From Julie Carr's website:
"Populism has become a global movement associated with nationalism and strong-man politicians, but its root causes remain elusive. Mud, Blood, and Ghosts exposes one deep root in the soil of the American Great Plains. Julie Carr traces her own family’s history through archival documents to draw connections between U.S. agrarian populism, spiritualism, and eugenics, helping readers to understand populism’s tendency toward racism and exclusion.
Carr follows the story of her great-grandfather Omer Madison Kem, three-term Populist representative from Nebraska, avid spiritualist, and committed eugenicist, to explore persistent themes in U.S. history: property, personhood, exclusion, and belonging. While recent books have taken seriously the experiences of poor whites in rural America, they haven’t traced the story to its origins. Carr connects Kem’s journey with that of America’s white establishment and its fury of nativism in the 1920s. Presenting crucial narratives of Indigenous resistance, interracial alliance and betrayal, radical feminism, lifelong hauntings, land policy, debt, shame, grief, and avarice from the Gilded Age through the Progressive Era, Carr asks whether we can embrace the Populists’ profound hopes for a just economy while rejecting the barriers they set up around who was considered fully human, fully worthy of this dreamed society."