Arts & Entertainment

Review: Mark Anthony Rolo's memoir in 'My Mother is Earth'

"There's a wince-worthy moment -- one of many in "My Mother Is Now Earth," Mark Anthony Rolo's beautiful, sorrow-laced memoir -- in which a cat that he and his siblings have taken in vanishes into the snowy woods behind their dilapidated farmhouse outside Big Falls, in northern Minnesota's Koochiching County, apparently to find food so she can produce milk for her kittens. The children's father, an unreliable and abusive drunk, picks up the box of kittens, saying vaguely that he has a destination for them. Their worn-down mother tells them that the cat knew what she was doing when she ran off and says sharply, "Forget about that cat!"

It's one of many heartbreaking moments that Mark and his eight siblings, children deeply callused by their hard lives, endure from 1971 to 1973, the three years before their mother's death at age 46.

Their mother, Corrine, was an Ojibwe from Odanah, on the Bad River Reservation in northern Wisconsin. She married Don Rolo, a white construction worker from Antigo, Wis. Their not entirely loveless marriage was vandalized by his alcoholism and abuse. Early in 1971, Don moved his family, quite against their will, to the isolated farmhouse near Big Falls, where for months they lived in the garage and spent almost every waking moment chopping wood."

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MEMOIR: "My Mother is Now Earth," by Mark Anthony Rolo (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 3/25

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