The Write Question

A weekly literary program from Montana Public Radio that features writers from the western United States.

The Write Question podcast

Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

by Jonah Winter

illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015

Lillian is a 100 year-old African American woman standing at the bottom of a steep hill. “It's Voting Day, she's an American, and by God, she is going to vote.” As she walks slowly up the hill to the voting station, she remembers her great-great grandparents, who were slaves and her great-grandfather, who earned the right to vote with the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. Then she recalls her Grandpa Isaac being charged a poll tax, and her Uncle Levi being forced to take bogus “tests” and being turned away from the polls when he couldn't answer the ridiculous questions.

Melissa Kwasny, Mary Austin Speaker / Milkweed Editions

The women of the interior prepare themselves for pain by igniting small piles of fir needles on their wrists. I, too, want to age in the mountains, though all my life, I have avoided the extreme. When I turn away in public from the women with white hair, I become less public presence. To stumble on time: the biographic tradition, rift in the concrete I hit with my boots. I have been traveling away from home. I must return to it. Buffalo are the animals women were taught to emulate. They take care of their young. They mate for life, not like the deer, who are flighty and promiscuous.

About the book:

David James Duncan called Slotnick "a Wendell-Berry-style 'mad farmer'" and said, "The bracing bittersweetness lacing this free-verse report from the frontlines of a post-corporate agricultural renaissance is all the sweetness we need. FarmHome. is one of the most responsible books of poetry I've ever read."


by Cornelia Funke

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015

Ruffleclaw is the third in a series of books by Cornelia Funke which includes Emma and the Blue Genie and The Pirate Pig. This story tells the tale of an earth monster who lives under the shed in Tommy's family's yard. Unlike his neighbor earth monsters, whose burrows are filled with wood-lice and trash, Ruffleclaw loves all things human, and lines his home with sweaters and other trinkets stolen from humans over the years.


Nov 23, 2015
University of Montana Press

Let's call it by its Algonquin name:
"he strips off"
                            or, if you will,
"the sage" or "respectful one." Not a twig
left on top of another, not a single flower
sticking out from the prairie.

Someone (perhaps a hunter)
once said it was ugly,
that its snout and antlers were too big,
that it was ungraceful and dumb.

When the moose hears this,
it just shrugs its shoulders
and munches quietly on the water lilies
or the tree bark.

Trinity University Press

About the book:

In Crossing the Plains with Bruno, Annick Smith weaves together a memoir of ther ravel and relationship, western history and family history, human love and animal love centering around a two week road trip across the Great Plains she and 95 pound chocolate lab, Bruno, took in the summer of 2003. It is a chain of linked meditations, often triggered by place, about how the past impinges on the present and how the present can exist seemingly sans past.

Traveling from her rural homestead in Montana to pick up her nearly 100-year-old mother from her senior residence on Chicago’s North Side and bring her to the family’s beach house on a dune overlooking Lake Michigan, Smith often gets lost in memory and rambling contemplation. Bruno’s constant companionship and ever present needs force her to return to the actual, reminding her that she, too, is an animal whose existence depends on being alert to the scents, sights, hungers, and emotions of the moment.

Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist 

by Barbara Herkert

illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015

Ensconced between end-pages depicting photographs of the actual quilts sewn by Harriet Powers that now hang in the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is the fascinating story of this Georgia slave who later supported her family with the handicraft she learned on the plantation. Surrounded by women who sewed for slave owners by day and for their families by night, Harriet learned to quilt as a child while she listened to the stories of her people.


Nov 16, 2015

As if through glass, through windows, in a café, in the afternoon or early evening, in June, in June or November, month like a fetish of gray—a month of water hanging onto itself; until it drizzles, a month of dulled light—he is seen for a moment, accidentally, between appointments, in the middle of errands, walking down steps, the cement steps, say, of an old bank—old enough for granite, for columns—pulling his keys out of his pocket, or gripping the small black remote that replaces keys (which you can't hear the sound of, behind all this glass), and approaching his car, so that for an ins

Hard As Nails
by Ken Von Eschen

Beaver Creek Road travels south out of Havre, Montana, and into the Bear Paw Mountains. This narrow, two-lane highway bisects a plain of wild sage brush; the soil too alkaline to raise wheat. The silver-gray sage is aromatic, herbal.  Too often, leaves are stained with blood sprayed from the lacerated arteries of a dying young man or woman who drove this narrow road too fast.

The stories in Antonya Nelson's collection Funny Once are clear-eyed, hard-edged, beautifully formed. In the title story, "Funny Once," a couple held together by bad behavior fall into a lie with their more responsible friends. In "The Village," a woman visits her father at a nursing home, recalling his equanimity at her teenage misdeeds and gaining a new understanding of his own past indiscretions.