1999 Notable Authors

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Mountain Wolf Woman
Paul Boyer
Nathan Aaseng

Mountain Wolf Woman, 1884-1960

Mountain Wolf Woman’s autobiography Mountain Wolf Woman, Sister of Crashing Thunder: The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian (1961) was one of the first autobiographies published of a Native American woman. More significantly, it has been continuously in print, becoming a standard text in women’s studies and Native American studies. The genesis of this book is collaborative: Mountain Wolf Woman dictated her life story to anthropologist and niece-by-adoption Nancy Oestrich Lurie, in 195, using both English and Winnebago; a grandniece, Frances Thundercloud Wentz, aided in translation; and Lurie edited the work and added notes for the non-Winnebago reader.

Mountain Wolf Woman was born in 1884, in East Fork River, Wisconsin, to a large Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) family. Her autobiography covers childhood activities such as berry picking, brief years of education, an unhappy arranged first marriage and lengthy second marriage, her role as a mother of eight and grandmother of over thirty, participation in traditional tribal activities and religious beliefs. She lived in various locations in Wisconsin, Nebraska and South Dakota, spending much of her life in the Black River Falls area, dying there on November 9, 1960.

This autobiography is the story of a real woman whose eventful life covered the age of horses to the age of airplanes. It is the story of a culture in transition, but is also the story of one unique, confident, outgoing woman valuing her people’s traditions and adapting to change as needed. Individuals may also want to read Crashing Thunder (1920), her brother’s autobiography, for a different perspective or to see Jocelyn Riley’s 1990 video Mountain Wolf Woman, 1884-1960, which includes still photos and Mountain Wolf Woman’s words spoken by her granddaughter, Naomi Russell.

Paul Boyer, 1935-

Paul Boyer is a distinguished historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, and earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst before coming to the Madison campus in 1980. He is now Merle Curti (WLA Notable Author, 1975) Professor of History and the director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities. His writings in American history reflect research into a variety of different cultural movements and aspects of American life.

Boyer’s Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft presented new information and new theories on the development of witchcraft in Massachusetts. He showed how the friction of social and economic rivalries might have been at the cause of the Salem witch hunt.

His book, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, examines the role of apocalypticism in American life and thought with special emphasis on why it has come to play a major role in public opinion and, eventually, public policy. Boyer won the Banta Award from the Wisconsin Library Association for this work.

Most recently, his book, Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter With Nuclear Weapons, is a cummulation of essays in which Boyer discusses the powerful and wide-ranging impact that the nuclear bomb has had on American thought and life since Hiroshima.

Professor Boyer is now editor-in-chief of the Oxford Companion to American History. He cites the supportive and cultural environment of Madison for help in his career as a writer and historian.

Selected Bibliography:

Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (with S. Nissebaum), Harvard University Press, 1974

Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920, Harvard University Press, 1978

By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age, Pantheon, 1985

When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, Harvard University Press, 1992

Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter With Nuclear Weapons, Ohio State University Press, 1998

Nathan Aaseng, 1953-

Nathan Aaseng dreamed of being an author as a child. “I always expected to write for adults. Becoming a children’s author happened by accident.” Submitting manuscripts did not seem to be working, so Mr. Aaseng began personally visiting publishers. Lerner Publications, based in Minneapolis, had a large number of pictures of Bruce Jenner, the Olympic Decathlon winner, and was looking for a a writer in order to publish a book. Mr. Aaseng had not only been a track runner at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, but had also run in some of the same meets as Bruce Jenner. Lerner commissioned Bruce Jenner: Decathlon Winner, 1979.

This was the first of more than 145 books published to date.

Nathan Aaseng was born in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and spent most of his growing up years in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. “In Manitowoc, where my wife had a teaching job, I worked as a microbiologist. I started writing while my wife was teaching third grade. Early on in my career, she was a great help in editing, helping me write non-fiction in language that children could understand.”

”Since a writer can live anywhere, we went city shopping. We chose Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as the place to raise our family.” Most of the 18 years as a full-time writer has been spent in this city

Mr. Aaseng has two favorite books. At the time they were written, the subjects had been overlooked: Navajo Code Talkers, Walker, 1992, and Athletes, Facts on File, 1995 (Subject: Native American Athletes).

”Most people can only name Jim Thorpe, but at the time he excelled, American professional sports was dominated by Native Americans in the same way that African Americans dominate today. But the athletes themselves viewed the sport business as hostile to Native Americans and discouraged their youth from entering into that arena.” Still today, Indian nicknames are the prevailing evidence that the problem still exists.

In choosing Nathan Aaseng as a Wisconsin Notable Author, the Children’s Book Award Committee cited his work in non-fiction as unfailingly accurate, written in a style interesting for children (and adults), and often dealing with subjects not well covered prior to his books on the subject.

Where an author gets his ideas is a commonly asked question. “Early in my career, I studied how one gets ideas and taught myself ways of encouraging them. For many years, I’ve never had a problem finding a subject to write about.”

A selected bibliography reflects the diversity of his subject matter and interests from sports, science and current events:

The Titanic, Lucent Press, 1999
Sports Great, Michael Jordan, Enslow Press, 1997
Treacherous Traitors, Oliver Press, 1997
Genetics: Unlocking the Secrets of Life, Oliver Press, 1996
Man Eating Plants, Enslow, 1996
Billy Graham, Zondervan, 1993
Vertebrates, Franklin Watts, 1993
The O.J. Simpson Trial: What It Shows Us About Our Legal System, Walker, 1996
The Problem Solvers, Lerner Publications, 1989
Robert E. Lee, Lerner Publications, 1989