Cheap Land Colorado

Off-Gridders at America’s Edge

Ted Conover

November 2022 Manuscript in English

From Pulitzer Prize finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Ted Conover, a fascinating narrative of alienation, ingenuity, and the possibilities of a last frontier that takes a deep dive into a community living off-grid.

In the failed rural subdivisions of Colorado’s enormous San Luis Valley lives a community of people on the edge. In exchange for freedom from government and landlords, from the congestion and smog of cities, they endure a disconcerting lack of jobs, marginal schools, distant medical care, harsh weather, and other privations. Some residents have families, but many, older and disabled, are alone. Some are addicted to alcohol or marijuana. A few are veterans with PTSD. Some are felons; others might be if they were to get caught. All have chosen to live here, on a last frontier that retains the beauty of a century ago but whose contentious culture reflects an America at the crossroads.

In May 2017, Ted Conover left New York to join them. First volunteering as an outreach worker through a local charitable group and renting a plot for his trailer from a family who was home-schooling their five daughters, he went on to buy his own land and immerse himself in the community for four years—and counting. The result is a candid look at a unique brand of Americans: their self-sufficiency, their isolation from society, the connections they forge with each other and the land. The author creates an indelible portrait of hard lives lived amidst a stunning beauty.

Reviews

“Most Americans have never heard of the San Luis Valley: the huge, high, flat area at the headwaters of the Rio Grande. And most have never given a thought to the people there who live on the off-grid edge of American society, and what they might tell us about ourselves. As he has so often in the past, Ted Conover immerses himself in the lives of these forgotten men and women—and emerges with an unforgettable portrait of a slice of American society today.”
—Charles C. Mann, author of 1491

“Ted Conover has made a career of entering forgotten or marginal American lives and being with those people until he knows them from the inside out. It takes a special empathy, not to say an extraordinary commitment of time, to accomplish his kind of reportage. It seems fundamentally an act of respect. In this account of some back-of-the-moon Colorado lives, he is never once above the folks about whom he is writing. I bet they would say so themselves. I couldn’t read the book fast enough.”
—Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost