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Arts & Culture

Melanie Benjamin brings homesteaders to life in 'The Children's Blizzard'

The Children's Blizzard.jpg
South Dakota Humanities Council
"The Children's Blizzard" was announced on Tuesday, Jan. 12 as the 2021 One Book South Dakota.

This interview is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

The South Dakota One Book (an effort of the South Dakota Humanities Council and the South Dakota Center for the Book) encourages everyone in the state to read the same book at the same time. This year's selection is the novel The Children's Blizzard by New York Times bestselling author Melanie Benjamin.

This year's selection fascinates me, because it was written pre-pandemic and yet offers rich parallels into the power of storytelling, isolation, tragedy, and moving forward through grief and loss. My In the Moment conversation with Benjamin offers her reflections on how we may have lost our drive to band together during tragedy, even though we now live in a hyper-connected modern world.

As we march into fall and winter seasons sure to be bound forever, yet again, with illness and loss, South Dakotans struggle to find consensus, compassion, and purpose in this pandemic age. Perhaps we might learn from those who came before us — people who mourned forever the deaths of so many of their own, especially their children.

"But those who experienced the storm would never forget it; they would pass the stories down from one generation to the next, and they wouldn't embellish them because they didn't need to. And embellishing was not their way regardless. Life must go on. But many lives had irrevocably changed. Some for the better. Most not."
"The Children's Blizzard" by Melanie Benjamin