Book Review: ‘Tallgrass Conversations: In Search of the Prairie Spirit’ by Cindy Crosby and Thomas Dean

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Tallgrass Conversations: In Search of the Prairie Spirit

Cindy Crosby and Thomas Dean, Ice Cube Press

Release Party and Reading: Thomas Dean and Cindy Crosby, Tallgrass Conversations: In Search of the Prairie Spirit

Prairie Lights — Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m.

“Prairie is among the most altered and threatened ecosystems in the world,” Thomas Dean of Iowa City wrote in a new book he co-authored with Cindy Crosby of Glen Ellyn, Illinois. “Care of the world is always essential, and care arises from conversation.”

Tallgrass Conversations: In Search of the Prairie Spirit is a compilation of Crosby and Dean’s recent writings and photographs. Organized in a series of 26 conversations, the book touches on many of the current issues pertaining to preservation and restoration of tallgrass prairie in the Midwest.

Prairie used to cover more than 85 percent of Iowa land, according to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. Today, less than one-10th of a percent of original tallgrass prairie remains in the state.

“Remnant prairie functions in a way we can’t replicate through planting prairie,” Crosby wrote. “We can educate ourselves about what we are losing. We can care for what remains.”

If one participates in the experience of tallgrass prairie as Dean and Crosby encourage us to do, it is decidedly cultural. They provide a window into current tallgrass ecosystems and their modern discovery and management. The authors want more writers and artists, poets and photographers to document what’s left of tallgrass prairie and enter into a conversation about what it means and what can be learned. They want to be partners in that conversation, and the book serves as an example of how to begin.

“We hope you’ll enjoy seeing the various ways we invite you to think about some of these words and images that showcase the prairie spirit,” Crosby wrote.

To learn more about Crosby’s work, visit her website,, where she explores exterior and interior landscapes through the tallgrass prairie. Dean is senior presidential writer/editor at the University of Iowa, where he also teaches interdisciplinary courses. He writes the column UR Here for Little Village.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 262.

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