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Wayne State University Press

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House of Fields

Memories of a Rural Education

Anne-Marie Oomen

Award Winner

Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Michigan

Great Lakes Books Series

Published: November 2006
ISBN: 9780814332856
Pages: 176 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 5 b&w illus.
Published: November 2006
ISBN: 9780814335666

Measured, musical, and wise, these pieces give us a poet's sense of the mystical, with a storyteller's attention to character and place.

— Laura Kasischke

Anne-Marie Oomen uses a wealth of vivid language and personal details to bring scenes from her childhood on a family farm to life in House of Fields. Yet the focus of this book shifts away from the daily activities of the farm, which Oomen presented in Pulling Down the Barn, to life outside its boundaries, as she explores the complex meaning of "education" in all of its rural forms. From reading lessons to shattered windows, from dynamite to first kisses, from lost underwear to confirmation names, these stories depict the spiritual and emotional journey of being educated by family, fields, and church—as well as by traditional schools.

Oomen’s description of the farmhouse where she grew up becomes the central image for this collection of essays. This once-grand home, filled with memories and the physical wear of family life, is the soul of her family’s farm, and its sense of nurturing and protection is reflected in the author’s relationships to her mother, her teachers, and her mentors. Within this context, Oomen examines memories from her formal education, which began during the final years of the one-room school era then shifted to the "consolidated" schools of the late 1950s and 1960s and to a parochial school system. Struggles with reading, first friendships, early loves, and contradictory educational models are coupled with the challenges of coming of age and the ups and downs of an emotional education between mother and daughter. Fans and teachers of creative nonfiction, as well as anyone with roots in a rural community, will enjoy this lyrical and revealing volume.

Anne-Marie Oomen is chair of the creative writing department at Interlochen Art Academy and author of Pulling Down the Barn (Wayne State University press, 2004)

In House of Fields, every moment is considered, consistent, built in the way that the old Dutch masters built their paintings: layer by layer, achieving, at last, a luminous warmth found only in glimpses during the course of our daily lives. And yet, in retrospect, this is exactly the light cast by what we remember-more complex than nostalgia, more shadowed, a bittersweet scar."

– A. Manette Ansay, author of Vinegar Hill and Limbo

Anne-Marie Oomen brings not only the past, its people and domestic mythologies, to life in this brilliant book, but she brings life to the landscape, the seasons, and the very walls that contained them. Measured, musical, and wise, these pieces give us a poet's sense of the mystical, with a storyteller's attention to character and place. A kind of travelogue of the spirit and an ode to the miracle of memory, this is memoir to the highest power."

– Laura Kasischke, author of The Life Before Her Eyes and Suspicious River

Drawing from ordinary moments from childhood, with settings such as her family's farmhouse and the local schoolyard, the author employs a gentle touch and poetic details to tell a compelling coming-of-age story in rural Oceana County."

– Westland Observer

With these absorbing reflections, Oomen blurs the distinction between the inside and the outside of people and buildings. Coming of age, in her hands, means making the connection between self, others, and surroundings."

– Bloomsbury Review

  • 2007 Michigan Notable Book Awards - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually