Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: The Oxford Project

This is like no other book I have ever read before. In 1984 Peter Feldstein took a picture of ever resident of the tiny town of Oxford, Iowa. In 2007 he took pictures again. Feldstein asked people to tell their stories in their own words. The book presents old and new photos along with their subjects' stories.

What emerges is the collective portrait of a small town. Oxford is a place where people stay for generations. The collected stories show just how much tragedy and suffering regularly afflicts human beings. It is evident how strongly people crave connections to others. Poverty affects many in Oxford. Young marriage is the norm, and many are married in their teens with children following shortly thereafter. Many regret lack of college education.

Oxford is an entirely different place from anywhere I have ever lived. I wonder how much of the country is still like Oxford. For everyone who bemoans the decline of close-knit community, the Oxford example suggests that people who live in such places are not necessarily any more or less happy than their big-city counterparts. I'd be interested to know more about the people who have left Oxford. They are not included in the book, and that is a side of the town's story that is missing.

Peter Feldstein, The Oxford Project (Welcome Books, 2010) ISBN: 1599620871 

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