What Charlie Berens does so brilliantly in The Midwest Survival Guide is that he made the culture of being a Midwesterner not just a source of poking fun, but also of pride. Despite his hyperbolic cultural touchstones of the Midwest, there's also a great deal of truth in his hyperbole.
As a born and bred Midwesterner, I have often felt that sense of being excluded from distinctive cultural humor and conversations of the United States. Not only is the Midwest considered flyover country, it also tends to get overlooked in terms of discussions about what makes a person culturally Midwestern. We hear all the time about what makes a person a Southerner or a New Englander, for example, but rarely do we talk about the culture of the Midwest. So when Charlie Berens talks about the fashion of the Midwest, the debate over casserole vs. hotdish, the long goodbye, and of course, the beauty, humor and practicality of the word "Ope," I have to say... I felt seen.
After a difficult year that left me in quite a reading rut, I read/listened to this book in less than two days. I highly recommend reading and listening to this book concurrently because you miss something from only doing one or the other. If you only listen to the book you miss out on all the charts, maps, and illustrations. If you only read the book, then you miss the very best part of the book in my mind, which is hearing Charlie Berens' endearing and exaggerated Midwestern accent.
This will definitely be one of my favorite books of 2021.
Published: October 5, 2021
Publisher: William Morrow/Harper Audio
Audiobook length: 6 hours, 5 minutes
Disclosure: Library Copy/Audiobook provided by publisher
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