My own ethnic background is Dakota German, commonly known as the Germans from Russia; my grandparents were born in Ukraine; and I grew up on the edges of a dying, yet extremely rich, ethnic culture as transplanted from the steppe to the Dakota prairie. Much of my writing draws, in one way or another, on this past---the past on the prairie, and the past on the steppe—as it informs, as it shapes, as it still lives in our American present. I believe in the credo of the great American novelist William Faulkner: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”
I also believe that art, that writing, is the highest form of human expression; that although man is a mystery, not only to others, but also, often, to himself, or herself, we should be occupied in exploring this mystery, in writing, in art; I believe that it is through local and regional art that we speak to others who know nothing about us, that we even speak to ourselves; in becoming better known to others, and ourselves, we delve further into the mystery that is man.
Here is a copy of my two page resume.
Over the past twenty years, I have been active as a humorist on topics German, as a public humanities speaker, and also as a visiting scholar—and sometimes all three of those categories at once---at colleges, universities, writers’ conferences, public festivals, family reunions, and celebrations across the prairie region, the United States, and also several Canadian provinces. I have also been interviewed about my books, films, and stories on various radio and television programs, including on North Dakota Public Radio.
My speaking topics have included the humor and the history of Germans from Russia, life in the former ethnic German villages in Soviet Ukraine, letters sent from German villages in Soviet Ukraine to the Americas in the 1920s and 1930s, various immigration topics, genocide against the ethnic Germans in Ukraine, and as a guest writer and panelist at literary conferences, I have given presentations on literature, writing techniques, as well as giving readings from my own fiction and non-fiction.
I am a free-lance writer, former University writing teacher, and humanities scholar, whose publications have appeared in scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, as well as on public education and humanities web sites. Translations of my work have also been published in Ukraine and Germany.
Ev Albers of the North Dakota Humanities Council has called my Larry Remele fellowship presentation on Germans from Russia humor, “the most popular program we’ve ever had,” and calls my research and translation of hundreds of letters from Germans in the Soviet Union to their Dakota relatives in the 1920's and 30's, “remarkable.”
The recipient of a variety of writing awards and research fellowships, I am also the author of seven books and three national award-winning documentary film-scripts. My most recent book of fiction Why I Never Called Death the River, and Other Voices from the Valley of Hope, which is set in an imaginary North Dakota township, has been described by a reviewer as “destined to become a classic of regional literature” and a “well-crafted literary triumph by a native son.”
My most recent scholarly publication, a collection of translated letters along with a brief history, is The Old God Still Lives: German Villagers in Czarist and Soviet Ukraine Write Their American Relatives: 1915-1924; my most recent film, “We’ll Meet Again in Heaven,” draws upon his research into the collectivization era in Ukraine, to chronicle the decade of starvation and terror in the Soviet Union that was the sad fate of the German minority who did not immigrate to America, like their relatives in Dakota, and elsewhere; this film will be aired upon public television stations across the United States.
My memoir collection—Dakota Kraut: Or How I Learned to Love My Accent and Ancestry—has been chosen as one of the top twelve memoir books by the “Read North Dakota” program, whose purpose is to promote and celebrate literature created in and about North Dakota.
I live in East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
I am willing to discuss speaking topics, times, and terms, tailored to your events, festivals, family reunions, and conferences.
The following manuscripts are in various stages of completion:
German Ghosts: My Search For A Lost People, and Fateful Family Secrets on the Prairie and the Steppe about the Soviet Starvation of Ukraine and the Nazi Murder of the Jews. This book length manuscript, which chronicles ten years of research, guides the reader from small town Dakota, to the former German villages in Ukraine and Moldova. There, and in Germany, I meet the lost people, members of my grandparents’ ethnic group, who’ve survived starvation, exile, and war; by using their stories, along with old family letters, scholarly sources, newspaper accounts, and even scraps of barely remembered songs from my own childhood, I decipher my own family’s silence about the past, and understand the role played by the German minority, a distinct minority in Ukraine, in two separate, but related, genocides.
Dinosaur Café: Stories from Behind the Sauerkraut Curtain. This collection contains both award-winning and previously unpublished short stories, which have as their general focus various eccentric and vivid characters of small-town
Dakota towns in the previous decades of the past century.
Fellowship of the (Sausage) Ring: This is a eight page meditation on the role of Dakota German ring sausage, or Wascht, in my life.
The Cleansing and Destruction of the Kulaks of Neudorf, Ukraine (Fall, 1932) This account chronicles what a survivor has called but a single drop in the ocean of suffering that was collectivization in a German village in Soviet Ukraine--the
arrest and exile of eighteen families named as kulaks, enemies of the Soviet state.
From Hell to Breakfast: Memoir of A Missing Father This memoir--which begins with the line “The first time my father died”---is the account of a man I never knew, but came to understand through my research. It follows my father’s life, amid frequent brushes with death, from his prairie childhood, to the French village where his infantry company was captured during WWII, and ends with a first, and final, visit with him.
Communist East Dakota: How Twenty Years Teaching at a Midwest University Turned Me into a Republican. This irreverent book---a Hunter Thompsonesque account of a fictional adjunct teacher perched on the lowest, dung-smeared rungs of a backwater Prairie University —portrays an academic Don Quixote, who after discerning the deep Marxist bias prevalent in American higher education, wages a humorous battle against the dark forces of left-wing propaganda that pollutes both his colleagues’ and students’ minds.
A number of my books have been completed in cooperation with Michael Miller and the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at the North Dakota State University Libraries. Visit their site for more information on the Germans from Russia.
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