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Though he'd lived in Iowa all his life, the allure of the prairie had somehow eluded John Price-until, after a catastrophic flood, a brief glimpse of native wildlife suddenly brought his surroundings home to him. Not Just Any Land is a memoir of Price's rediscovery of his place in the American landscape and of his search for a new relationship to the life of the prairie-that once immense and beautiful wilderness of grass now so depleted and damaged as to test even the deepest faith. Price's journey toward a conscious commitment to place takes him to some of America's largest remaining grasslands and brings him face to face with a troubling, but also hopeful, personal and environmental legacy. It also leads him through the region's literature and into conversations with contemporary nature writers-Linda Hasselstrom, Dan O'Brien, William Least Heat-Moon, and Mary Swander-who have devoted themselves to living in, writing about, and restoring the grasslands. Among these authors Price observes how a commitment to the land can spring from diverse sources, for instance, the generational weight of a family ranch, the rites of wildlife preservation, the "deep maps" of ancestral memory, and the imperatives of a body inflicted with environmental illness. The resulting narrative is an innovative blend of memoir, nature writing, and literary criticism that bears witness to the essential bonds between spirit, art, and earth.
John Price is an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His essays on nature have appeared, among other places, in Orion, The Christian Science Monitor, and Best Spiritual Writing 2000.