ISU Headlines

Celebration of book on Swedish immigrants set July 16 in Pocatello

Posted July 9, 2007

On Monday, July 16, the Pocatello community will gather to celebrate the launch of the latest scholarly book “Up in the Rocky Mountains: Writing the Swedish Immigrant Experience” by Idaho State University folklorist Jennifer Eastman Attebery, PhD.

The free reception, open to the public, will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Piccolo Gallery in Old Town Pocatello. There will be a toast and a few words about the book at 6 p.m.

Attebery’s new book explores how Swedish immigrants became Westerners and Americans, as shown through their letters home. The book is a product of years of research and writing that took Attebery from archives with documents from little towns throughout the intermountain west all the way to Sweden where Attebery studied letters sent home by Swedish immigrants.

In her book, Attebery offers a new perspective on Swedish immigrants’ experiences in Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico from 1880 to 1917. Before the turn of the 20th century, many Swedish male emigrants came to the American Rockies as itinerant laborers, drawn by the region’s developing industries. Single Swedish women ventured west, too, and whole families migrated, settling into farm communities. By 1920, one-fifth of all Swedish immigrants were living in the West.

In the book, Attebery considers more than 300 letters as she analyzes their storytelling, repetitive language, traditional phrasing and metaphoric images. Recognizing the letters’ power as a folk form, Attebery sees in them the writers’ relationships back in Sweden as well as their encounters with religious and labor movements, regionalism and nationalism in their new country. By defining personal letters as a genre, Attebery provides a model for discerning immigrants’ shared culture in correspondence collections. By studying their words, she brings to life small Swedish communities throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

Attebery is professor of English at ISU where she also directs the American Studies Program. Research for this project was funded in part by the Idaho Humanities Council, ISU’s Office of Research, a Fulbright senior fellowship and the Swedish Emigrant Institute at Växjö.

Attebery’s significant professional accomplishment is only one example of the research in the humanities happening at ISU. For more information about the book, please visit For more information about ISU and its research activities, please visit:


• “Jennifer Attebery has undertaken a new and promising approach. With a combination of ethnic and regional concentration, “Up in the Rocky Mountains” serves to counterbalance the traditional, marked Anglo-American bias in the writing of Western history.” —H. Arnold Barton, author of The Old Country and the New: Essays on Swedes and America

• “The strange and often brutal life in the beautiful Rocky Mountain region during the early twentieth century truly comes alive in the letters in Up in the Rocky Mountains.” —Barbro Klein, Director of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study

“Up n the Rocky Mountains: Writing the Swedish Immigrant Experience” was published by University of Minnesota Press this year, costs $20, is 232 pages and its ISBN is 978-0-8166-4768-2.