Each day we highlight one of the 36 finalists leading up to the April 8 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, presented by Education Minnesota. Today we feature 2017 Minnesota Nonfiction finalist:
Under the corn and soybean fields of southern Minnesota lies the memory of vast, age-old wetlands, drained away over the last 130 years in the name of agricultural progress. Author Cheri Register stumbled upon her great-grandfather’s scathing critique of the draining and was intrigued. Following the clues he left, she uncovers the stories of life on the Big Marsh and of the “connivers” who plotted its end: the Minneapolis land developer, his local fixer, an Illinois banker, and the lovelorn local lawyer who did their footwork. An environmental history told from a personal point of view, The Big Marsh shows the enduring value of wild places and the importance of the fight to preserve them, both then and now.
Cheri Register’s memoir, Packinghouse Daughter, won a Minnesota Book Award and an American Book Award. She wrote the pathbreaking book Living with Chronic Illness: Days of Patience and Passion (reissued as The Chronic Illness Experience) and two classic works for internationally adoptive parents, “Are Those Kids Yours?” and Beyond Good Intentions, plus other books, essays, and articles. She taught creative nonfiction writing at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis for twenty years and has served as a mentor and manuscript adviser for many other writers. Register graduated from Albert Lea High School and has a Ph.D. in Scandinavian Languages and Literatures from the University of Chicago.
“This blend of memoir, family history, and regional Minnesota history speaks to Minnesotans in the 21st century as we cope with the ecological fallout from decisions made in the 19th century and examine who we are and what we value. The author could have written a judgmental rant but instead wrote a meticulously researched, nuanced account of decisions made by a range of real people.”
— Minnesota Book Awards Judge
“The Big Marsh describes the glorious dreams, the grandiose schemes, the lies, the deception, the ignorance, the avarice, and the unheeded pleas of those who saw beauty where others saw a wasteland. Minnesota has lost more than 50 percent of its pre-settlement wetlands. In lyrical prose, Cheri Register tells us how this happened.”
— Sue Leaf, author of Potato City and The Bullhead Queen
“Register blends the story of her family with the wider story of the marsh, smoothly weaving together the personal and the public. Her prose is lovely and never mawkish even as she reflects on all that was lost when the marsh was drained.” —The Gazette
Beyond the Book:
Q&A with Cheri Register on the 10,000 Books Weblog
Cheri Register speaks with Charity Nebbe and wetlands specialist Judith Joyce on “Talk of Iowa,” Iowa Public Radio.
Interview on “Prairie Pulse,” Prairie Public Broadcasting, Fargo, ND: