Title: Professor of Sociology, Social Justice,Native American Studies, & Writing
Office Location: Wheeler 413 (sabbatical Fall 2012-13 semester)
At Northland Since: 1982
I was born in Michigan and raised in Colorado and northern California. Coming of age during the tumultuous sixties, I earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Davis where I studied social movements, social theory, culture and deviance. My first books were ethnographic studies conducted and written in a style that came to be called the "California School," which featured dense description of social settings, dialog among actors in those settings, and different narrative frames and perspectives-an experimental approach that echoes in my later fiction. I initially taught courses in sociology and Native American Studies, took students on travel-study sojourns abroad, and, thanks to the support of colleagues and students, made the transition from social science to fiction in my first novel, Gift, set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Subsequently I published three more novels, Billy Maki, The Root Cellar, and Untamola Blues, whose rough-hewn characters-Finnish-American and Native American for the most part-from the heart of America's outback struggle with the weight of their varied heritages and circumstances. My writing has been the subject of a Ph.D. dissertation, a master's thesis, and has been taught in college and university classes in the United States and Finland. It has also appeared in an anthology of North American writers of Finnish heritage. In addition to continuing to teach in the sociology/social justice programs and Native American Studies at Northland College, I joined the college's Writing Program in 2010. My inaugural writing course, Writing the Novella, is offered winter through spring terms every other year, and I teach a creative non-fiction course as well. I am proud of nearly two-dozen students I've taught who have gone on to receive Ph.D.'s in sociology, many who have received M.A.'s in sociology or social work, and others who have earned MFA's. I live and write on my grand parent's homestead, a parcel of land adjacent to the Ottawa National Forest, which I share with my wife and the occasional roaming pack of wolves. I have three new novels that are being readied for publication, and I am at work on some essays on American politics, religion, and culture. Teaching at Northland continues to be a welcome challenge that has given me many rewards. My hope is that I can be as inspiring to my students and colleagues as they have been to me over the years.
Ethnographic Studies: Seeking Spiritual Meaning: The World of Vedanta Search For Identity: Youth, Religion, and Culture Ethnohistory: Isaac Polvi: The Autobiography of a Finnish Immigrant Fiction: Untamola Blues Billy Maki The Root Cellar Gift
I like to sit in the El Dorado on US-2 and talk to my friends there in Spanish. I also like my early morning stop in the Black Cat Coffee House after my long commute. Apart from that I enjoy teaching and talking to students and colleagues in my office. Watching the seasons change is a special joy in Ashland due to the city's many trees.
Creative, individualistic, open.
Lately, anything by Junot Diaz and Jose Saramago.
I have too many favorites to list.
The Ottawa National Forest.