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New Books for Fall 2022

by Dedra Birzer published 2022/08/30 09:18:00 GMT-5
New Books for Fall 2022

The South Dakota Historical Society Press is excited to announce our Fall 2022 book releases. These three titles highlight distinct aspects of our region’s political and cultural history. We hope that a wide range of readers will find them informative and entertaining.

In early August, we released After Populism: The Agrarian Left on the Northern Plains, 1900–1960, a collection of essays by historian William C. Pratt that documents how several distinct yet related rural political movements in the Northern Great Plains evolved in the twentieth century and assesses their impact across space and time.

Historians have given a great deal of attention to the rise of Populism, a farmer-led movement calling for sweeping economic reforms that become a major political force in several corners of the United States during the 1890s. While the heyday of Populism was seemingly brief, its core ideas remained popular in communities in North and South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and Canada’s prairie provinces well into the following century.

After Populism reveals how a diverse range of voices pushed to improve conditions for farmers and rural communities on the plains during decades of significant political transition. Pratt explores farmers’ relationships to Socialist groups; the persistence of radicalism in isolated plains communities; agrarian radicals’ involvement in local affairs; women’s roles in radical farm groups; the importance of the Farmers Union in regional and national politics; repeated, unsuccessful attempts at third-party organizing; and the gradual decline of progressive farm protest in the late twentieth century.

After Populism: The Agrarian Left on the Northern Plains, 1900–1960 is available for $34.95, plus shipping and tax. You can order the book here

Second, Dancing with Welk: Music, Memory, and Prairie Troubadours by Christopher Vondracek follows the footsteps of Lawrence Welk as the early 2000s band, the Brickhouse Boys, attempts to become famous, in the middle of nowhere. Over fifty years prior, Welk, a young accordionist and bandleader from Strasburg, North Dakota, whose brand of “champagne music” garnered him legions of dedicated fans and a long-running television series, had managed to do just that. Dancing with Welk blends memoir, travelogue, and cultural history to create a nuanced and often hilarious ode to the landscapes and musical traditions of the Northern Great Plains.

The book is a portrait of a young person navigating both personal and professional crossroads while traversing a vividly rendered landscape, and Vondracek chronicles his efforts to mine inspiration from Welk’s autobiography while puzzling over the prairie troubadour’s unlikely journey to stardom. Along the way, the author struggles to keep his band together, delves into his family history, and questions what it means to be a musician. In addition to offering new insights into Welk’s life and career, Vondracek’s narrative takes readers on a one-of-a-kind tour through the region, with stops at dive bars, historic sites, and the World’s Only Corn Palace.

Dancing with Welk: Music, Memory, and Prairie Troubadours may be preordered for $24.95, plus shipping and tax, ahead of its official release on September 6.  

The third new release for SDHS Press is the fourth volume of The Plains Political Tradition: Essays on South Dakota Political Culture. South Dakota’s unique blend of ethnic cultures, varied landscapes, and small, largely agrarian population have made for fascinating politics. This newest volume of The Plains Political Tradition offers ten essays on diverse aspects of the region’s political history, from nonindigenous settlement patterns to campaign strategies to the shaping of state budgets. Employing a broad definition of political culture, editors Jon K. Lauck and Paula M. Nelson present a wide variety of eyewitness as well as scholarly perspectives in this anthology, all of which contribute to a better understanding of South Dakota’s singular historical experience. Contributors include Justin Blessinger, Michael Card, Marshall Damgaard, Sean J. Flynn, Paul Higbee, Jon K. Lauck, Paula M. Nelson, Randi Ramsden, Gregory Rose, Tonnis H. Venhuizen, Daryl Webb, and Paul Wilson.

The Plains Political Tradition, volume 4, may be preordered for $34.95, plus shipping and tax, prior to its September 20 release.

All three new SDHS Press books will be featured at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Brookings, September 23–25, with author presentations and book signings.

--Dedra Birzer

Image: Photographer Gustav Johnson snapped this image of an accordionist in Philip sometime in the early twentieth century. Courtesy of the South Dakota State Archives.