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Shelter from the Machine: Homesteaders in the Age of Capitalism by Jason G. Strange

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Homesteaders - not survivalists, not commune dwellers, not really farmers, not simply rural people. More like “back-to-the-land” folks, but including “never left the land folks.” because it considers the two main distinct kinds of homesteaders – “hippies” and “hicks.”  At the beginning of his Introduction, Jason Strange defines a homestead as “a piece of land on which people grow food and build a home and otherwise provide for some of their own needs.” And why would a book about those folks – especially one that is based on a U.C. Berkeley dissertation – make its way into a list of books about Appalachia? Well, for starters, before the author lived as a homesteader while a young adult, he lived as a homesteader as a kid in Eastern Kentucky. More importantly, most of the quotations and the information in this book is gleamed from residents of places south and east of Berea, Kentucky. To protect the innocent and guilty and to make the book less confusing and cumbersome, these places are all referred to as Bear Lick Valley. This book really is centered there although the author has interviewed homesteaders all over America and even beyond and he feels free to refer to some of his experiences beyond Kentucky. “An intimate but sprawling, profound but accessible gem of a book, Shelter from the Machine provides a useful and accessible critique of our 'macroparasitic' political economy and a timely reminder that transformative change is as possible as it is necessary.”—Shaunna L. Scott. “An important and much needed addition. Strange does a strong job of providing the historical context for homesteading and the reasons why it is so significant today. But even more important are his willingness to ground the book in the words and deeds of the homesteaders themselves and his own history with homesteading, and to go beyond a historical description to explore the role of class and capitalism in explaining the homesteaders' differences.”—Stephen L. Fisher. The author, Jason Strange is a professor at Berea College.

Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 2020. 304 pages with Index, Bibliography, Notes and photos. Trade paperback.