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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 28, 2005

Helget Reads From Memoir Nov. 9 On WSUI's 'Live From Prairie Lights'

Nicole Lea Helget, who teaches creative writing at Mankato State University, will read from her memoir, "Summer of Ordinary Ways "at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9 in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The free reading will be on the "Live from Prairie Lights" broadcasts on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910, hosted by Julie Englander. Listen on the Internet at

Helget's book recalls growing up on a small Minnesota farm with a bitter, angry father, abusive to both his children and his animals.

A preview in Publishers Weekly explains, "Helget's debut begins with a staggering example of her father's brutality: he mercilessly beats a cow to death for not weaning her calf. Yet Helget refuses to succumb to a "woe is me" attitude, and she layers vignettes to create a lyrical story of growing up on a Minnesota farm in the 1980s, where her mother verges on insanity, her five unruly younger sisters get underfoot and death is a familiar part of life."

And Carol Haggas' starred view in Booklist observes, "What passes for ordinary in Helget's life is conventional in name only. Lurking behind outwardly bucolic scenes of rural Minnesota farm life are more sinister shadings of anguished desires, murdered dreams and simmering rebellion.

"One of six girls born to a failed Red Sox ballplayer and his wife, a woman destined to churn out children and battle chimerical demons, Helget serves up slices of her childhood like pie laced with poison: newborn puppies her mother demands be shot, the ghost of a little girl buried alive, Helget herself sipping moonshine at age 7, flirting with the milkman at 8, pregnant and married at 19, divorced at 27.

"From churchgoing to caterpillar hunting, any youthful innocence she portrays is tempered by lessons learned hard at the hands of demanding and demented parents. After Helget lulls you with the simplicity so often mistakenly ascribed to country life, she takes your breath away with the sheer power and poetry of her emotional integrity, laying the truth of her life on the page for all to see, knowing that to keep it inside would kill her."

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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,