36 Finalists Blog 2024: Emily Strasser

Emily Strasser, author of Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History

Memoir & Creative Nonfiction Category, sponsored by Bradshaw Celebration of Life Centers

Each week leading up to the 36th annual Minnesota Book Awards, we are featuring exclusive interviews with our finalists. You can also watch the authors in conversation with their fellow category finalists here.

What is one detail you wanted to include in this book, but couldn’t find a place for?   

I took a research trip to the now abandoned psychiatric hospital where my grandfather was hospitalized for months at a time. Because it is now run by paranormal investigators, I had to go on a ghost tour to see the inside of the building. It was a gross sensationalization of the mentally ill. While the experience was strange and disturbing, it didn’t ultimately fit into the book. 

Tell us about someone who proved instrumental to the creation of this book.   

My mom has been an unflagging champion of this project since its earliest days, believing in its potential when I lost hope. She’s been a cheerleader, sounding board, research companion, and proofreader. 

Tell us about a favorite read from the past year. Why did you find it enjoyable, insightful, or memorable?  

So hard to choose! I may have to say Toni Jensen’s Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land. It’s a sort of memoir in essays, threaded through with Jensen’s experiences with gun violence, both intimate and indirect. It is lyric and vulnerable, while insistently situating the personal within a larger structural context to make incisive political commentary. 

Please tell us something about yourself that is not widely known.

I have a strange knack for finding four leaf clovers. Sometimes, I just glance down at a patch of clover and pick one out. This has been true of me since childhood. 

Share your thoughts about the role and value of libraries.   

As a child, I anticipated visiting the library with a delicious thrill. Now, I find them places of solace. What a wild and beautiful thing that there is a place one can go in this capitalist society to borrow stacks of books for free! Libraries support education, literacy, and democracy through the free and accessible exchange of information and art. Endless gratitude for libraries. 

Emily Strasser’s award-winning essays have appeared in Ploughshares, Colorado Review, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and elsewhere. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Minnesota.