Now I have divided the chapters roughly into themes, and I have sent out requests in order to find my main characters. The idea is that each chapter should focus on a certain part of the Norwegian-American culture, via the person who are involved in that particular part of the culture. Rosemaling, wood carving, you name it. In that way, I can include interesting personal stories, as well as facts about the different themes.
One thing I really wanted to include in the book, was a chapter about the Ole and Lena humour in the Midwest. I remember the first time I heard about it, and it was, well, a bit mind blowing. I talked to a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who told me that these jokes were really quite different than for instance jokes from other immigration groups, in the sense that the Norwegian-Americans poked fun of themselves and had tons of self irony compared to many others, who poked fun at others. I thougth that was really cool. And I can relate, even though the jokes I grew up with never mentioned Ole and Lena.
Anyway, I think I found my Ole and Lena. Ole’s real name is Michael, and Lena is his wife Julia. They actually perform Ole and Lena-plays, and I can’t wait to call them for a overseas phone interview.
Ole and Lena (source: sunthisweek.com)
Michael sent me his family tree, and I saw that his forefathers came from Seim in Sør-Odalen in Hedmark. I called the municipality, and talked to a nice lady who could tell me that the place Seim was a huge, old farm. She even knew the farmer there, and gave me his name and number, plus the local historian’s name and number. Soon I’ll start digging, hoping to find both pictures and stories.
Finally, I have include a Ole and Lena joke, of course:
Little Ole was sitting at the kitchen table doing his school homework. He was writing an essay about his origin when he suddenly turned to question his mother.
“Mama, where did Grandma come from?” he asked.
“The stork brought her,” answered Lena.
“And where did you come from?” asked Little Ole.
“The stork brought me,” answered Lena.
“And where did I come from?” Little Ole asked.
“Well, son, the stork brought you, too,” Lena answered.
Little Ole picked up his pencil, turned to his school tablet, and started to write his essay:
“There hasn’t been any natural births in our family for three generations!”
All the best,