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  • Ken Ilgunas

The Wall Street Journal reviews my book

My book release for This Land Is Our Land has been quiet. I’d gotten positive reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, the Greensboro News and Record, but it’s not until recently that I got my first big-time review, this time in, of all places, The Wall Street Journal–a newspaper with a center-right reputation.

The review was not overtly positive, but neither was it at all negative. I can’t find one blurbable quote in it. You could say it’s perfectly neutral, and I’d argue that a perfectly neutral review is a positive review, or at least a “friendly” review.

I felt two things upon reading it: 1) validation, and 2) bewilderment.

1.) I’m not sure what the exact genre of my book is. There are elements of advocacy, a little bit of first-person reflecting, a little bit of philosophy, and a ton of history (mostly from secondary sources, but plenty from primary). Since this is my first real “research” book, I do feel a satisfying sense of validation that the WSJ thought my research was up to snuff enough to feature it on their pages. I’d only get this sense of validation from a handful of writers and papers, and the WSJ is one of them.

2.) The bewilderment comes from the fact that I got a friendly review in a center-right paper while the rest of the print media (which leans left) has mostly ignored it. One could argue that the right to roam is a socialist proposal (though I wouldn’t want to brand it that way). You see where I’m going with this… Where are the reviews from left-leaning places, like Salon and Huff Post? Where are the reviews from far-left places, like Dissent or Jacobin? And why would a center-right publication, of all places, tacitly endorse the book?

Perhaps it’s because the left is entirely focused on Trump and identity politics (perhaps for good reason). Perhaps it’s because my proposal has more nonpartisan appeal than I imagined. Or maybe I just got lucky with this review, and my book just isn’t in sync with the zeitgeist.

I tend to my ego’s bruises by telling myself that my thinking is twenty years ahead of the rest of the country on the subject of land rights. Or maybe it’s a fringe topic that’ll never catch on. Regardless, I’ll savor this momentary reprieve and enjoy my validation.

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Fall 2018 Speaking Schedule

(This will be updated with links and new events as they come.) Thur. Oct. 4, 7 p.m. – New England College (Henniker, NH) in the Great Room Fri. Oct. 5, 4:15 p.m. – Bates College (Lewiston, ME) Tue.


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