Joe Wilkins Explores the Lives of Boys and Men in Eastern Montana
During this week's program, Chérie Newman talks with author and poet Joe Wilkins about his memoir The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up in the Big Dry. He also reads from the book and reads two poems from his new collection, Notes From The Journey Westward.
The Mountain and the Fathers explores the life of boys and men in the unforgiving, harsh world north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana in a drought afflicted area called the Big Dry, a land that chews up old and young alike. Joe Wilkins was born into this world, raised by a young mother and elderly grandfather following the untimely death of his father. That early loss stretches out across the Big Dry, and Wilkins uses his own story and those of the young boys and men growing up around him to examine the violence, confusion, and rural poverty found in this distinctly American landscape. Ultimately, these lives put forth a new examination of myth and manhood in the American west and cast a journalistic eye on how young men seek to transcend their surroundings in the search for a better life. Rather than dwell on grief or ruin, Wilkins’ memoir posits that it is our stories that sustain us, and The Mountain and The Fathers, much like the work of Norman MacClean or Jim Harrison, heralds the arrival of an instant literary classic.
The Mountain and the Fathers was a Montana Book Award Honor Book and was a finalist for the 2013 Orion Book Award.
Joe Wilkins' essay "Out West: Growing Up Hard," published by Orion magazine.
Joe Wilkins lives with his wife, son, and daughter in western Oregon’s Yamhill Valley, where he teaches writing at Linfield College.