North Country: A Pedagogical Almanac, published in 2023 by Black Lawrence Press, is a memoir-in-essays about teaching and family life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The book follows the cycle of seasons in this remote and beautiful place by the waters of Lake Superior during the years in which the author finds a place there. It’s also a look at higher education on the razor’s edge at a tiny and struggling liberal arts college. Above all, the memoir is about a life lived alongside books and what they might teach us about how to love, parent, mentor, and care for others.
Praise for North Country
I surely recommend Carolyn Dekker’s fine mix of memoir and teaching theory for any reader concerned about the health of higher education in America.
—Mack Hassler, UP Book Review
It’s a portrait of a university in crisis, a prayer for the students and faculty who toil to develop their lives and minds and to support one another there, an act of metempsychosis that asks a dear but desolate place to reveal to its readers the crisis landscape of higher education.
—Rachel Feder, “Swan Song for a University,” Los Angeles Review of Books
Carolyn Dekker has crafted the most original of books, tangling up memoir with literary criticism, nature writing with social critique, regionalist poetics with profound meditations on love, life, and justice. North Country gives new life to the oldest words in the trade—you can’t put this book down—for it asks readers to linger and to savor, slow-longing for the next words, the ones that tenderly knot keen observation to brilliant insight.
—Phil Deloria, author of Playing Indian and American Studies: A User’s Guide
North Country is layered with celluloid universes where figures from Lord Byron to Naomi Alderman reside, each vignette a breathtaking tour of place and time grounded in the Upper Peninsula. In this “pedagogical almanac,” Carolyn Dekker asks us to interrogate the plight of first-generation college students, see that socioeconomic status separates the cowboy from the equestrian, and feel the beauty in blue collar work. Her discomfort in “our need to be inserted as eyewitnesses,” rockets this construction worker’s daughter turned professor from Atwoodian musings to bailing young mothers out of jail—and teaches education as lifelong activism.
—Kasey Perkins, author of When the Dead Get Mail
Whether examining sexual harassment in martial arts, the history of Arabian horses in the Western world, or class disparities in higher education, North Country traverses rhetorical territory as confidently as Carolyn Dekker describes herself crossing natural landscapes by foot, on horseback, or on skis. This far-reaching essay collection treats its many subjects with care and compassion, rooting every argument in the author’s fundamental connections to home, family, and community. We should all have teachers who care about stories and people as deeply as Carolyn Dekker.
—Lindsay King-Miller, author of Ask a Queer Chick
“February: Raccoons and Salmon,” Identity Theory, 29 March 2018.
“October: Pomegranates,” Up North Literary Journal, Summer 2018.
“From Mea Culpa to Me Too,” Waccamaw 23, Fall 2019.
Nominated for the Best of the Net, 2020.
“Copper Dogs and Gold,” Performed for Red Jacket Jamboree variety radio show at the Rozsa Center at Michigan Technological University, 14 February 2020. Aired February 2021.