In the Field

In the Field

A Selected Title of the National Book Foundation and the Alfred B. Sloan Foundation's Science + Literature Program

Brilliant, terribly stubborn, and ill-suited to the expectations of the period, Kate Croft has shattered her widowed mother's traditional hopes for her in favor of higher education. Rejecting domestic pressures, she has cleaved out an alternative channel for herself, one that deprioritizes marriage and children. More subversive still are the complexities of her sexuality, her pursuit of queer relationships in an intensely heteronormative era. Most notably, though, she has taken a hammer to her field, making debris of its governing premises and challenging the very fundamentals of evolutionary theory.

Spanning nearly sixty years, we follow Kate from her first introductory biology course at Cornell to her receipt of the Prize, a journey ridden with obstacles. Kate's scientific medium, maize, is unglamorous and undervalued in academia. Her research is so visionary that it alienates her peers, who are unable to grasp its complex implications. Subject to both implicit and explicit sexism, Kate finds herself perpetually on the defensive, struggling to distinguish between those who care for her and those who wish to oppress her, a dynamic that traps even her longtime friendships in a state of precarity. She struggles to straddle the chasm between the physical field where her corn grows, her oasis, and the corresponding professional field, beleaguered by bias and petty politics.

Publication Date: 
August 9, 2022