Book Review: Christmas in Dairyland


Author/Publisher
Christmas in Dairyland
by LeAnn R. Ralph
Published by LeAnn R. Ralph
E6689 970th Ave. Colfax, WI 54730
Printed by Booklocker.com" target="_new">Booklocker.com
ISBN 1-59113-366-1
$13.95, 2003, 153 pages

Reviewer
Boyd Sutton
Siren, Wisconsin
maxdude@centurytel.net

Description of the Book

Christmas in Dairyland is a collection of short, true stories about a little girl growing up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin in the early 1960s. The book tells of life for a young girl and her family-her father, who did the farming; her mother who, despite being disabled by polio, took care of the house and cooking; and a much older brother and sister, both of whom worked and contributed their incomes to the family.

The stories recall preparations for Christmas at home, school, and church, how LeAnn learned about her Norwegian heritage and, most important, the love that pervaded this close-knit mid-20th century American family. As a bonus, Christmas in Dairyland includes tried and true recipes for many of the Norwegian heritage foods featured in the stories, including lefse (wafer-thin potato bread), Julekake (a rich Christmas bread), fattigman (a deep-fried sweet cookie), and a variety of traditional Christmas cookies. For the more adventurous, there is a recipe for lutefisk (cod that has been preserved in lye). Finally, the book includes instructions for making colorful candles using old crayons, paraffin, ice cubes, and milk cartons.

About the Book

This is a heartwarming book about a vanishing way of life. Small dairy farms, with around 30 milking cows, were plentiful when the author was growing up and they provided a warm and loving home for hundreds of thousands of families back then. There are few left today, as small farms have been abandoned, sold for development, or gobbled up by industrial-scale farming operations. Small dairy farms can no longer provide for a family's financial needs. Even then it was a real struggle. But, though such families were often well below the poverty level in strictly financial terms, they were usually wealthy in love and family relationships, as these stories show.

One or more members of the family-the wife, a son, or daughter-usually had an outside job that contributed to the family income. And the farm usually provided sustenance-milk, beef, pork, chicken, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and other produce, while mothers and daughters sewed and knitted to supplement clothing needs.. Most important, farm life developed close-knit, loving families that were strong on self-reliance, responsibility, and respect for hard work. My own wife grew up on such a farm and I have often heard her stories about the joys and difficulties-mostly joys-of growing up that way.

LeAnn R. Ralph's stories tell of the excitement of making ornaments and decorating the Christmas tree in her school room each year (another bygone era) and at home. The annual expedition with her father to select the "just right" tree from the stand of red pine on their farm was one of many experiences that built a strong bond between father and daughter. Then there was the year that she and her older sister climbed a large pine to cut off the very top for their tree because all the other pines had grown so much.

LeAnn learned to make lefse from her mother and tells of the mouth-watering aroma of the freshly made, thin Norwegian bread as she came home from school. "By itself, lefse didn't really taste like much, but once it was spread with butter, sprinkled with sugar and rolled into a log, I would have happily eaten nothing but lefse for breakfast, dinner and supper." It made my mouth water just to read about it and I was happy to find LeAnn's recipe for lefse (and other goodies) at the end of the book.

This is a good book for all ages, from pre-teens through octogenarian. The writing is clear, simple, and direct, easily read by young children, but not so simple as to put off adult readers. Children will connect with

LeAnn's description of a young girl's life on the farm, helping Dad with the chores, helping Mom wrap Christmas presents, yearning for a toboggan, and being surprised by her brother's purchase of a saddle for her pony, Dusty. They'll understand her attempts to get out of wearing boots, heavy coats, and mittens on warm winter days, "just because it might get cold." And some will relate to LeAnn's stark fear of having to stand up in front of all the people at church to sing a solo-memorized in Norwegian-of an old-country Christmas carol. Older folks will feast on the nostalgia, and may get tears in their eyes as they learn how that Norwegian carol affected one old woman in the congregation. People from all generations will enjoy the depiction of a close, loving family as it prepares for and enjoys Christmas in Dairyland.

About the reviewer: Boyd Sutton is president of Northwest Regional Writers and a member of the Yarnspinners critique group. He served for 11 years in the U.S. Army Infantry and Intelligence and wrote professionally as an analyst and manager with CIA for 27 years. He enjoys writing essays, fiction, and humor and has been published in local papers and magazines. Boyd won the Wisconsin Regional Writers' Assoc. Florence Lindemann Humor Contest in 2003. He is working on a spy novel and a nonfiction book addressing how Christian denominational doctrine ("Churchianity") sometimes interferes with Christianity.

About The Author

LeAnn R. Ralph is the author of the books: "Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm) and "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam." For more information, visit: ruralroute2.com" target="_new">http://ruralroute2.com; bigpines@ruralroute2.com


MORE RESOURCES:
Alan Brinkley, "one of the pre-eminent historians of his generation, with a specialty in 20th-century American political history," died June 16. He was 70. Brinkley's work "spanned the full spectrum of the last century's seminal events and influential characters, including the Great Depression and World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy."

