‘Mac Reads’ author dives into frontier life

Oregon author Molly Gloss gives a speech about her novel, “The Jump-Off Creek,” for the eighth annual “Mac Reads” celebration April 30 in Nicholson Library. Kate Straube/Photo editor

Linfield and McMinnville community members gathered in the Nicholson Library on April 30 to listen to award-winning author and fourth-generation Oregonian, Molly Gloss, speak about her novel “The Jump-Off Creek” for the eighth annual “Mac Reads” celebration.

The theme and discussion of the event were, what Gloss called, “the literature of the west and where women were left out of it.”

Gloss began the event with an excerpt from “The Jump-Off Creek,” the story of the widowed homesteader Lydia Bennet Sanderson and her survival in the backcountry of Oregon in 1895.

Called “a classic of its time” by the Los Angeles Times, it was the winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Oregon Book Award, as well as, the finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for American Fiction. Gloss was also the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award in 1996.

Gloss sought to write a novel that provided a different perspective of history, one that was different than the typical stories of male conquest and cowboys at the forefront of the western backcountry.

“That’s not the real history of the west,” Gloss said. “The real history of the west was a community and women were at the center of it.”

Gloss’s interest in the true depiction of the lives of women made for the strong woman lead in “The Jump-Off Creek,” who embodies the same endurance and grit as the male characters.

Gloss grew up in rural Oregon in the ’50s and developed an appreciation for western novels early on, reading her father’s collection of “cowboy” novels.

“I’d been a Western reader since I was 12—it was my dad’s favorite genre,” said Gloss on her website.

However, she noticed that women were consistently “reluctant pioneers.”

“I wrote ‘The Jump-Off Creek’ because it was the book I couldn’t find in the libraries,” Gloss said.

The Portland State University alumna wrote the novel in just two years, while she was both a mother and clerk.

“Still, and yet, my life as a writer began with motherhood,” Gloss said on her website.

Although writing was never an initial career path for Gloss, who went into the workforce as a teacher and later a clerk, she became a full time writer in 1980 and has since published four full-length adult fictions as well as a collection of short stories.

Gloss resides in Portland.

For more information about Gloss and her works, visit www.mollygloss.com.

“Mac Reads” is a partnership of Friends of the McMinnville Public Library, the Linfield Nicholson Library, the Linfield English Department and Third Street Books, which make it possible for the community to have authors, such as Gloss, come to the annual readings.

Chrissy Shane/
Staff writer
Chrissy  Shane  can be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com.

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