Book Reviews: What We See in the Middle

256 pages, anthology, Belt Publishing, softcover, $12

When the national news deigns to turn its gaze to the Midwest, it’s often because of political news, a crisis of some kind, or a perceived curiosity about our way of living. But one thing that’s usually missing from the conversation is how diverse the region really is and how the lives of many midwesterners don’t fit the homogenous picture that’s often portrayed in national outlets.

A new anthology from Belt Publishing, released in September, aims to help correct this problem. Black in the Middle contains essays, fiction, poems, and photos from a wide array of Black midwesterners. The book adds context to the popular understanding of the Midwest as a region by simply having its contributors reflect on their experiences here.

“Black Americans have been among the hardest hit by the rapid deindustrialization and accompanying economic decline that have become so synonymous with the Midwest,” reads a blurb on Belt Publishing’s website. “Since the 2016 election, many traditional media outlets have renewed attention on the conditions of ‘Middle America,’ but the national discourse continues to focus on the White working class and marginalize the Black people who live there.”

Although the book’s contributors reside throughout the region, Missouri readers may be particularly interested in Melissa Stuckey’s essay “Slavery, Freedom, and African American Voices in the Midwest,” which pays particular interest to the history of slavery in Missouri, from the Missouri Compromise to the Dred Scott case. In addition, Lyndsey Ellis’s essay “Hair” details experiences attending the University of Missouri in Columbia.

A good book can entertain us, and a great one can change the way we think. This book fits the latter category in this reviewer’s opinion, and you can pick up a copy from the Belt Publishing website and find out whether you agree.

More Great Reads

It’s an Extra Spooky Heebie-Jeebie Creepy Halloween
Keith Brown, 22 pages, children’s book, Golden Bell Studios, hardcover, $12.95.
Illustrated by the author, who is from Marshall, the book’s character takes a trip through his neighborhood, but it’s not scary. Follow the maze puzzles.

Farm to War: A World War I Mule Story
Lonny Thiele, 95 pages, historical fiction, Joseph Reidhead and Company, softcover, $18.
The author knows mules, and his main character, a mule named Noble, takes a journey from the Ozarks to the trenches of war. The book’s introduction is a lesson on the history of mules and their contributions to World War I.

Ozark Outdoors: Hunting Lore and Fishing Stories
Edited by Dr. Mark Morgan, 168 pages, nonfiction (except the mythical chapter), self-published (for sale at or Ozarkland stores), softcover, $11.95.
This collection of folklore stories by hunters and fishers about outdoor adventures and mythical creatures from the Ozarks was edited by an associate professor in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Missouri with help from his students.

Missouri in World War 1
Jeremy Paul Amick, 128 pages, nonfiction, Arcadia Publishing, Inc., softcover, $21.99.
This book is filled with historical photos showing the people and places of the Show-Me State and its contributions to World War I. There are two flying aces, the founder of the American Legion, and the author of the military draft, to name a few.

Secret Kansas City: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure
Anne Kniggendorf, 208 pages, nonfiction, Reedy Press, softcover, $22.50.
A native daughter of Kansas City, the author describes everything you need to see in the city.

Death of the Innocence
Dennis Roedemeier, 31 pages, nonfiction, Three Rivers Publishing, Inc., softcover, $10.
The Logan family was brutally murdered in September 1886 in Crawford County. Cuba, Missouri, resident and author Dennis Roedemeier wrote the story of this crime.

The Keys to the Kingdom: An Illustrated Timeline of the Kansas City Chiefs
David Smale, 176 pages, nonfiction, Reddy Press, hardcover, $39.95.
This coffee table book filled with historical photographs starts in 1959 with Lamar Hunt, the founder of the Chiefs.