From the College of Humanities and Social Sciences
On the Bookshelf
Evelyn Funda

Evelyn Funda, associate professor of English, is the author of Weeds: a Farm Daughter's Lament.

The Last Acres Lost

Over a three month period in 2001, Evelyn Funda watched as her parents sold the last acres of the family farm then died within one month of the each other. It was a considerable loss for one season.

For the next decade, Funda, associate professor of English, took inventory of her familial roots. She tracked stories told to her as a child in western Idaho to crossroads where addresses never lined up, narratives never fully checked out, and found a past muddled with fiction. She learned her grandfather, a Czech immigrant, was a storyteller who moved to the American West at a time when it was possible to claim a plot of land, clear it of sagebrush, and see what could thrive in its place. Conversely, fantastical stories about Funda’s mother—a member of the Czech resistance movement who landed in New York City with little more than an overnight bag and hope for new start—turned out to be true.

“It was the weird feeling of turning the world upside down,” Funda said.

She wrote Weeds: A Farm Daughter’s Lament, a memoir to mourn not just the sale of one 70-acre farm in western Idaho, but the collective loss of the nation’s farmers. Since the country’s founding, American farmers have lost ground as generations like Funda’s found futures in cities and moved from the fields of their parents. Weeds is a story about reinvention and finding oneself when one is displaced.

“My family was part of a whole cultural way of thinking, that it wasn’t just about raising wheat, it was much more about thinking of who you are,” Funda said.

The cover photograph shows a 5-year-old with bobbed hair and a closed-mouth smile standing in front of a John Deere tractor. The same picture sits framed on a bookshelf in Funda’s office and her half-smile hints at a relationship with the farm that was always tenuous. Weeds is divided into chapters named for various types of them and through her research, Funda developed a fondness for the garden outsiders.

“There’s a toughness about weeds,” she said. “They survive. Even when they’re unappreciated.”

In February, Weeds was favorably reviewed by The New York Times.