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Vikings in the Attic

In Search of Nordic America

2011
Author:

Eric Dregni

Vikings in the Attic

Who are these rather odd Scandinavians in our midst?

In Vikings in the Attic, Eric Dregni tracks down and explores the significant—often bizarre—historic sites, tales, and traditions of Scandinavia’s peculiar colony in the Midwest. Dregni reveals the little-known tales that lie beneath the surface of Nordic America and proves by example why generations of Scandinavian-Americans have come to love and cherish these tales and traditions so dearly.

While reading Vikings in the Attic, I solved two family mysteries and added at least ten new jokes to my act.

Louie Anderson

Growing up with Swedish and Norwegian grandparents with a dash of Danish thrown in for balance, Eric Dregni thought Scandinavians were perfectly normal. Who doesn’t enjoy a good, healthy salad (Jell-O packed with canned fruit, colored marshmallows, and pretzels) or perhaps some cod soaked in drain cleaner as the highlights of Christmas? Only later did it dawn on him that perhaps this was just a little strange, but by then it was far too late: he was hooked and a dyed-in-the-wool Scandinavian himself.

But what does it actually mean to grow up Scandinavian-American or to live with these Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, Danes, and Icelanders among us? In Vikings in the Attic, Dregni tracks down and explores the significant—and quite often bizarre—historic sites, tales, and traditions of Scandinavia’s peculiar colony in the Midwest. It’s a legacy of the unique—collecting silver spoons, a suspicion of flashy clothing, shots of turpentine for the common cold, and a deep love of rhubarb pie—but also one of poor immigrants living in sod houses while their children attend college, the birth of the co-op movement, the Farmer–Labor party, and government agents spying on Scandinavian meetings hoping to nab a socialist or antiwar activist.

For all the tales his grandparents told him, Dregni quickly discovers there are quite a few they neglected to mention, such as Swedish egg coffee, which includes the eggshell, and Lutheran latte, which is Swedish coffee with ice cream. Vikings in the Attic goes beyond the lefse, lutefisk, and lusekofter (lice jacket) sweaters to reveal the little-known tales that lie beneath the surface of Nordic America. Ultimately, Dregni ends up proving by example why generations of Scandinavian-Americans have come to love and cherish these tales and traditions so dearly. Well, almost all of them.*

* See lutefisk.

Vikings in the Attic

Eric Dregni is assistant professor of English at Concordia University in St. Paul. He is the author of several books, including Minnesota Marvels (2001), Midwest Marvels (2006), In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream (2008), and Never Trust a Thin Cook and Other Lessons from Italy’s Culinary Capital (2009), all published by the University of Minnesota Press. During the summer, he is dean of Lago del Bosco, the Italian Concordia Language Village in northern Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis.

Vikings in the Attic

While reading Vikings in the Attic, I solved two family mysteries and added at least ten new jokes to my act.

Louie Anderson

Dregni’s survey is a serious and interesting exploration of why Scandinavians settled in the Upper Midwest.

Star Tribune

Dregni is now the ‘go to guy’ on Minnesota quaint.

Metro Lutheran

He writes with affection and pride—but not too much—about home remedies, fashions and festivals.

Star Tribune, 4/1/2011

Vikings in the Attic, for all its humor and laughter generating incongruities, is a serious book, raising important issues of national identity.

Nordic Notes

As in past books, Dregni provides relaxed, humorous, and expert guidance as he reveals new and unexpected truths about familiar terrain.

Minnesota History

Vikings in the Attic is serious and fun and full of little Scandinavian insights.

Chicago Tribune

This is a hugely enjoyable book that has plenty of history decked out in entertaining fashion.

Flyoverland

While I expected this book to be entertaining, I was surprised by how informative it was in terms of the social and political contributions of of Scandinavians, from their founding of co-ops to being major players in socialist and communist parties in America, as well as their influence on unions, the suffragist movement, and Midwest and national politics.

Marquette Monthly

Vikings in the Attic

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Immigrants Arrive . . .
“Food”
We Are the Vikings
Writers and Artists
Politics, Scandinavian Style
Points of Pride
Uniquely Scandinavian
Scandinavian Sanctuaries
Festivals
Notes
Index

Vikings in the Attic

UMP blog - About the video: Swedish egg coffee and "traitorous" gossip

It all begins with coffee. Especially egg coffee.
Whenever I’d visit my great aunts, they’d have the pot brewing and little pastries or cookies to eat as they’d chatter away. As soon as they switched to Swedish, I knew they were talking about some sordid affair that the younger generation couldn’t hear. The men would come in for a coffee break and never say much—mostly just “Yup.”

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