Dust Bowl Diary


Dust Bowl Diary

Ann Marie Low

188 pages


December 1984


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eBook (EPUB)
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April 2014


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About the Book

“Life in what the newspapers call ‘the Dust Bowl’ is becoming a gritty nightmare,” Ann Marie Low wrote in 1934. Her diary vividly captures that “gritty nightmare” as it was lived by one rural family—and by millions of other Americans.
The books opens in 1927—“the last of the good years”—when Ann Marie is a teenager living with her parents, brother, and sister on a stock farm in southeastern North Dakota. We follow her family and friends, descendants of homesteaders, through the next ten years—a time of searing summer heat and desiccated fields, dying livestock, dust to the tops of fence posts and prices at rock bottom—a time when whole communities lost their homes and livelihoods to mortgages and, hardest of all, to government recovery programs. We also see the coming to maturity of the author in the face of economic hardship, frustrating family circumstances, and the stifling restrictions that society then placed on young women.
Ann Marie Low’s diary, supplemented with reminiscences, offers a rich, circumstantial view of rural life a half century ago: planting and threshing before the prevalence of gasoline-powered engines, washing with rain water and ironing with sadirons, hauling coal on sleds over snow-clogged roads, going to end-of-school picnics and country dances, and hoarding the egg and cream money for college. Here, too, is an iconoclastic on-the-scene account of how a federal work project, the construction of a wildlife refuge, actually operated.
Many readers will recognize parts of their own past in Ann Marie Low’s story; for others it will serve as a compelling record of the Dust Bowl experience.


"A moving and informative account of a decade (1927–37) of drought and depression in North Dakota. In 1929 Ann Marie Low wrote in her diary: 'There seems to be quite a furor in the country over a big stock market crash that wiped a lot of people out. We are ahead of them. The hailstorm in July of 1928 and bank failure that fall wiped out a lot of people locally.' That diary . . . tells the story of one family's struggle to maintain a way of life, keep their farm and educate their children."—New York Times Book Review

"A lovingly detailed, sometimes humorous and often painful account of a ravaged land. An adolescent Low, withstanding adult responsibilities, describes her parents, sister, brother and a beloved horse, Roany; scorching summers with dust billows big as snowdrifts; neighbors losing their livelihoods; malevolent nature; and government recovery programs."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A lively first-hand account of hard times and hard work—and an irrepressible spirit."—Library Journal