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Native North Dakotan and author Debra Marquart (above) admits to being a teen-aged farmer’s daughter brimming with rebellion and wanderlust. But once away from the rural setting, she “could not think of anything but home,” Marquart said. She recently spoke at the Carroll Public Library about her 2006 book, “The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere,” as well as the writing life and rural issues.

“Dairy farming is as close as you can come to slavery and still be a free person,” Marquart said. She described a farming community in which immigrant grandparents often gossiped in German – and of having a farm mother who seemed to be able to do about anything, from canning to sewing to running “worried fingers” on the calculator to managing the bills. “Growing up, I believed I was surrounded by the most austere, pragmatic, hardworking people,” says Marquart. “But now I know that we were hopeless romantics when it came to land – the worst sort of high-stakes gamblers, betting the farm and all of our lives every day when we went out into the fields.”

Marquart said “Horizontal World,” clearly written to be a “Midwestern story,” has caught on in New England and the Pacific Northwest with people who closely identify with land in generational terms, be it a farm or a house. And she had this compelling take on why young people should spend more time with grandparents. “I think grandparents have a time-release effect,” Marquart said. “I can still feel their effect.” 

–Douglas Burns

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