Eagle

"A treasure for every Kansan. This beautiful little book represents the views of some extraordinary writers with deep feelings for Kansas."--Kansas History

"A sampler of the best writing on Kansas. Each of the pieces reflects the writers' convictions that Kansas represents something powerful, something significant, something noteworthy."--Kansas! Magazine

"A reflective journey into Kansas not only as place but as a state of mind. The essayists include poets, journalists, historians, and writers whose views span from 1910 to the present. In his fine introduction (which itself stands as an evocative portrait of Kansas) Tom Averill sums up: 'there is something powerful, something significant, something noteworthy about Kansas.' Capturing this 'something' are pieces by William Allen White, Karl Menninger, Zula Bennington Greene, Milton Eisenhower, Robert Day, and William Least Heat-Moon, among others. The book is richly illustrated with prints by Kansas artists, visual essays of simple power."--Topeka Capital-Journal

"A must-have for Kansans in heart, mind, or spirit, if not in fact. Black-and-white illustrations throughout come from such Kansas artists as John Steuart Curry and Birger Sandzen."--Kansas City Star

"Delightful reading."--Journal of the West

THOMAS FOX AVERILL is writer-in-residence and associate professor of English at Washburn University and author of two collections of short stories, Seeing Mona Naked and Passes at the Moon.

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