In his mother’s honor

MARSHALL – For his latest book, Minnesota author Mark Anthony Rolo delved into a personal subject matter, his mother.

Rolo will do a reading of his memoir “My Mother Is Now Earth” at 7 p.m. Thursday in Charter Hall 201 at Southwest Minnesota State University. His appearance is part of the Visiting Writers Series on campus. His book was recently nominated for a Minnesota Book Award in the memoir/creative non-fiction category.

Rolo is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Chippewa Indians and is the former editor of The Circle newspaper and Washington Bureau chief for Indian Country today. He is an English faculty member of the White Earth Tribal and Community College in Mahnomen.

“My Mother Is Now Earth” is about the last three years of his mother’s life, Rolo said. He was just a boy when she died back in 1973. According to an interview Rolo did for the Minnesota Historical Society Press 10,000 Books Weblog, he said “the boy of me had a very limited understanding of the harsh realities of poverty, growing up in a home with a mother who struggled with depression and a father who was lost to drinking.”

Rolo was 8 years old when his father moved his mother and their eight children from Milwaukee, Wis. to Big Falls in 1971. Besides being an alcoholic, Rolo’s father was abusive.

“I had no intention to write about my mother,” Rolo said. “I was a child; she was very private. But in 2009, I felt the story of my mother emerging within my imagination. I felt writing the book was a way for me to get to know my mother in a way never possible because of her death in 1973.”

In writing the book, Rolo said the death of his mother and the funeral scene was difficult.

“But the toughest part was how to be honest and true about my mother and family without feeling like I was violating my siblings’ privacy. (It’s) always hard to tell your own story without telling the rest of the family’s as well,” he said.

When he learned that his book was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award, Rolo said he was honestly only excited because it was an opportunity to honor his mother, her story.

“And that is what the book is all about, honoring my mother,” Rolo said.

Rolo said the people in his hometown of Big Falls, which is in northern Minnesota, were excited about his book.

“I have had only positive reactions, and I think it’s because the story resonates beyond Native American and touches many families of all races and classes,” he said.

He added that his family has also been excited about the book, but he was concerned about his siblings’ reaction.

“But as tough as parts of the book might be to their memories, they do recognize that this was an attempt to honor my mother, and they believe it does honor our mother,” he said.