Jerry Wilson

Topics: American Old West, Environment, History, Literature, Native American, South Dakota

Community: Vermillion

Program Types: Pre-recorded Program Video, Speakers Bureau, Virtual Program(s)
Independent author, Scholar | (605) 670-1893

Across the Rio Grande
How should we respond to the men, women and children trudging across the Mexican desert toward the Rio Grande? Is this an “invasion” as some have said? Do they pose a threat to our way of life? Or are they simply fleeing violence or poverty, some seeking asylum, others a way to feed their children? Are they driven by forces like those that prompted our own immigrant ancestors to seek and build the life we know? My 2018 novel Eden to Orizaba addresses the urgent need in our nation to rethink our response to immigrant and refugee populations in a changing world. It’s a love story, but also a story about the human condition and the conflicts that love and commitment inevitably face, especially amidst cultural upheaval driven by economic forces beyond individual control. This presentation begins with a reading from the novel, followed by discussion of the issues it raises, and how our nation’s citizens might respond.

Making Peace with the Natural World
Sometimes it seems that we, post-modern Americans, are at war with nature. Or perhaps we’re only suffering from what I call “nature deficit disorder.” My 2018 environmental memoir, Seasons of the Coyote, presents 103 narratives of encounters ordinary and extraordinary in the natural world of which I am part on the Missouri River bluff. This presentation addresses our urgent need to open our eyes, ears and hearts to the natural world, to recognize that we are parts of an intricate and tattered fabric of life, and to accept our responsibility to preserve and restore as we are able. The presentation begins with readings from the eco-memoir, followed by discussion of how we might more fully engage with, and protect, the ecosystems of which we are part.

Great Plains History: Fictional and Real
Few things are more important to any culture than honest appraisal of its history and a commitment to learn from history and to preserve its lessons without distortion or bias. We ignore or distort history at our own peril. My presentation on the ways we address our history focuses on Across the Cimarron, my historical novel about homesteading Native land. But I draw upon all six of my books, both fiction and non-fiction. All are set in the Great Plains amidst personal experiences and scraps of human and natural history, as I experienced or perceived them. I encourage others to explore, interpret and preserve their own histories, both personal and cultural.

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