As I mentioned in my last post, I’m a truth teller. I hate keeping secrets and was brought up being told to always be honest. But what if I had a big secret? How long could I let it eat away at me? How would it change my life?
For author Melanie Hoffert, she kept her silence for years growing up on the prairie of North Dakota. Coming out was not something people did on the farm. Life led her to live and work in Minneapolis, but in this thought-provoking memoir, Hoffert takes us on her harvest time journey back to her small town, the farm, and the silences that still existed on the land. Prairie Silence is “a rural expatriate’s journey to reconcile home, love, and faith.”
Hoffert writes with such warmth and honesty it’s like re-connecting with an old friend who somehow feels comfortable enough to share her deepest yearnings, pains, and joys in release and understanding. It must have taken real gumption to write this book, but it is also easy to see how necessary it was.
Like all good non-fiction, this story goes deeper than just coming out to the entire state of North Dakota, as if that wasn’t a big enough challenge. During a spontaneous trip home for a few weeks over harvest, Hoffert tells us through memories growing up about the meaning of home, changing friendships, shifting views on faith, and finding a way to make sense of it all where she is now. It’s stuff everyone goes through, and that makes it such a welcoming read.
I may be straight, couldn’t live anywhere that didn’t have a Target within 10 minutes, and am not harboring any tough secrets, but I understood and truly felt Hoffert’s silences. And I believe that connection is exactly what memoirs are for. She came to Concordia College last fall, her alma mater, when I was a senior there, and on one level, we connected as Cobbers. In the spring, when Prairie Silence won the Minnesota Book Award for memoir, an honor which it richly deserves.
To hear a beautiful excerpt from Melanie Hoffert, watch the book trailer below, and look for my interview with the author in our first issue of Assay 1.1, out September 1st.