January 13, 2024
In 2024, South Dakotans will explore relationships, identity, grief, creativity, and more as they read and discuss the One Book South Dakota, Little and Often by Trent Preszler.
The memoir focuses on a single year during which Preszler, a South Dakota native living on Long Island, mourns the death of his estranged father by using inherited tools to build a wooden canoe. In the process, he comes to better understand his father – a cattle rancher, rodeo champion, and Vietnam War Bronze Star Medal recipient – and himself.
“A lot of great art comes out of a lot of great pain,” Preszler said. “The book is the story of my journey of grief and loss and understanding and reckoning with the things that were left unsaid between me and my father as I used his tools to build this boat.”
Preszler grew up on a ranch between Faith and Lemmon but has spent much of his adult life in and around New York City. The contrast between those settings, as well as his level of comfort in each one, is at the heart of the book.
“In some ways it’s a love letter to Long Island and New York, but it’s also a love letter to South Dakota,” he said. “The geography of the place and the beauty of the place influences a lot of my writing.”
Little and Often hit #1 on the Amazon Books best sellers list and was named a Best Book of 2021 by USA Today. HarperCollins describes it as “an unflinching account of bereavement and a stirring reflection on the complexities of inheritance. Between his past and his present, and between America’s heartland and its coasts, Preszler shows how one can achieve reconciliation through the healing power of creativity.”
Jennifer Widman, director of the South Dakota Center for the Book, anticipates that readers will find multiple ways to connect to Preszler’s experiences.
“This book is so rich with topics for contemplation and discussion,” she said. “In particular, Trent’s exploration of family relationships – not just with his father, but also with his sister, who struggled with chronic illness and died young – will resonate deeply with many South Dakotans.”
Preszler will appear at the South Dakota Festival of Books, Sept. 20-22 in Brookings, and will visit several communities this summer on his One Book Author Tour. He is eager to share his story more widely, especially since the book came out while many parts of the country were still under pandemic restrictions.
“I never got the book tour that a lot of authors get, so I’m excited about this,” Preszler said. “Nothing can ever substitute for talking to people in person.”
About Trent Preszler
Preszler grew up on a cattle ranch in Western South Dakota, attending a one-room schoolhouse near the Standing Rock Reservation. He received a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and was awarded a Rotary Scholarship to the United Kingdom and a diploma from the Royal Botanic Garden. After a White House internship for President Bill Clinton, he earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics and a PhD in horticulture from Cornell University.
For 20 years, Preszler was CEO of the Long Island winery Bedell Cellars. During that time, he also served as Chair of the Board for both the New York Wine & Grape Foundation and Wine America, the national association of American wineries. In 2014, he established Preszler Woodshop, creating bespoke wooden canoes that are truly works of art. This not only inspired his memoir, Little and Often, but also a Newsday documentary about his experiences, which won a 2017 New York Emmy Award for Best Lifestyle Feature.
Preszler is currently a Professor of Practice in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, where he teaches five courses in Dyson’s Grand Challenges Program. His research and teaching are focused on sustainable business practices within the agriculture and forestry sectors, plus diversity and equity in the outdoor recreation economy.
About One Book South Dakota
Since 2003, SDHC’s One Book program has encouraged people across South Dakota to read and discuss the same book throughout the year. For more information or to apply to host a discussion, please visit https://sdhumanities.org/one-book-sd/. Copies of Little and Often will soon be available via the SDHC lending library, and groups may also engage an SDHC scholar to lead their discussion if desired.
The South Dakota Humanities Council announced the 2024 selection during a special online presentation in December. Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDiTiASIe70&t=3689s Keep an eye on https://sdhumanities.org/ and social media for the announcement of 2024 Young Readers One Book!
Learn more about humanities programming in South Dakota by signing up for SDHC e-Updates!