AUTHOR FAITH COLBURN DISCUSS WITH ME HER MEMOIR ” THRESHOLD!” GET ALL THE DETAILS FROM THE AUTHOR HERSELF!
Our families and communities serve as the threshold we cross into our lives. Whether it’s a metaphorical threshold or the actual physical threshold that marks our front door, the crossing informs who we choose to become. This memoir is a series of twenty stories about one ordinary American family’s struggle to thrive across race and through time and space. From five-year-old Joseph Swope kidnapped and adopted by a war chief to my father blasting up U.S. Highway 41 with a turtle for a co-pilot trying to save a marriage, this memoir reveals what happens when communities fail and how they thrive. These are the stories of people who worked together and shared resources. There’s the smell of wheat dust and sweat and the ozone that precedes a storm and there’s the clang of green beans into a metal pot while friends and family sit on chairs dragged out into the yard where it’s hard to discern the border between fireflies and stars. I can remember how safe and comfortable it was when everybody knew my name and they may not have always been glad I came, but I knew they wouldn’t let me “go under.” Perhaps we can retrieve that feeling in a new century. Reviews: Threshold is a work that is substantial . . . in scope, ambition, stylistic polish, acumen and conviction. [It is] a sophisticated achievement . . . an excellent example of the increasingly popular genre known as creative non-fiction. Threshold is full of compelling individual portraits—the midwife Grandma Hendricks, homely George Colburn, and the uncaring doctor who commits an unforgivable atrocity . . . and portraits of individuals seeking to establish the connections that might create the community needed to enhance life beyond the survival mode . . . . It is a refined and stylistically polished work. Dr. Robert M. Luscher English Professor, University of Nebraska-Kearney Author IN JOHN UPDIKE: A STUDY OF THE SHORT FICTION
About the Author
A sixth-generation Nebraskan, I’m thoroughly immersed in midgrass and shortgrass prairies. I grew up with two quirky parents and a younger sister who was as much a tomboy as I was. Mom was a retired “canary” who sang with the big bands in around the Great Lakes and up and down the Eastern Seaboard and my father was a farmer. With my grandmother, I’ve walked the grasslands, smelling tiny onion blossoms so sweet they’ll make your ears ring and watching pronuba moths fall like petals from the waxy, white blossoms of yucca. As a public information officer for the state Game and Parks Commission, I’ve canoed the Dismal, ridden the Sandhills ahorseback, cross country skied the Missouri bluffs, seined carp, fixed nets, picked trout eggs, and camped out along Bone Creek. I’ve had the opportunity to photograph wildlife, from Sandhill cranes to elk and buffalo and, having lived my entire life here, I gained intimate knowledge of the landscape that often appears as a character/catalyst in my work. I earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Nebraska at Kearney as well as a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I received UNK’s Outstanding Work in Fiction Award during its 2009 student conference and several awards from the Nebraska Federation of Press Women. My fiction has appeared in KINESIS and PLATTE VALLEY REVIEW, and my poetry has been published in THE REYNOLDS REVIEW. While at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, I wrote numerous articles for NEBRASKAland magazine, including copy for photo essays and historical articles.
Q: What was your true inspiration for your book?
A: I had two images in my mind when I started this work. The first is an image of my great-great-great-grandmother, Sicily Thompson Hendricks, by candlelight in a log cabin helping to deliver a neighbor’s baby. She’s surrounded by neighbors and friends as she plies her midwife’s trade. The second is an image of my sixteen-year-old nephew, David Erin Klein, under the cold green lights of a modern operating theater where a surgeon removes his leg, packages it, labels it “hazardous waste” and sends it to an incinerator in some undisclosed location. That surgeon was saving what he could after another surgeon who had done surgery he wasn’t qualified to do and botched the job. I began then to wonder how it’s different when our well being is determined by friends and neighbors and when it’s determined by strangers who often don’t even know our names.
