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The Unbound Book Festival comes to downtown Columbia each spring. They aim "to bring nationally and internationally recognized authors of world-class renown to Columbia, Missouri, to talk about their books, their work, and their lives."

Erika Bolstad on Windfall: "I just really wanted for Anna's legacy to mean something."

Unbound Book Festival

The Unbound Book Festival is happening in Columbia this weekend and KBIA has been speaking with some of this year’s featured authors. 

In her new book Windfall, Erika Bolstad explores the unknown legacy of her great-grandmother Anna, her family’s forgotten oil property, and the implications of the oil industry on our culture and climate in the past century.

She recently sat down with KBIA’s Noah Grabianski.

"I've always hoped that it kind of opens people's eyes a little bit to how we act in the future, especially around climate change and some of the adaptations that we're going to have to make for the world that is to come."
Erika Bolstad

Noah Grabianski: Your decision to go really in depth with your great-grandmother's past was a huge one for you to make, that required you leaving your job and devoting a lot of time and energy to a search that you didn't know would bring up any results.

So, what kind of factors played into that, that made the decision to follow her so important?

Erika Bolstad: I was really intrigued by the story of my great grandmother, like what could happen?

I kind of got to this point where I realized that if I was the one who would make this happen, I couldn't depend on anyone else. I couldn't depend on a publication or someone, you know, tapping me on the shoulder and inviting me to do it. I had to make it happen.

Noah Grabianski: Can you explain to me some of the most important connections to you that you found?

Erika Bolstad: I think some of the most interesting stuff that I found, I actually found really early in the process of research, and that was when I was able to get Anna's medical file from the asylum.

It told me things I did not know at all, including, it had this clue that Anna's own mother had been in an asylum herself.

Noah Grabianski: Can you tell me a little bit about how the process of making this book changed your views on the ideas that some of your family had?

Erika Bolstad: Yeah, while all of this was going on, while I was doing this research, I was also trying to have a baby.

And so, there's this thread of infertility that's in the book that is very much about like, not being able to grasp something that I really wanted.

I just really wanted for Anna's legacy to mean something.

Noah Grabianski: Now, one of the most interesting parts of the book, at least to me, was when you bring up how the big oil industry was putting their money behind films that portrayed it as this whole new frontier where anything was possible, and you could really strike it rich.

So, what effects do you think that these films have had not just on the oil industry that lasts into today, but the American West?

Erika Bolstad: I think that cinema and the cowboy television of the 1950s had a huge impact on how the country sees itself.

And it has its roots in the early 1900s, when my great grandmother was homesteading this land and when her family and friends were too, and so these pioneer narratives got a boost then.

And then they got a boost again, in the post-World War Two era. It tells us so much about our current American culture and why so many people resonate with it, myself included.

Noah Grabianski: Is there anything else that you want to say?

Erika Bolstad: I really believe that many Americans could look a little bit closer at the sources of their wealth in terms of some of the advantages that they have.

And so, I really hope that people who read the book come away with it thinking a little bit about the LandBack movement.

I've always hoped that it kind of opens people's eyes a little bit to how we act in the future, especially around climate change and some of the adaptations that we're going to have to make for the world that is to come.

See more Unbound Conversations here and see more including the complete schedule of events on the Unbound Book Festival website.

Noah Grabianski is a student producer from Palatine, Illinois studying journalism and film at the University of Missouri.
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