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Love, Sex, and 4-H

Anne-Marie Oomen

Award Winner

Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Michigan

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: April 2015
ISBN: 9780814340783
Pages: 136 Size: 5 x 8
Published: April 2015
ISBN: 9780814340790
Pages: 136 Size: EPUB

Anne-Marie’s memories call up my own and speak to our female selves; like a best friend, years later, rueful, grateful, piercingly specific.

— Sandra Scofield

As the 1960s dawned in small-town Michigan, Anne-Marie Oomen was a naive farm girl whose mother was determined to keep her out of trouble—by keeping her in 4-H. In Love, Sex, and 4-H, Oomen sets the wholesomeness of her domestic lessons in 4-H club from 1959 to 1969 against the political and sexual revolution of the time. Between sewing her first dish towel and finishing the yellow dress she wears to senior prom, Oomen brings readers along as she falls in and out of love, wins her first prize, learns to kiss, survives her first heartbreak, and makes almost all of her clothes.

Love, Sex, and 4-H begins as Oomen struggles to sew a straight seam and works hard to embody the 4-H pledge of loyalty, service, and better living. But even as she wins her first modeling competition and masters more difficult stitches and patterns, Oomen finds that she is not immune to the chaos of the outside world. After the Kennedy assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and her own short stay in a convent, Oomen encounters the biggest change of all—public school. In this new world of school dances, short skirts, and raging hormones, Oomen’s orderly life will be complicated by her first kiss, first boyfriend, first store-bought dress, and finally, first love. All the while, she must negotiate her mother’s expectations, her identity as a good 4-H girl, and her awareness of growing social and political unrest.

Oomen brings an insightful and humorous eye to her evolving sexuality, religious beliefs, and sense of self. Fans of memoir will appreciate the honest portrayal of growing up between rebellion and tradition in Love, Sex, and 4-H.

Anne-Marie Oomen is author of Pulling Down the Barn (Wayne State University Press, 2004) and House of Fields (Wayne State University Press, 2006)—both Michigan Notable Books—and Uncoded Woman. She serves as instructor at The Solstice MFA in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College, Interlochen’s College of Creative Arts, and conferences throughout the country. She lives near Traverse City, Michigan.

Anne-Marie Oomen loves detail, the smaller and more precise the better: the handstitching of an invisible hem, the almost inaudible nighttime sounds of her parents kissing, the jewel colors of jams processed ‘the old-fashioned way.’ This beautifully observed and wrought book is full of the details of handmade objects and physical labor—a way of life that seems more inaccessible all the time, as our culture daily becomes more virtual.

– Amy Hoffman, author of several memoirs, including Lies about My Family

Anne-Marie’s memories call up my own and speak to our female selves; like a best friend, years later, rueful, grateful, piercingly specific. It was like this. Truly, it was.

– Sandra Scofield, author of Occasions of Sin

Anne-Marie Oomen's memoir is exquisitely written. She conveys the journey of a teenager gaining a sense of self in 1960's rural Michigan with a deftness of touch and an understanding of her former self that takes her work beyond the boundaries of simply 'memoir'. Love, Sex and 4H is destined to become a classic of Midwest rural literature.

– Peter Makin, Brilliant Books

Seriously, who could take the life of an average adolescent growing up in rural Michigan fraught with sewing projects, virginity, canning, and high school dances, and produce a memoir so intriguing that, despite my attempts to speed read, slowed me into thoughtful contemplation and even brought me to a complete halt now and then as I marveled at these deeply connected sentiments? Oomen can. (Am I allowed to say this is the best memoir I’ve ever read?)

– Kimberly Ann, New Pages

Love, Sex, and 4H is a significant contribution to literature about the Midwest, which seems sparse compared to other regions of the country. I’ve thought long and hard about why that is, and I’ve come up with a partial answer: In the past hundred years, we’ve just been too busy WORKING to sit down and write about our lives. Other rural memoirs abound, but few cover life in the upper Midwest, and those that do never focus on the social and sexual awakening of a rural girl with dreams of grandness and a life of purpose and passion.

– Mardi Jo Link, author of Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm

We are reminded of the American days of bomb shelters and duck-and-cover drills; of learning to sew and learning to kiss. Oomen illuminates the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, especially between this mother—a woman who lived, as Oomen tells us, a ‘life without lace’—and this daughter, the one who writes that in her early teens she understood that she ‘did not really want to be good anymore.’ And yet, good she is, this daughter, this writer, this Anne-Marie Oomen. And good, too—very good—is Love, Sex, and 4-H.

– Patricia Ann McNair, author of The Temple of Air

  • 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award - Result: Winner in the Memoirs category