Poles in Wisconsin

Posted Sep 28, 2018

In anticipation for our author visit with Wisconsin author Anthony Bukoski on Tuesday, October 2nd at 6:30 PM, this week’s #FridayReads explore Polish immigrant stories as well as Wisconsin-themed short stories.

In America by Susan Sontag

Set in the past, but resonating with the contemporary, Susan Sontag’s In America stars Maryna Zalezowska, Poland’s most famous actress, as she emigrates to the United States with a group Poles in 1876.  Maryna and her troupe settle in a utopian commune in the west, but when their version of Arcadia fails, Maryna stays in America, learns English, and takes on the name Marina Zalenska as she continues her career as a successful actress.  Sontag’s novel, which won the National Book Award in 2000, focuses on a different type of immigrant story – rather than featuring poor, disadvantaged newcomers, In America’s protagonist is both privileged and well-educated thus encountering different challenges.  In In America, Sontag utilizes unforgettable characters to explore self-transformation, idealism, and the culture one leaves behind when emigrating.

Barnstorm: Contemporary Wisconsin Fiction edited by Raphael Kadushin

Barnstorm: Contemporary Wisconsin Fiction features sixteen short stories by sixteen select Wisconsin authors, including Anthony Bukoski, Jane Hamilton, and John Hildebrand.  While Wisconsin is often a central theme or even character in many stories, some stories don’t focus on the Midwest.  For example, J.S. Marcus’ “It’s Freezing Here in Milwaukee” focuses on a homecoming that feels more like a funeral while Lorrie Moore’s “The Jewish Hunter” features a dark and cynical love story.  Regional in theme yet global in reality, Barnstorm’s homegrown, contemporary stories cover the gamut without being pretentious.  The dairyland has always had a broad literary past with writers like Aldo Leopold, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Carl Sandburg, and this new collection attempts to continue Wisconsin’s rich culture and tradition.    

The Lullaby of Polish Girls by Dagmara Dominczyk

As a child, Anna and her family emigrate from communist Poland to the United States as political refugees.  Anna’s father was involved in the Solidarity labor movement during the 1980s, and now they call Brooklyn home.  However, Anna never feels quite at home, and when she turns twelve, she starts to spend summers in Poland with her grandmother.  In Kielce, Anna befriends Justyna and Kamila, and the three become close friends, exploring youth and burgeoning into adulthood together.  Loosely based off her own emigration experience, Dominczyk explores the bond amongst young women, how immigrants find their identities in a new country, and what it means to live in two different worlds.  In this coming of age story, The Lullaby of Polish Girls features complicated characters, self-discovery, and the push and pull of ties to one’s home country.

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