Here is Blair's introduction:
It’s my great pleasure to introduce Mark Anthony Rolo, who will read to us tonight from his powerful 2012 memoir, My Mother Is Now Earth, which has already attracted positive attention from critics and reviewers. Rolo recently learned that his memoir is a finalist for the memoir and creative nonfiction category of the prestigious Minnesota Book Awards.
His first book, What’s An Indian Woman to Do? And Other Plays? was published by the American Indian Studies program at the University of California at Los Angeles in 2010. Rolo may have begun publishing books only recently, but he’s no newcomer to the writing world. He was a co-writer on the 2006 PBS documentary, A Seat at the Drum, and a former editor of The Circle, a national Indian newspaper, as well as a former Washington D.C. bureau chief for the newspaper, Indian County Today. Currently, he teaches English and creative writing at the White Earth Tribal and Community College in Mahnomen, Minnesota.
An enrolled member of the Wisconsin Bad River Band of Chippewa, Rolo spent his early years in the tough, white, deep woods burg of Big Falls, Minnesota. This is a town I know well, having taken many a kayak trip on the Big Fork River, so I can vouch for Rolo’s descriptions of it, except for one small detail. Having grown up only nine miles from the Canadian border myself, where winters often hit the 35 or 40 below mark, I was reared to call nothing south of Winnipeg “the far north.”
All joking aside, Rolo’s memoir richly deserves the praise it has won him so far and will surely win him in the future.
Pember, in Indian Country Today has this to say: “ To read Mark Anthony Rolo’s My Mother Is Now Earth is to have your heart suddenly rise into your throat, spreading its warmth unexpectedly towards your eyes, releasing an exquisite pain. Like all really beautiful things, this book exacts a toll, but one that is worth paying.
Lakota fiction writer, Susan Power: “In My Mother Is Now Earth, Mark Anthony Rolo tracks his mother’s story in a heroic journey that takes us through the chambers of his childhood heart, the spirit of a family struggling to survive, and the long memory of ancient lands. I was mesmerized by this powerful narrative and could not look away until I came to the final gorgeous page. In tracing his elusive mother, Rolo not only restores dignity to her difficult life but somehow manages to restore dignity to us all.”
Masters from Carnegie Mellon University: “Mark Anthony Rolo’s searing story, told without bitterness or victimhood, provides a riveting account of one of our nation’s dark histories. This book had to be written.”
Turck in The Twin Cities Daily Planet: “Whether the memoir is read as a struggle of women, or Indians, or families in poverty, it’s a moving story with a human complexity that includes and transcends categories.”
Rolo’s memoir explores his memories of the last three years of his mother’s difficult life, years that began when he was at the tender age of eight. It is written without blame, despite his father’s alcoholism that precipitated violence and abuse and plunged the family into poverty. It is written without blame, despite his depressed mother’s preoccupation with the Indian relatives she left behind, rather than with her many children. Rolo’s memoir is written with love for all the members of his once embattled family, including his father, who cared deeply about his wife but loved the bottle more.
My Mother Is Now Earth manages to be both starkly realistic and inherently poetic, which is no easy feat. It is infused with the love and longing of a young boy, whose mother “is Now Earth.” How could a memoir about abuse, neglect, violence, alcoholism, and racism be “gorgeous” or “beautiful” or “poetic?” Buy it, read it and see for yourself. Rolo’s facility with language, his wisdom about the human condition, and his descriptive power, masquerading as simplicity, are his gifts to the genre, his gifts to us all.