The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 12, 2004

Laskin Reads From 'The Children's Blizzard' Jan. 19 On WSUI

David Laskin will read from his new book "The Children's Blizzard," the true story of the Great Blizzard of 1888, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19, on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The reading, hosted by Julie Englander, will be a free event at the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

Ivan Doig called "The Children's Blizzard" "a haunting book about the odds stacked against the settlers of the American heartland."

A Publishers Weekly preview summarized, "In 1888, a sudden, violent blizzard swept across the American plains, killing hundreds of people, many of them children on their way home from school. As Laskin writes in this gripping chronicle of meteorological chance and human folly and error, the School Children's Blizzard, as it came to be known, was 'a clean, fine blade through the history of the prairie,' a turning point in the minds of the most steadfast settlers: By the turn of the 20th century, 60 percent of pioneer families had left the plains.

"Laskin shows how portions of Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas, heavily promoted by railroads and speculators, represented 'land, freedom, hope' for thousands of impoverished European immigrants -- particularly Germans and Scandinavians -- who instead found an unpredictable, sometimes brutal environment, a 'land they loved but didn't really understand.'

"Their stories of bitter struggle in the blizzard, which Laskin relates via survivors' accounts and a novelistic imagination, are consistently affecting. And Laskin's careful consideration of the inefficiencies of the army's inexpert weather service and his chronicle of the storm's aftermath in the papers (differences in death counts provoked a national 'unseemly brawl') add to this rewarding read."

Laskin, who lives in Seattle, is the author of "Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals" and "Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather." His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Preservation and Smithsonian.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,