The first chapter of The Blueberry Years came singing out of Jim Minick, EMU’s most recent storyteller at the Language and Literature Department’s Writers Read.
It was just like that moment when I read it for the first time; all those moments I said “hmmm” to myself in pleasure could be said out loud, and all those moments I wished I could giggle outwardly but could not because I was in the library came true.
All his unnamed people, climbing from their cars and trucks to pick the blueberries on his farm, formed true shapes once again and each “baby- blue” could almost be felt between my fingers and under my tongue.
How could one chapter recounting so long an expanse of time, a whole picking season, be so visibly knitted together for us sitting far away in Common Grounds? And where can I go to find myself a bucket or two of those delectable sounding berries?
When Minick read his love poem starting with the image of silverware, and more specifically, spoons, he went flawlessly from the description of the slender curve of the spoon to the curving spine of a partner, hard and metal to warm skin and flesh suddenly out of one just as curvy sentence.
I turned to the person beside me with a feeling in-between an intimate flush and an up-nod of praise.
Finally, Minick’s final selection and essay, which he described as having its three plots “braided” around each other to come to a connected point, gave me a clearer picture of the author in his every day life and even perhaps culturally.
The Appalachian native described his hunting practices, making them seem like an art in themselves in the ways he makes sure to find any deer he wounds but does not kill, to prevent cruelty in his work.
He spoke of his appreciation for the old ways, in feeding his hunting dog gristly venison and bone and “veggie smoothie,” a replica of what their wolfish ancestors would have found in their prey’s stomachs.
He then wove that narrative around his own desire to be vegan, based on a belief that heavy protein diets are a decaying way to eat, but that he does believe eating venison to be necessary.
The final strand of the essay explained this belief, and was the more informative and academic thread of the piece. Minick described how the overpopulation of deer destroy otherwise fruitful acres of land and underbrush, as well as leads to preventable car accidents and fatalities, not to mention all the billions of dollars spent by state governments to prevent those all from occurring.
Together, Minick’s essay proved that some issues that seem uncomplicated, whether out in the world or personally, have many outside barriers and complications.
Wordsmith Minick makes this process of non-fiction look like a breeze. By telling the truth from so many angles and through the eyes of all the blueberry pickers, he unmistakably painted a world which I know nothing about, and yet could almost reach out and touch, or pick, or hunt alongside.
-Lani Prunés, Contributing Writer
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