Prairie Silence: A MemoirPrairie Silence: A Memoir by Melanie Hoffert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this book!

Author Melanie Hoffert grew up in a small town in North Dakota. She realized at an early age that she was gay, but kept this fact hidden from her family and community for many years. Like so many rural kids, once she grew up she left her community for the big city, in this case the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

Again, like many rural kids, once she’d created a life in the city she began to look back to her hometown with some longing. She decides to return home for a harvest season to take a look at her life from a new, and an old, perspective.

I enjoy homecoming memoirs, especially of a rural nature, and I really enjoy memoirs about people trying to find their place in the world. What made me love this book though is that Hoffert came to a conclusion near and dear to my heart, which is that you can only come to understand who you are when you also come to understand where you came from. Add in the fact that Hoffert describes this journey with beautifully lyrical language and you end up with a book that I nearly read in one sitting. Her descriptions of her hometown, the people and the places, rang incredibly true to me because I grew up with some of those same people and places in small-town Wisconsin.

Hoffert came to a bit of an epiphany the day she had to submit the manuscript for this book, so that piece was given short shrift. I do hope she returns to that topic in a future book!

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Letters to a Young Madman: A MemoirLetters to a Young Madman: A Memoir by Paul Gruchow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paul Gruchow is one of my all-time favorite authors. I had the chance to meet him a couple of times, and in particular recall one incredibly stormy evening listening to him read and speak at UW-Stout here in Menomonie. He had such an incredible gift for language, and for seeing the natural world. I first experienced his work in The Necessity of Empty Places, which I read, appropriately enough on a wonderful vacation to Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks.

Until I heard the news in 2004 that Gruchow had killed himself, I had no idea of the incredible storms he faced in his own mind. The brief news reports at the time indicated that he had long suffered from clinical depression, and that he had a manuscript telling the story of his mental illness in draft form. Nobody seemed to know when, or indeed if, it might be published.

Thankfully, it has been published. We are able to learn about the hell that Gruchow suffered, stories written with the beautiful language that he always used, but heart-breaking stories rather than uplifting tales of the outdoors. He experienced many hospitalizations throughout his illness, and had some truly awful experiences with the mental health system.

This book will resonate with anyone who has experienced depression, or knows those who have experienced mental illness. This is a book that should be read by anyone who works with the mentally ill, and anyone who cares about the human experience. It is at heart a cry for help from someone who wasn’t able to triumph over his illness, and hopefully it will help all of us to understand that cry and respond to it when we hear it.

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The Emotional Life of Your Brain – Book Review

May 16, 2012

The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live–and How You Can Change Them by Richard J. Davidson My rating: 5 of 5 stars This book is absolutely fascinating. Author Davidson is the founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at UW-Madison. He’s gotten a […]

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Designing for Growth – Book Review

May 12, 2012

Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka My rating: 5 of 5 stars This book is a good introduction to applying design thinking principles to business. While it’s focused mainly on business growth, I think it can easily be applied to any facet of business. Design thinking entails a […]

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Flying Leap Book Review

May 10, 2012

Flying Leap: A Novel in Perspective by Ralf Oliver My rating: 5 of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book. It’s of the genre “lost person meets guru and gets life lessons.” But it’s a neat twist that the guru is a pigeon. Most of the lessons discussed fit pretty well with Buddhist teachings. Books […]

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Small Town Rules

May 8, 2012

by Barry Moltz and Becky McCray (Full disclosure: Becky is one of the organizers of #140conf Small Town, where I’ve spoken the last two years. She was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of her book.) This book, subtitled “How Big Brands and Small Business Can Prosper in a Connected Economy”, is […]

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Update on Age Of Conversation 3

October 15, 2010

So it turns out it’s a little harder to give away money than you might think. The proceeds for the book Age of Conversation 3 (with an essay by yours truly) were originally to go to the Make a Wish Foundation. They, however, required all publicity linked to the donation to use the same words, […]

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How Soon is Now?

June 7, 2010

Rick Liebling, one of my fellow authors in the Age of Conversation project, is publishing a series of interviews with AOC3 authors on his blog. He’s just posted mine at his blog. Thanks Rick!

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“My” Book is on Amazon

May 11, 2010

I’m thrilled to finally announce that Age of Conversation 3, a book including an essay from yours truly, is now available for sale on Amazon. Click below to check it out! Widgets

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Great Quote

June 14, 2007

“Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn’t a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their own song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with our voices, or that […]

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