American Harvest by Marie Mutsuki Mockett is a beautifully written book about one woman’s experience across “the divide,” a tribute to the complicated and nuanced history of the United States and its people.
Mockett was joined in conversation online with the author Marlon James and Juston Wolgemuth, the son of one of the evangelical Christian farmers who harvest the wheat on Mockett’s family’s Nebraska farm.
By Marie Mutsuki Mockett
Published by Graywolf Press
For over one hundred years, the Mockett family has owned a seven-thousand-acre wheat farm in the panhandle of Nebraska, where Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s father was raised. Mockett, who grew up in bohemian Carmel, California, with her father and her Japanese mother, knew little about farming when she inherited this land. Her father had all but forsworn it.
In American Harvest, Mockett accompanies a group of evangelical Christian wheat harvesters through the heartland at the invitation of Eric Wolgemuth, the conservative farmer who has cut her family’s fields for decades. As Mockett follows Wolgemuth’s crew on the trail of ripening wheat from Texas to Idaho, they contemplate what Wolgemuth refers to as “the divide,” inadvertently peeling back layers of the American story to expose its contradictions and unhealed wounds. She joins the crew in the fields, attends church, and struggles to adapt to the rhythms of rural life, all the while continually reminded of her own status as a person who signals “not white,” but who people she encounters can’t quite categorize.