Stories from the Heartland
By Midwestern Stories Project
Stories from the HeartlandMar 10, 2021
Skinned Knees, Sunburns, and Scars
In this episode, we take a trip through the childhoods of four women from different backgrounds who grew up in the Midwest of the 60s through the 90s. We explore some of the best aspects of their childhoods in the Midwest, including lots of physical space to play and family support that helped them navigate their way through various Midwestern landscapes. But we also examine darker moments of growing up in a region that included many homogeneous communities where difference was sometimes not well tolerated.
This episode covers Jim’s experience as a musician growing up in the Midwest in the age of the collision of Bob Dylan’s folk, Sinatra’s crooning, and Kiss’s hairspray. It explores how music has tied families and communities of the Midwest together, even as its folk tones have shifted to the electric guitar of rock-and-roll in the past couple of generations.
Queer on the Frontier
In this episode, we take a deep dive into what it was like to be a queer-identifying person in the Midwest of past decades. To examine this topic, we talk to two people who have deep roots within both Midwestern and queer culture and explore what it was like growing up in the Midwest during time periods when identifying as anything outside the norm was extremely taboo.
An Immigrant's American Dream
In the Midwest of years past, many bought into the ideal of the American Dream--the idea that in the United States, if you work hard, you can make it. The American Dream wasn’t limited to only those living in the United States; people outside of the country who were looking for greater opportunity also sought the promise of the American Dream. In this episode, we hear from Amie, who was born and raised in Manila, Philippines, until her father decided to move her and her siblings to the United States.
Work Life and Home Life in the Midwestern Working Class
In the early and middle of the 20th century, membership in the Midwestern working class often meant living in crowded apartment settings, grinding away at jobs no one really enjoyed, and taking on second and third jobs to make ends meet. Many of us might consider these conditions and others that Annie lived through as challenging at best, but, looking back on her life, Annie tells us that she simply did what needed to be done.
In Mint Condition
In this episode, we share an interview with spiritual lighthouse Russell Jones, a local resident of Muncie, Indiana, in which we talk about what it was like for him to grow up and live in the Midwest as an African-American man. Russell's philosophy of love and forgiveness may not be the approach that all black people have taken in response to racism, but for Russell, it has helped him find freedom despite some of the challenges he has faced as a black man in the Midwest.
Midwestern Women through the Decades
In this episode, we take a look into what life was like for girls and women in the Midwest during the decades of first the 40s and 50s, then the 60s and 70s, and finally the 80s and 90s. We move along in time through the the stories of three Midwestern women who faced very gender-specific struggles characteristic of Midwestern women's lives in these eras. Though the challenges these women faced evolved with the decades in which they lived, they each had to learn to juggle family and work. In their stories, we will hear the inner strength that carried them through to shape the women, mothers, and, in Deb and Stacy's cases, professionals that they are today.
You Don't Need Bootstraps to Pull Your Own Weight
Some might think of the Midwestern past as the epicenter for the "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps" mentality, where "salt of the earth" folks just worked hard until they made it. In reality, work ethic and community were inextricably linked; people learned not to pull themselves up on their own, but to pull their own weight along with other members of their communities. The Midwest of the past included many communities where people looked out for each other and picked each other up when they fell down. In this episode, we take a look into the lives of three Midwesterners. Their stories, together, offer us insight into how the values of work ethic and community support that many older Midwesterners learned in their childhoods have stuck with them, guiding their future endeavors and shaping what it means to be a Midwesterner.
Oplatki and Deli Fare: Traditions and Assimilation in Chicago's Ethnic Enclaves
Arlene grew up in Hegewisch, a traditionally ethnic neighborhood in Chicago, in the 1950s. Her family immigranted from Europe around the early 1920s. John remembers visiting his grandparents in Skokie, a village with a very large Jewish population about 15 minutes outside of the downtown loop of Chicago, in the 1970s. Both Arlene and John have passed along the traditions of their ancestral cultures, including through foods such as oplatki and deli fare. But, as Arlene and John's stories show, many of the customs of their immigrant relatives are now out of reach, as both families have lost traditions as generations have left the ethnic enclaves where their immigrant ancestors originally settled and assimiliated into Midwestern culture.