Monday, June 08, 2015

Between the Lines: Growing up 4-H in the Sixties

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Anne-Marie Oomen

For a writer, few topics are more revealing, and make them more vulnerable, than writing a memoir. Love, Sex and 4H (Wayne State University Press, 2015) is the third in a trilogy of memoirs by Anne-Marie Oomen. She now lives in Traverse City but writes about her hometown of Hart, Michigan. 

Set in the 1960s, Oomen’s memoir tells of growing up on a farm and working on sewing projects for the 4-H Club, embodying the principles of loyalty, service, and better living. She writes about the teenage angst of a girl growing up on a farm, sizing herself up against the “townie” kids but finding confidence in modeling the outfits she sewed in 4-H.

“I felt I had a lot more to say about growing up in the Sixties,” Oomen says. “It’s an important time, so I was thinking a lot about that, and I realized I had been in 4-H that entire time, from 1959 to 1969, so that became the controlling metaphor, the device for writing about the lessons, the changes in my life.”
Anne-Marie Oomen in her high school prom dress
Anne-Marie Oomen in her high school prom dress
Oomen writes about her first sewing project, a dishtowel she still owns and brings to readings, and learning how complex a deceptively simple project can be when you must learn to sew an invisible hem with exacting stitches. From that she graduated to aprons, dresses, prom gowns, and finally mini-skirts and bell-bottoms. Those exacting stitches became her expression of rebellion. Sleeves might get torn from gowns and a neckline lowered as Oomen chooses her first boyfriends and learns how to kiss—and how to break hearts.
Sewing projects happened alongside changes outside her ...

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