NDSU Libraries publishes book, Dakota Kraut
April 1, 2004
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection (GRHC) is pleased
to announce publication of its fifth book by Ronald J. Vossler,
Dakota Kraut: Collected Notes on How I Learned to Love My Accent and
Other books authored by Vossler and published by GRHC are: 1)
Lost Shawls and Pig Spleens: Folklore, Anecdotes, and Humor of the
Germans from Russla; 2) Not
Until the Combine Is Paid and Other Jokes From the Oral Traditions
of the Germans from Russia; 3) We'll
Meet Again in Heaven: Germans in the Soviet Union Write Their American
Relatives, 1925-1937; and 4) Why
I Never Called Death a River, and Other Voices from the Valley of
Hope: A Prairie Album.
Dakota Kraut, the sixth book by award-winning writer Ronald
J. Vossler, a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the University
of North Dakota, Grand Forks, brings together twenty years of the
author's publications in magazines, journals, newspapers, and websites.
Included are also a radio-play, two poems, and one of the author's
nationally award-winning documentary film-scripts. Subtitled "Collected
Notes on How I Learned to Love My Accent and Ancestry, 1983-2003,"
this collection is a must read for anyone interested in evocative
writing about ethnicity, memory, and a small-town prairie past. The
book begins with a poetic prologue, "God's Eye" - given
that title for the highest window on a grain elevator which overlooks
the author's mid-century childhood home in small town Dakota; and
ends with an epilogue which brings readers back to that grain elevator,
as the author understands how his prairie hometown has become, "My
Russia": "a place I can't forget, nor find again."
In between the prologue and epilogue are 31 different entries, collected
from the journals and magazines and newspapers where they were originally
published. There are meditative memoirs, like the one in which the
author, in his childhood, helps his old world grandparents with butchering
chickens. ("Baptism") There is an article about high school
basketball games, in which prairie gymnasiums are described as "cathedrals
of our innocence." ("Hardwood Glory") Some entries
paint vivid portraits of farm-work, such as rock and bale hauling.
An entire section is devoted to "Forgotten Homelands," as
the author seeks out his, and his own ethnic group's, ancestral past
in journeys to Ukraine, Germany, and France, where in a small village
he sings old German dialect songs with distant relatives.
By turns, this collection can be humorous, serious, thought-provoking,
and entertaining, with its precise, and forgiving, portraits of cranky
relatives and small-town eccentrics. (see "Outdoor Basketball,
with Irgey") Vossler's relatives and acquaintances populate this
book like characters in a Balzac novel; even when he moves away to
college - in the beautifully crafted essay "Eternal Freundschaft"
- he inadvertently ends up boarding with his grandfather's cousin.
There are also glimpses, as well as prolonged meditations, of prairie
church congregations singing old German spirituals ("Of Mother
Tongue and Sorrow Song"); and of Sunday afternoons on the front
lawn of the author's childhood home, when relatives visit, speaking
in the distinct mixture of German and English. ("Chairs")
Primarily fact, but with "some exaggerations," as the author
admits in his "Introduction," this rich, wide-ranging book
is a welcome addition for any reader seeking to understand the Germans
from Russia ethnic group, who settled in the U.S. between 1881-1914,
and whose descendants now comprise at least 35% of North Dakota's
population. Dakota Kraut is a rumination on the fast-disappearing
world of the prairie Germans in Dakota: it is also a literary work
with power and grace and insight into the human heart-even if the
heart is an ethnic one.
To order Dakota Kraut, send $30 plus $4 postage payable to
the NDSU Library. Mail to: Germans from Russia Heritage Collection,
Dakota Kraut Book, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599.
Website address to order is: library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/nd_sd/vossler3.html