Among the book world people who testified yesterday at a hearing before the U.S. International Trade Commission about proposed tariffs on Chinese goods was Jamie Fiocco, president of the American Booksellers Association and owner of Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C. In her prepared remarks, she said in part:

"ABA understands the Administration's serious concerns with China's failure to protect intellectual property and the related issues of forced technology transfers that are being discussed here. However, ABA believes imposing tariffs on books is a clear reversal of decades of U.S. policy that exempts books and other written material from trade restrictions, and to make this change would undercut important American policy interests. In addition, imposing tariffs on books would seriously and disproportionately damage U.S. small and medium sized businesses, like my bookstore, and consumers.

"It is crucial to understand that even the most successful of independent bookstores operate on the thinnest of margins. And despite growth and success in recent years, bookselling is a highly volatile business. If prices increase due to an increase in tariffs, the negative impact on the fiscal health of the bookselling world--and on readers young and old--would be significant.

"Based on information from publishing colleagues, some 25% of books they publish are printed in China. And the great majority of children's books and texts such as Bibles are printed in China. Not only will the proposed tariff impact what books are available--and affordable--to young readers and their families, it will impact what makes my store, and other stores like mine, unique. In independent bookstores, sections are curated carefully by store owners to fit the needs of the communities in which the indie bookstore resides. Tariffs on book titles would impose significant and unwarranted roadblocks on creating a vibrant, diverse children's book section, for example. This unfortunate result would impact both my business and the young readers and families in my community in ways that will unquestioningly have long-ranging impact on future readers... continued

Darra Adam Khel, Pakistan — This tribal district, located about 85 miles west of Islamabad, is best known for its sprawling weapons bazaar. Walking through it, the sounds of workshop machinery and craftsmen striking hammers become a nearly musical backdrop.

A local book lover, Raj Muhammad, hopes it becomes known as the home of the Darra Adam Khel Library. Located near a gun shop that his father built 12 years ago, the library opened in August, and Muhammad considers it a labor of love as well as a message to the area and the wider world.

Scholastic will be publishing another novel in its mega-selling Hunger Games franchise. The trilogy by Suzanne Collins, which launched in 2008 with the titular title, has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.

The forthcoming work, currently known as "the untitled Panem novel" (referencing the fictional country where the series is set), is slated for May 19, 2020. Scholastic said the work will "revisit the world of Panem 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games, on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games."

The building that houses the Strand Bookstore at 826 Broadway was designated as a New York City landmark on Tuesday morning, following a contested process and fierce opposition from community members and the bookstore's owner.

"What they [the LPC commissioners] fail to acknowledge is that there are real-world costs associated with landmarking: those costs can affect jobs, those costs can affect union jobs, and those costs can affect businesses like the Strand," The Strand's lawyer, Alexander Urbelis, told Curbed following the vote. "We need a life raft, we don't need somebody to throw us a lead weight with a landmarking."

Elliott Management, the U.S. private equity company whose U.K. arm, Elliott Advisors, bought Waterstones last year, is buying Barnes & Noble, B&N announced this morning. Elliott is paying $6.50 a share--well above recent levels--in an all-cash transaction that places the company's value at $683 million.

The companies will be operated separately, but in a very positive move for the long-struggling chain, Waterstones CEO James Daunt, who led the turnaround of Waterstones, will be made CEO of B&N and be based in New York City. The companies said that under this arrangement, B&N and Waterstones will "benefit from the sharing of best practice between the companies.

Entertainment Weekly's print magazine, which has continued to provide substantive coverage of books and authors at a time when many other print magazines and newspapers have cut back, will become a monthly publication as of August.

Writing in Vox, Kelsey Piper looks at the growing concern about "books by prestigious and well-regarded researchers" which "go to print with glaring errors, which are only discovered when an expert in the field, or someone on Twitter, gets a glance at them."

She cites two examples:

In Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love, author Naomi Wolf's entire premise is based on a misunderstanding of the phrase "death recorded," which she took to mean that the person had been executed, but in fact means that the death penalty was deferred for their natural life.

And in Happy Every After, one of author Paul Dolan's central premises is that "Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they're asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: f***ing miserable..." This statement is based on a misunderstanding of the American Time Use Survey, a national survey available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which defines "spouse absent" as no longer living in the household--which is very different to Dolan's interpretation of the spouse not present at the time of the interview!

American novelist Tayari Jones's portrait of a young African American's wrongful incarceration, and its devastating impact on his marriage has beaten two Booker prize winners to take the Women's prize for fiction.

Described by chair of judges Kate Williams as a book that "shines a light on today's America", Jones's fourth novel An American Marriage won the £30,000 award on Wednesday night....

... The Women's prize is the UK's only book award for fiction by women. Running for 24 years, it has been won by writers including Zadie Smith and Lionel Shriver.

People are fortunate if they have one great passion in life. Robert L. Bernstein, who died May 27, had three, starting with his family. He also had publishing. For a quarter century, he led Random House Inc., turning it into an enterprise as luminous as it was successful. In the mid-1980s, when Fortune magazine listed its "100 Best Companies in America to Work For," Random House was among them. And there was Bernstein's passion for human rights, starting with his support of individuals under KGB pressure, then moving on to do whatever was possible by peaceful means to protect whole societies from tyrants around the world.

Forty years ago, Bob cofounded Helsinki Watch (named after the signing place of a pact among 35 countries on a range of issues) to monitor the activities of dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union and Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia. In time, watch committees were added for the Americas, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the United States, women's rights, children's rights, LGBTQ rights, and others...

thatware.org ©