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Kansas Studies Institute's Kansas Lecture Series

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM, May 5, 2018
Hudson Auditorium
Community, Campus Life, Conferences & Lectures

'The Ogallala Road: A story of love, family, and the fight to keep the Great Plains from running dry.'

About 'The Ogallala Road'

“A moving story of love and loss, denial and reckoning, and the emergence of a new kind of hope.” — Ruth Ozeki

When Julene Bair inherits part of a large farm on the High Plains of Kansas, she intends to honor her father’s commandment, “Hang on to your land!” But she learns some troubling facts about the ecological harm done by farms like hers, which depend on water pumped from the rapidly depleting Ogallala Aquifer. A single mother balancing multiple allegiances, she meets Ward, a rancher who she hopes will become her partner in seeking a path to save her legacy.

The Ogallala Road eloquently interweaves pressing issues of environmental degradation with a deeply personal story of love and family. Bair’s moving memoir, capturing her unfolding love affair and search for a new way to farm, powerfully updates the literature of the American West.

About the Author

A previous book by Bair, The Ogallala Road, A Memoir of Love and Reckoning (Viking Penguin 2014) was a Kansas Notable Book, an Editor’s Choice at Booklist, and finalist for the Mountains and Plains Booksellers and High Plains book awards. Her first book, One Degree West: Reflections of a Plainsdaughter, won Mid-List Press’s First Series Award and a WILLA Award from Women Writing the West. Bair’s essays have appeared in venues ranging from the New York Timeto High Country News. A National Endowment for the Arts fellow, Bair has taught at the University of Wyoming, the University of Iowa, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and Denver’s Lighthouse Writers. Her commentary series, “Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on High Plains Public Radio. Prior to teaching and writing, Bair’s career interests ranged from the management of a San Francisco recording studio to filmmaker to farmer. 


“A story of land, water, relationships, and love . . . Bair witnesses many changes from her birth in 1949 until the turn of the twenty-first century, a time when the small American family farm and many of its supporting towns were pretty much overwhelmed by industrial agriculture. . . . Her mournful tale is told with resignation, honesty, and heartbreak, but also with strength and joy. . . . This is a book by a tough, restless, energetic, admirable, principled Kansan who also happens to be a fine writer. Her voice is a welcome one.
—Mark Bittman, The New York Times Book Review

“Bair’s way with words is beautifully descriptive and one senses a deep connection to the land. The Ogallala Road is a wonderful mix of reminiscing one’s personal journey and history back to their roots, so to speak, concern for man’s impact and depleting of the land’s limited natural resources, and a poignant, sweet little love story with a bona-fide cowboy. . . . Julene Bair shares her heart and will touch yours with this powerful book.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“Bair’s voice is fierce, passionate, and determined. . . . Readers of environmental literature will hear echoes of Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass, Wallace Stegner, and Rachel Carson. Yet she doesn’t lean too heavily on her literary forebears. She has written her own tale and coupled it with a story of water that concerns us all.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books

A book signing will follow the talk.

This event is free and open to the public