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Love, Sex, and 4-HLove, Sex, and 4-H

Anne-Marie Oomen

Narrated by Janet Grimshaw

Available from Audible

Book published by Wayne State University Press

As the 1960s dawned in small-town Michigan, Anne-Marie Oomen was a naive farm girl whose mother was determined to keep her out of trouble—by keeping her in 4-H. In Love, Sex, and 4-H, Oomen sets the wholesomeness of her domestic lessons in 4-H club from 1959 to 1969 against the political and sexual revolution of the time. Between sewing her first dish towel and finishing the yellow dress she wears to senior prom, Oomen brings readers along as she falls in and out of love, wins her first prize, learns to kiss, survives her first heartbreak, and makes almost all of her clothes.

Love, Sex, and 4-H begins as Oomen struggles to sew a straight seam and works hard to embody the 4-H pledge of loyalty, service, and better living. But even as she wins her first modeling competition and masters more difficult stitches and patterns, Oomen finds that she is not immune to the chaos of the outside world. After the Kennedy assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and her own short stay in a convent, Oomen encounters the biggest change of all—public school. In this new world of school dances, short skirts, and raging hormones, Oomen’s orderly life will be complicated by her first kiss, first boyfriend, first store-bought dress, and finally, first love. All the while, she must negotiate her mother’s expectations, her identity as a good 4-H girl, and her awareness of growing social and political unrest. Oomen brings an insightful and humorous eye to her evolving sexuality, religious beliefs, and sense of self. Fans of memoir will appreciate the honest portrayal of growing up between rebellion and tradition in Love, Sex, and 4-H.

Anne-Marie Oomen is author of Pulling Down the Barn and House of Fields. She is chair of the Creative Writing Department at Interlochen Art Academy.


“We are reminded of the American days of bomb shelters and duck-and-cover drills; of learning to sew and learning to kiss. Oomen illuminates the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, especially between this mother—a woman who lived, as Oomen tells us, a ‘life without lace’—and this daughter, the one who writes that in her early teens she understood that she ‘did not really want to be good anymore.’ And yet, good she is, this daughter, this writer, this Anne-Marie Oomen. And good, too—very good—is Love, Sex, and 4-H.

—Patricia Ann McNair, author of The Temple of Air

Love, Sex, and 4H is a significant contribution to literature about the Midwest, which seems sparse compared to other regions of the country. I’ve thought long and hard about why that is, and I’ve come up with a partial answer: In the past hundred years, we’ve just been too busy WORKING to sit down and write about our lives. Other rural memoirs abound, but few cover life in the upper Midwest, and those that do never focus on the social and sexual awakening of a rural girl with dreams of grandness and a life of purpose and passion.”

—Mardi Jo Link, author of Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm

“Anne-Marie’s memories call up my own and speak to our female selves; like a best friend, years later, rueful, grateful, piercingly specific. It was like this. Truly, it was.”

—Sandra Scofield, author of Occasions of Sin

“Anne-Marie Oomen loves detail, the smaller and more precise the better: the handstitching of an invisible hem, the almost inaudible nighttime sounds of her parents kissing, the jewel colors of jams processed ‘the old-fashioned way.’ This beautifully observed and wrought book is full of the details of handmade objects and physical labor—a way of life that seems more inaccessible all the time, as our culture daily becomes more virtual.”

—Amy Hoffman, author of several memoirs, including Lies about My Family

“Anne-Marie Oomen's memoir is exquisitely written. She conveys the journey of a teenager gaining a sense of self in 1960's rural Michigan with a deftness of touch and an understanding of her former self that takes her work beyond the boundaries of simply 'memoir'. Love, Sex and 4H is destined to become a classic of Midwest rural literature.”

—Peter Makin, Brilliant Books

All titles are published by:
University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks