Love and Industry: A Midwestern Workbook. Belt Publishing, Sept. 2023: $19.95, paperback, 9781953368584
Sonya Huber, author of the award-winning Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System, offers a candid, lyrical look inside the unsung world of exurban Illinois.
New Lenox, Illinois, is a small town deep in the corn grid of the Midwest, where it runs up against the grid of south Chicagoland, a placeless location marked by geographical flatness and dwindling industry. It’s also where Sonya Huber grew up, and in the twenty essays collected here, she lovingly explores the ways New Lenox—and the Midwest more generally—has come to define her life. Here, you’ll find portraits of Huber’s parents as they tirelessly run a small business, homages to the Gen-X joys of wearing flannel, secret insights about being a Pizza Hut waitress, and odes to the ecstasy of blasting classic rock as your car hurls along I-80. Whether she’s writing about All in the Family, detailing the region’s influence on David Foster Wallace, or exploring the poetry embedded in a can of Miller High Life, her vision is astute and her prose convincing.
Sometimes experimental and always inventive, Love and Industry: A Midwestern Workbook takes seriously Chicagoland’s farthest reaches—gritty, sweeping, a region full of its own distinct feelings of “almostness”—and transforms them into a map of the heart, a ramshackle territory marked by memory, family, regret, determination, and wonderment.
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“Sonya Huber has written a glorious midwestern road trip for the personal essay set. From Illinois’s cornfields, to Gary’s industrial warehouses, to Minneapolis’s anarchist meetings, to Chicago’s dark glass bouquet, these finely composed wanderings about love, trouble, home, and recovery testify to the kinetic bond between location and human spirit.”
—Barrie Jean Borich, author of Apocalypse Darling, Body Geographic, and My Lesbian Husband
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