Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind

Sentinel. Mar. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9780593084021. $27. sOC SCI
Olmstead treats with gratitude and respect the “rootedness” she felt growing up in Emmett, ID. She asserts that her great-grandfather and others white Idahoans of his generation felt deep satisfaction with the lives they chose and their enduring bonds to the land and to their communities. Those who leave Idaho, or their own home states, she warns, need to reckon with what they are losing by leaving. A journalist now living outside Washington, DC, she concludes that, despite her fear, a person can find a tight-knit community even as a newcomer in a densely populated suburb on the other side of the country. Still, she plans to return to Emmett with her children to renew family ties and care for her parents. Olmstead doesn’t always make a convincing case either way; the book’s chapters alternate between reflections on her childhood and her desire to move back home, and her ruminations result in sometimes uneven writing. She describes Idaho as homogeneous, and she doesn’t engage with the idea that the experiences of Black, Asian, and Indigenous Idahoans might suggest a need for more change and less rootedness among white residents of the state.
VERDICT While Olmstead successfully creates a full portrait of her family, especially her grandpa, her calls to rediscover the land fall a little short.
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