Norma Thorstad Knapp’s experiences growing up in western North Dakota are described in her memoir “Scoria Roads: Twenty Houses in Twenty-One Years.” From Alexandria, MN, she arrives at the High Plains Cultural Center in Killdeer on Tuesday, June 28, and will sign books at 6:30 pm, speak at 7 pm, and then sign books again afterwards. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.
Knapp’s four grandparents, Gonvald & Louise Nodland and Nels & Amanda Thorstad, were long-time Dunn County residents and helped build Vang Lutheran Church, along with Knapp’s Great-grandparents Reinert & Andrine Nodland. Knapp wrote about the beginnings of this 100-year-old church that recently burned to the ground. She will speak about those beginnings plus her journey writing “Scoria Roads.”
This collection of 36 stories takes the reader on a journey of her life from 1942 to 1963, including many years living in various houses, including a granary, in Dunn and Stark Counties.
Knapp said the inspiration for this book came from the children and grandchildren of her sister Evie who died in 1994. Knapp soon realized she also wanted to tell a bit about the recent oil boom and how it has changed western North Dakota. So the book is multilayered and also includes a poem, one story of fiction, and the journeys of Knapp’s Norwegian ancestors and their immigration from Norway to Dunn County.
Each story is linked to the homes Knapp’s family rented; each house is depicted with a drawing. All those moves taught Knapp to be flexible and resilient. She also claims she’d be a different person without her caring teachers and maternal grandparents.
Most of her early life, Knapp lived on or near scoria roads. So the book’s title is also a metaphor for her life. “Scoria can tear up a pickup’s tires until the road is smoothed down,” Knapp said. “I was a scrappy, feisty young girl but eventually became fine-tuned like the scoria, smoothed-down roads.”
On Knapp’s website (www.normaknapp.com) her niece, Dawn Snyder of Charleston, WV, says Knapp’s “ability to communicate such a beautiful memoir is extraordinary.” A writing colleague, Candace Simar of Pequot Lakes, MN, describes the book as “Heartbreakingly beautiful.”
A 1959 Dickinson High School graduate, Knapp’s background includes nursing, education, and bereavement facilitation. She has published numerous stories, essays, and poems. Her first book, “Missing My Best Friend,” deals with loss and grief with children. It was published in 2011, and the first editions are now collectibles.
Currently, Knapp spends her time reading, writing, traveling, spending time with her grandchildren, and doing bereavement work as a volunteer for Minnesota’s Douglas County Hospice Program. For more information, call 701.260.2270, or send an email to knappspringjoy@ gmail.com.