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For thirty years poet Jana Harris researched the
diaries and letters of North American pioneer women.
While the names and experiences of the authors
varied, Harris found one narrative often connected
them: their most powerful memories were of
courtships and weddings. They dreamed of having a
fine wedding while they spent their lives hauling water
and scrubbing floors and hoping for admirers.
Based on interviews of nineteenth-century frontier
women conducted during the 1920s and ’30s,
Harris uses her compelling poetry to resurrect a
forgotten history. She captures the hope, anxiety,
anger, and despair of these women through a variety
of characters and poetic strategies, while archival
photographs give faces to the names and details to
the settings. Harris’s meticulous research and stirring
words give these pioneer women a renewed voice
that proves the timelessness of the hopes and fears
of love and marriage.
Jana Harris teaches creative writing at the University
of Washington and at the Writer’s Workshop in
Seattle. She is editor of Switched-on Gutenberg and
author, most recently, of Horses Never Lie about Love.
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