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 impul...ses 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 decision-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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Subjects
Published
New York : PublicAffairs [2016]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xii, 355 pages, 6 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9781610392259
1610392256
Main Author
Kate Daloz (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*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. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

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 [Page 88]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

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) [Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Follows the dreams and ideals of a small group of back-to-the-landers to tell the story of a nationwide movement, showing 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

At the dawn of the 1970s, waves of hopeful idealists abandoned the city and headed for the country, convinced that a better life awaited. They were full of dreams, mostly lacking in practical skills, and soon utterly out of money. But they knew paradise when they saw it. When Loraine, Craig, Pancake, Hershe, and a dozen of their friends came into possession of 116 acres in Vermont, they had big plans: to grow their own food, build their own shelter, and create an enlightened community. They had little idea that at the same moment, all over the country, a million other young people were making the same move -- back to the land.We Are As Gods follows the Myrtle Hill commune as its members enjoy a euphoric Free Love summer. Nearby, a fledgling organic farm sets to work with horses, and a couple -- the author's parents -- attempts to build a geodesic dome. Yet Myrtle Hill's summer ends in panic as they rush to build shelter while they struggle to reconcile their ideals with the somber realities of physical hardship and shifting priorities -- especially when one member goes dangerously rogue. Kate Daloz has written a meticulously researched testament to the dreams of a generation disillusioned by their parents' lifestyles, scarred by the Vietnam War, and yearning for rural peace. Shaping everything from our eating habits to the Internet, the 1970s Back-to-the-Land movement is one of the most influential yet least understood periods in recent history. We Are As Gods sheds light on one generation's determination to change their own lives and, in the process, to change the world.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

At the dawn of the 1970s, waves of hopeful idealists abandoned the city and headed for the country, convinced that a better life awaited. They were full of dreams, mostly lacking in practical skills, and soon utterly out of money. But they knew paradise when they saw it.When Loraine, Craig, Pancake, Hershe, and a dozen of their friends came into possession of 116 acres in Vermont, they had big plans: to grow their own food, build their own shelter, and create an enlightened community. They had little idea that at the same moment, all over the country, a million other young people were making the same move—back to the land.We Are As Gods follows the Myrtle Hill commune as its members enjoy a euphoric Free Love summer. Nearby, a fledgling organic farm sets to work with horses, and a couple—the author's parents—attempts to build a geodesic dome. Yet Myrtle Hill's summer ends in panic as they rush to build shelter while they struggle to reconcile their ideals with the somber realities of physical hardship and shifting priorities—especially when one member goes dangerously rogue.Kate Daloz has written a meticulously researched testament to the dreams of a generation disillusioned by their parents' lifestyles, scarred by the Vietnam War, and yearning for rural peace. Shaping everything from our eating habits to the Internet, the 1970s Back-to-the-Land movement is one of the most influential yet least understood periods in recent history. We Are As Gods sheds light on one generation's determination to change their own lives and, in the process, to change the world.