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BookTalk at BSC wraps up March 8; author to attend discussion

Published: Mar 03 2020
BookTalk at BSC wraps up March 8; author to attend discussion - Photo
The last discussion in the "Native Prairie" BookTalk series at Bismarck State College takes place Sunday, March 8, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Library-English-Art building (LEA Hall) at 1400 Schafer Street. The final book in the series is “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree” by Ann Weisgarber, and for the first time in BookTalk history, the author will attend the discussion event. Rachael Southam, BSC assistant professor of English, leads the discussion that will incorporate a Q&A session with the author.

The genesis for the book was a photo of an unnamed African American woman sitting in front of a dugout on the American frontier. “This photo surprised me; I had never of African American settlers in the West,” the author, Weisgarber, said. “But the thing that really struck me was that she was alone. No husband, no children, not even a dog. Just this woman. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and I started to imagine her story. Eventually, I gave her a name [Rachel DuPree] and began to write.”
Enamored by Isaac DuPree, a U.S. Army veteran and the son of her Chicago boardinghouse employer, Rachel agrees to a marriage of convenience. In a bargain of at least one year, she joins Isaac in settling 160 acres of land offered by the Homestead Act in the South Dakota badlands. Fourteen years later, in 1917, Rachel looks back on her life–the dreams she had as a young woman versus the reality of being a wife and mother in one of the only African American families in an unforgiving land. Drought, money worries, suspicion, and racial tensions between whites, blacks, and Native Americans all play a part in this debut novel. 
Weisgarber worried about assuming the voice of a black woman and didn’t tell anyone about her project for a long time. When she eventually took her piece to a creative writing workshop, the instructor told her she had no business writing the story. Weisgarber ignored the comment since “publication was not my goal. I simply wanted to see if I could write a beginning, a middle, and an ending. I didn’t want to write about my life (boring), and I wanted to learn about someone else’s point of view. It was hard work, but fun.”  For the most part, Weisgarber says, “black readers have accepted Rachel DuPree, and tell me they appreciate a different story about black Americans.” 
A film adaptation of “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree” is in develo­pment. Viola Davis and Julius Tennon optioned the book and are developing a script with writer/director Claire McCarthy. Idris Elba and Naomie Harris have signed on to star in the film.
Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She was a social worker in psychiatric and nursing home facilities and also taught sociology at Wharton County Junior College in Texas. After moving to Texas, she became a writer and novelist. “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree” is Weisgarber’s debut novel and was first published in Great Britain (2008) and France. When the book was shortlisted for the British Orange Prize, an award for women writers, American publishers showed interest and the book was published in 2010. “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree” won the Steven Turner Award from the Texas Institute of Letters in 2008 and the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction in 2010. Weisgarber was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2014. She currently lives in Galveston, Texas.
Weisgarber will sign books after the discussion. Attendees are encouraged to bring their copies to be autographed. The BSC Bookstore will have a limited number of copies of Weisgarber's books, "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree," "The Promise," and "The Glovemaker," for sale at the March BookTalk event. Books are also available at local libraries and booksellers.

Discussions are open to all. For more information, call 224-5450 or visit

The annual BookTalk at BSC series is funded by the BSC Library and a grant from the BSC Foundation.