Those images came out of my grandmother’s stories. She told them all my life, but it occurred to me when she was 98 that I ought to do something to save them. So we made an appointment every Wednesday so I could sit down with her and a tape recorder. I recorded 30 hours of interviews. That’s the core of Threshold. After that I had the luck of the Irish (a good share of my genetic makeup) as I stumbled across the most interesting stories about the generations before Grandma’s time.
Q: Is there a message you want to give your readers after they’ve read the book and what is the message?
A: You know, I grew up in a community where everybody knew my name and I can remember how safe and comfortable that felt. Since then, we’ve become a nation of strangers, but I think we have the potential, with our growing ability to telecommute, to form our own communities. They could be places where we do know one another’s names and where we can look out for each other. I wrote Threshold because I think I found patterns, throughout the generations of my family, of how to do that and what to avoid. Perhaps my readers can find their own patterns in these stories that can help them to retrieve that feeling in this new century.
Q: What makes your story unique?
A: Oh my gosh, this memoir encompasses eight generations in eighteen stories. One of the stories deals with race relations between Whites and Indians. One of them skirts around a lawsuit and a gag order. Another involves sexual abuse by a trusted professional. All of them are about members of my family. So I definitely wanted to get it right.
A number of the people I’ve written about in Threshold are still living and I like most of them, so I never want to misrepresent them. Nor do I want to misrepresent my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. All of these people have had an enormous positive influence in my life, despite the craziness that came out of some of the horrors they lived through. Sometimes, information simply wasn’t available, so I had to give my own interpretations. Whenever that happened, I was very careful to say so, to let my reader know that “this is what I think happened.”
I suppose the most difficult part of the memoir, was my father’s story. By the time I began writing, he’d been dead for more than thirty-five years. He couldn’t speak for himself, yet his story was central to everything that happened, not only in his own generation, but in my life as well. So here’s an example from one of the chapters when I was treading on eggs:
“I never heard even pieces of my Dad’s story from him, only from the two women who loved and abandoned him. I’m reduced to reconstructing Dad’s struggle from the stories of those women and my grandmother, who was there when the others were gone, and the letters, and pieces of letters, Margo shared with me almost forty years after Dad wrote them to her. But I have an idea of how it must have been for him. I grew up in his country with his people. And I grew up with him — at least until I was sixteen years old.”
Q: Who would you recommend your book to?
A: I would recommend Threshold to anyone who’s tired of the endless bickering we’re seeing in our everyday life, from politics to business to non-governmental organizations. I’m not a Luddite and I don’t believe we can or should go back to living another century, but I do believe we need to be sure the new technologies and ways of organizing our lives serve our values. I’ve shown my readers members of my family, stumbling, and falling, and trying to survive and thrive through a World War, a Depression much worse than what we’re seeing now, and through personal catastrophes that have destroyed others. I’ve done that because I want people to know that they CAN survive and thrive what life throws at them.
Q: What makes you think you’re qualified to write this memoir?
A: As a sixth-generation Nebraskan, I know my landscape. I hold a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I received UNK’s Outstanding Work in Fiction Award during its 2009 student conference and several awards from the Nebraska Federation of Press Women. My creative thesis was given the best thesis in Fine Arts and Humanities in 2012.
My fiction has appeared in Kinesis magazine and my poetry has been published in The Reynolds Review. As a public information officer for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, I wrote numerous articles for NEBRASKAland magazine and for local newspapers.
I spent several years gathering oral family histories and biographies, including a 100-year memoir of the Lincoln newspaper publishing family and two others. As a communications specialist for a Lutheran social ministry organization, I spent five years telling the stories of people with developmental disabilities. Not only do I have the research and writing experience, I also have the life experience to bring this narrative together.
Q: Where can readers find your book?
A: Threshold: A Memoir has been available in a Kindle edition since October 30 at Amazon but I will be distributing to an ebook store near you within the next few days.
The ISBN is 9781467551649.
I published the paperback edition through CreateSpace just before Christmas. It is also available at Amazon and all the usual suspects, including:
Barnes and Noble
The paperback edition ISBN is 1480234389.
It was a pleasure for me to connect with Faith and get more insight on her new book! Be sure to get your copy today!
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