Haunted by Waters: Further Reading

Haunted by Waters was a collaboration with the University of North Dakota’s Writing, Editing, and Publishing Program in the Department of English. In preparation for publishing this book, the class prepared a list of similar volumes with brief synapses for the reader interested in more perspectives on the flood of 1997.

Alice Fothergill, Heads Above Water: Gender, Class, and Family in the Grand Forks Flood. SUNY Press, 2004.

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As the title would suggest, Alice Fothergill’s Heads Above Water focuses on how the events of the Red River Flood of 1997 affected the community, especially the women, of Grand Forks. The book covers topics as logistical as financial issues and cleaning out basements, but focuses on the much more difficult-to-solve issues going on in everyone’s minds. Each chapter is full of personal accounts from sixty interviews Fothergill herself conducted. As with her contribution in Haunted by Waters, Fothergill is particularly interested in the role women played in the process of recovery. She highlights how gender, class, and family are related when it comes to accepting help from outside sources, and recreating a home environment after such a major disaster. Alice Fothergill’s essay in Haunted by Waters did not have room to cover all the interconnected subjects involved in recovery, but Heads Above Water goes a long way to fill in those blanks.

Kimberly Porter, Uncommon Heroes: The City of Grand Forks Flood Fight, 1997. North Dakota Museum of Art  2001.

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Dr. Kimberly Porter – assisted by a team of fellow researchers and editors, and in cooperation with the North Dakota Museum of Art – wrote this book to capture the history of the flood of immediate aftermath of the flood of 1997. Drawing off 800 hours of interviews with citizens, workers, and elected/appointed officials, Dr. Porter presents an illuminating analysis of the Red River Valley flood of 1997 that speaks to the selflessness and bravery of the local populace. This tragic piece of North Dakota history is brought to life in all its complexity within the pages of Uncommon Heroes.

Ashley Shelby, Red River Rising: The Anatomy of a Flood and the Survival of an American City. Borealis Books 2004.

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In Ashley Shelby’s Red River Rising, the author breaks down the events of Red River flood – describing in great detail even the precursors to the flood – from Blizzard Hannah onwards. Motivated by her father, Don Shelby’s photojournalism of the event, Shelby addresses scientific errors and unknowns in the flood recording of the time, flood insurance warnings, the ever-changing poli tical crises that heighten in parallel to the river’s tides, and the heartbreaking losses of both historical buildings and mementos alike. The Minneapolis/St. Paul-based author tells of personal accounts tied in bureaucracy as well as the unforeseen hope found in ‘the Angel’s’ donation in the aftermath. The themes of loss, haunting memories, and a changed identity flow through the book that shed light on what it means to carry on during and after a natural disaster from multiple angles.  Haunted by Waters as an ‘insider’ perspective twenty years later aims to bridge the gap between Shelby’s ‘outsider’ looking-in perspective from shortly after the flood to present a more encompassing picture of the flood events of 1997.

Jennifer Quam,  A Small Town’s War: East Grand Forks 1997 Flood Fight. City of East Grand Forks 1999.

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Jennifer Quam’s A Small Town’s War is a book organized chronologically around the events of the 1997 Red River Flood as they unfolded in East Grand Forks, MN, a town of roughly 9,000 – from preparation to aftermath. A Small Town’s War brings the reader into the center of what it was like to experience the flood on a small-town scale, and contains various comments and quotes from citizens, students, politicians, workers, and more as the muddy waters engulfed the town, and each statement corresponds as featured in the appropriate section as it occurred. While on the other side of the river, Grand Forks, ND, had its own experiences of the flood in the form of downtown fires and its own series of devastation and subsequent books from the NDMoA, Quam records the feelings and loss of the small Minnesota town of EGF as neighborhoods are swallowed whole by torrential tides. This book, much like Haunted by Waters twenty years later, strives to share different voices cast  adrift many previously published flood texts.

Jane Varley, Flood Stage and Rising. University of Nebraska Press 2005.

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What could be safer than Grand Forks, North Dakota — a relatively small, college-centered town of about 50,000 people? There is no apparent danger in this town that runs along the Red River. But in April 1997, that river overflowed and caused a mass evacuation. Flood Stage and Rising tells the story of that month-long disaster from the point of view of one who lived through it. Citizens watched in horror as the water broke the dikes, and were forced to flee and watch their city burn from a distance.

As she chronicles North Dakota’s shocking weather in 1997, and the arduous recovery process to follow, Jane Varley gives readers a moving picture of the reality behind the headline news that struck viewers everywhere. A gifted poet and essayist, Varley turns a piece of North Dakota history into an adventure narrative and love story about her adopted city. Her story searches for meaning and reads like an introspective memoir. Like Haunted by Waters, Flood Stage and RIsing reflects on the lake bed of the Red River Valley refilling with water like a ghost of its ancient past.