Editors Stegner (Because a Fire Was in My Head) and Rowland (Open Spaces), and the writers they've gathered, ask what it means to be a Westerner. Many of the stories, poems, and essays in this enjoyable collection touch on widely recognized images--cowboys, cattle, the Great Plains--while others present frank, forthright arguments about race and politics specific to the states west of the 98th meridian, which runs from Texas to North Dakota. Understanding the beauty and aridity of this inhospitable land proves as essential as understanding its people. While pastoral reminiscences by Louise Erdrich and Larry McMurtry are memorable, the book's strongest voices take a critical stance. In Stephen Graham Jones's terrifying "Two Illustrations of the West," he explores the dark sub-culture of road-side violence. In "A Dark Light in the West: Racism and Reconciliation," Barry Lopez tackles the history of racism in Oregon and "the deep wounds engendered by Manifest Destiny." This comprehensive and sometimes contradictory collection offers as much pleasure as scholarly merit.