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University of Iowa News Release

March 9, 2005

UI Alumna Abildskov Reads From Debut Memoir March 22 On WSUI

University of Iowa alumna Marilyn Abildskov will read from her debut memoir, "The Men in My Country," at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 22 on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series hosted by Julie Englander on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910. Listen on the Internet at

The reading will be a free event in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

"The Men in My Country," published by the UI Press as part of its Sightline Series, recounts Abildskov's experiences as a young American woman in Japan.

Rebecca Maksel wrote for Booklist, "Abildskov's debut memoir follows the travails of a thirtysomething ex-pat in a medium-size city in the Japanese mountains. At 31, Abildskov has no career plans, and is still smarting from a failed stateside relationship. To complicate things in her new environs, she becomes involved with three very different men.

"Amir is a handsome laborer who works in a noodle shop and sends money home to Iran. Despite his sweetness, he's too young, and he has the distressing habit of wearing bright, primary colors -- something that, in Japan, only children do. 'The professor,' a married historian, is too old and easy to dismiss with his polyester suits and shoes bearing little chains. But Nozaki, a businessman, is just right, until he begins to withdraw from Abildskov's interest.

"What follows is an astonishing and brutally honest portrait of Abildskov's pursuit of Nozaki. After their brief affair ends, and her passions cool, the author returns to graduate school in the U.S., solitary but ready for the future."

Abildskov comments, "While I was writing my book, a travel memoir called 'The Men in My Country,' I used to listen to that Bob Dylan song, 'Boots of Spanish Leather,' the version Nanci Griffith sings. And I used to think there was something in that song I was trying to capture on the page, some quality I could hear but never name. That song, it's so beautiful.

"A travel story, really, one where he leaves, he sails away, and she stays and he asks if there's anything he can bring her when he returns home and she says no, nothing, just him. And then, when it's clear he's not going to be coming back anytime soon, that this sailing away, it's a pattern for him, she says, OK, maybe there is just this one small thing: Spanish boots of Spanish leather.

"And then the song ends. It's very simple, laconic, really, and heartbreaking. The tune doesn't change, just the lyrics. And there's such resignation there at the end, such fullness in the way that she makes that final request. I wanted my own travel book to sound the same way, to quietly work its way over the reader toward an inevitable conclusion, an obvious end: a parting of the ways, the way all lonesome stories end."

Abildskov -- who has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the UI non-fiction program -- has published short stories, poems and essays in publications including the Black Warrior Review, the Sonora Review, the Bellingham Review, the New Orleans Review, the Southern Review and the Georgetown Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she won the 1998 Rona Jaffe Writers Award, which goes to eight women of national promise. She has had residencies at Ragdale and Yaddo art colonies, and recognition from the 2000 Writers at Work competition fellowship. She teaches in the Master of Fine Arts program at Saint Mary's College of California.

The non-fiction program is part of the UI English Department, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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