Poets & Writers

Stories From Here

EACH region of the United States has its own long-running stereotypes and myths. As someone who speaks English with what has been termed a “fairly noticeable” Minnesotan accent, I still need to bite my tongue when someone inevitably asks me about Fargo (which is actually in North Dakota) and about the folksy hokeyness of settings like Lake Wobegon (which is fictional). I grew up hearing of places like these, where the denizens were generally of Scandinavian heritage, where most attend one of the many tiny Lutheran churches that stand at the corner of long-tread roads haphazardly patched over each summer, and where everyone knows everyone else. I would even repeat these trite in-jokes growing up, as if they somehow reflected something about my own life. These happened to be the stories in circulation at the time, and with enough repetition they eventually began to feel true.

That’s not to say these types of spaces and people don’t exist. My partner is Swedish American, from a city that fits a lot of the cozy Scandi-Midwestern stereotypes. The first time I visited his hometown I understood why people write about these places the way they do. The weight of history, of families who have been there for generations, feels grounding to someone like me, whose family ties

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