Summary and book reviews of Shadowlands by Anthony McCann

Shadowlands

Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff

by Anthony McCann

Shadowlands by Anthony McCann X
Shadowlands by Anthony McCann
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jul 2019, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Book Summary

An "epic exploration" of the 2016 right-wing Oregon Occupation - "an excellent microcosm by which we might better understand our difficult national history and distressing political moment" (Maggie Nelson).

In 2016, a group of armed, divinely inspired right-wing protestors led by Ammon Bundy occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the high desert of eastern Oregon. Encamped in the shadowlands of the republic, insisting that the Federal government had no right to own public land, the occupiers were seen by a divided country as either dangerous extremists dressed up as cowboys, or as heroes insisting on restoring the rule of the Constitution. From the Occupation's beginnings, to the trials of the occupiers in federal court in downtown Portland and their tumultuous aftermaths, Shadowlands is the resonant, multifaceted story of one of the most dramatic flashpoints in the year that gave us Donald Trump.

Sharing the expansive stage with the occupiers are a host of others - Native American tribal leaders, public-lands ranchers, militia members, environmentalists, federal defense attorneys, and Black Lives Matter activists - each contending in their different ways with the meaning of the American promise of Liberty. Gathering into its vortex the realities of social media technology, history, religion, race, and the environment-this piercing work by Anthony McCann offers us a combination of beautiful writing and high-stakes analysis of our current cultural and political moment. Shadowlands is a clarifying, exhilarating story of a nation facing an uncertain future and a murky past in a time of great collective reckoning.

Prologue
Desert Training

Before 2016, I had no desire to write a prose book about America. I didn't particularly believe in it. I had no interest in its providential vanity, its outsize faith in its singular mission. Back then, what I wanted was to write a book about the desert. But the desert changed all that.

It wasn't really the desert that did it. Not alone, anyway. Really, it began with the Marines, as the world I thought I was looking at changed right in front of my eyes. I was sitting on a big lump of basalt, on a rise in the open desert north of my new home. I'd just begun moving my life to the Mojave. I was doing so eagerly; I was finished with Los Angeles, with the daily folly, the constant roar of traffic, the helicopters of the police and the superrich thrumming overhead, while our alienated social life overheated on the plat- forms of the internet. Besides, I could hardly afford it there anymore anyway; fewer and fewer could.

That day in the Mojave, sitting on my ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I highly recommend Shadowlands to anyone looking for insight into the modern patriot movement, as well as those interested in current events and politics. The book's vivid portrait of the Malheur takeover is laced with incisive social commentary; McCann offers an informative microcosm of the recent rise of right-wing extremism in America.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review Members Only (594 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Students of modern environmentalism, federalism and its discontents, and extremist politics alike will find McCann's on-the-ground reportage to be of great value.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A riveting in-depth investigation ... McCann's arresting and brilliant firsthand account is required reading for anyone interested in the ideological gap between the American Left and Right.

Booklist (starred review)
A momentous and important non-fiction debut ... This is a heavily researched and thoughtful book, written with detail and care, that asks big questions of the reader and of the country.

Author Blurb Maggie Nelson, National Book Critics Circle Award winning author of The Argonauts
McCann's magnificent prose, ever-questing intellect, wry humor, and uncommon empathy for human and non-human forms of life alike make Shadowlands a truly rare and stunning achievement.

Author Blurb Ben Ehrenreich, author of The Way To Spring
With empathy, poetry, and a keen, clear-eyed sense of the weirdness of it all, Anthony McCann goes far beyond the cartoon version of the Malheur occupation that we all watched on the news. Shadowlands is a powerful reckoning with history and all the Big American Words-freedom, democracy, sovereignty-that echo through the silence and violence of the American West.

Author Blurb Richard White, Pulitzer Prize finalist for Railroaded
Anthony McCann knows the Western past has not vanished; it has just gotten weirder. Shadowlands takes us down a Western rabbit hole where a delusional settler story staged for the internet on sacred Native ground illuminates the United States we now inhabit. This is a classic American story.

Author Blurb Nick Reding, author of Methland: The Life And Death Of An American Small Town
Shadowlands is an extraordinarily thoughtful exploration of division in this country that treats the Malheur Standoff for what it was: a reckoning over what kind of country we should, or shouldn't, be living in.

Author Blurb Arlie Hochschild, author of National Book Award finalist Strangers In Their Own Land
A vivid and exciting account of a telling historic event.

Author Blurb Woody Holton, author of National Book Award finalist Unruly Americans And The Origins Of The Constitution
As cable-news programmers and even congressmen find their profit in driving ordinary Americans and right-wing paramilitaries ever closer to civil war, Anthony McCann's provocative, empathetic, and patriotic Shadowlands is our alarm bell in the night.

Author Blurb Brian Evenson, author of A Collapse Of Horses and The Wavering Knife
What makes Shadowlands exceptional is not only that it provides a critically informed look at the Oregon standoff, but how it offers a clear exegesis of the accumulated history that has gone into forming the American West and, by extension, America itself.

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Beyond the Book

The Bureau of Land Management: Shifting Duties

BLM Logo In Shadowlands, Anthony McCann's non-fiction account of the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover, one of the occupiers' chief targets is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is responsible for the land on which the refuge sits.

The Bureau of Land Management, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, oversees more than 245 million acres of public land – more than 10% of all land in the United States – as well as 700 million acres (30%) of the nation's subsurface minerals. Most of the federal lands managed by the BLM are in the western United States and include all types of terrain – forests, mountains, sagebrush flats, deserts, etc. In fiscal year 2018, their annual budget was set at $1.1 ...

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