We are as gods Back to the land in the 1970s on the quest for a new America

Kate Daloz

Book - 2016

"Between 1970 and 1974 ten million Americans abandoned the city, and the commercialism, and all the inauthentic bourgeois comforts of the Eisenhower-era America of their parents. Instead, they went back to the land. It was the only time in modern history that urbanization has gone into reverse. Kate Daloz follows the dreams and ideals of a small group of back-to-the-landers to tell the story of a nationwide movement and moment. And she shows how the faltering, hopeful, but impractical impulses of that first generation sowed the seeds for the organic farming movement and the transformation of American agriculture and food tastes. In the Myrtle Hill commune and neighboring Entropy Acres, high-minded ideas of communal living and shared de...cision-making crash headlong into the realities of brutal Northern weather and the colossal inconvenience of having no plumbing or electricity. Nature, it turns out, is not always a generous or provident host-frosts are hard, snowfalls smother roads, and small wood fires do not heat imperfectly insulated geodesic domes. Group living turns out to be harder than expected too. Being free to do what you want and set your own rules leads to some unexpected limitations: once the group starts growing a little marijuana they can no longer call on the protection of the law, especially against a rogue member of a nearby community. For some of the group, the lifestyle is truly a saving grace; they credit it with their survival. For others, it is a prison sentence. We Are As Gods (the first line of the Whole Earth Catalog, the movement's bible) is a poignant rediscovery of a seminal moment in American culture, whose influence far outlasted the communities that took to the hills and woods in the late '60s and '70s and remains present in every farmer's market, every store selling Stonyfield products, or Keen shoes, or Patagonia sportswear."--

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New York : PublicAffairs [2016]
Main Author
Kate Daloz (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xii, 355 pages, 6 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Something was happening throughout the U.S. as the turbulent 1960s were coming to an end: Young people were suddenly feeling an urge to get away, to leave the city behind for a new way of life in the country, writes Daloz, herself the daughter of back-to-the-land parents. Most of these wannabe homesteaders knew virtually nothing about farming or carpentry, but that did little to stop them or quell their confidence. They were just so eager to start over again, to adopt a voluntary primitivism lifestyle in order to create a new society in the wilderness, a trend, notes Daloz, that briefly reversed 200 years of steady urbanization. She discusses some of the most famous communes in American history, including Brook Farm, Fruitlands, Drop City (considered the first hippie commune), and Twin Oaks (still in existence), offering references to Thoreau and Stewart Brand's phenomenally popular Whole Earth Catalog. What's more, the country commune boom, she argues, has had an enduring impact in the popularity of co-ops, the organic food industry, farm-to-table restaurants, and microbreweries, which are all rooted in the 1970s back-to-the land movement. A fascinating account of a utopian movement made even more relevant by the author's personal perspective.--Sawyers, June Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this deep study, Daloz, who grew up in a back-to-the-land community in Vermont, looks at how these communities rose and fell, as well as where they succeeded and went awry. In the 1970s, thousands of Americans abandoned urban areas to establish communes where they lived off the land, embracing a hippie or idyllist lifestyle and looking to return to a more naturalistic, peaceful existence. "The 1970s remain the only time in the nation's history when more people moved to rural areas than into the cities," Daloz writes, "reversing two hundred years of steady urbanization." This trend was a callback to the utopian communities and experimental societies of the 18th and 19th centuries, and it helped to define a generation. By focusing much of the narrative on a group called Myrtle Hill Farm, Daloz gives an intimate look into their social dynamics and experiences, putting names and faces on the ambitions, hopes, and failures of the back-to-the-land movement. Daloz's voice is distant and lacks passion, keeping the reader at bay despite a wealth of details granted through experience and interviews. Still, this is an informative look at an era that laid the groundwork for the modern organic movement and its relatives. Agent: Kris Dahl, ICM. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Library Journal Review

In this engaging book, Daloz (writing center, Baruch Coll.) interweaves the stories of several communes in Vermont in the 1970s with the tale of her own childhood, when her parents shared ownership of a nearby plot of land with two other people. Tying these narratives with an examination of U.S. communal living, the author identifies how the counterculture movement influenced the country's behaviors, such as the way people eat and even what foods they consume. Communes introduced organic products to the nation, as well as the concept of cooperatives as sustainable business models which cultivate local communities. Oneida silverware was a cottage industry that supported the Oneida Commune, which boasted 300 members at its peak and lasted nearly 40 years. Daloz's frank account is revealing; she doesn't shy away from documenting the many problems that plagued the fervent communards, including a lack of diversity and reliance on unacknowledged privilege that ultimately made these experiments a failure. Perhaps the wave of like-minded idealists venturing forth today will learn from both their historical mistakes and successes. VERDICT Memoir lovers and social historians will enjoy this account of radical living.--Venessa Hughes, Buffalo, NY © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

If you can remember the '60s, you may have been therebut as a very young person, as this thoughtful history reveals. Joni Mitchell once said that we've got to get back to the garden, and tens of thousands heeded; in the years surrounding Woodstock, communes sprouted like mushrooms across America. Born to back-to-the-landers but now a denizen of Brooklyn, Daloz writes with firsthand knowledge of the good and bad of these wishfully self-reliant places. The good is obvious: young people built rural lives away from the urban grind, reinvigorating the countryside and laying the foundation for our current devotion to organic and healthy foods. The manifold bad included culture clashes with rural people: "Hippie newcomers," writes the author, "sometimes fell afoul of locals by not understandingor ignoringessential customs." Communes were also subject to old-fashioned sexism imported from home, with the women doing the brunt of the work unappreciated, and to invasion by bikers, dealers, addicts, runaways, and drifters, adding to the tension and instability. Among Daloz's case studies are The Farm, still thriving in Tennessee, and Drop City, the Colorado commune celebrated in T.C. Boyle's novel of the same name, built on the "philosophy that it was possible, amid the extravagant excess of American society, to live richly and well on others' refuse." A literary scholar and teacher, Daloz also examines the long history of communitarianism in America, reflected in the works of Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and other writers. She carries her investigations into the present, noting that even though the heyday of the 1960s and '70s commune movement has long passed, the ethos endured, with "radical social experiments in group livingreplaced by individual families' radical experiments in self-sufficiencyincluding my family's." Well written and full of firsthand insighta good companion to weightier studies such as Timothy Miller's The 60s Communes (1999) and Arthur Kopecky's Leaving New Buffalo Commune (2006). Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.