A Name for Herself: A Dutch Immigrant’s Story by K.A. Van Til. Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2020. 220 pages. $24.
This book tells the story of Dutch immigration to the USA as told by the author’s grandmother, Minnie Zwier, who came to the US as an infant in 1899. The book includes samplings of broader Dutch history, Dutch culture, the Christian Reformed faith and the Bible, and even a recipe or two. This real-life, early twentieth century Dutch immigrant version of the move West (and back East again) resonates with the pioneer family life fictionalized in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. While Van Til’s mild-mannered book provides less of an overarching, chronological story line than the Little House on the Prairie series, the fare provided is less idealized and more varied. Minnie recounts the experiences of her immediate family, and vignettes from the experiences of their larger family as well as their Christian Reformed Church friends and neighbors. Minnie shares the features and foibles of this family’s life, including some family antics, and of the faith that gets them through. She wonders about difficulties and losses, finds comfort in the Bible and the church, and weighs in on some of the political and cultural struggles that occurred over her lifetime. The book also follows the family’s move outward from living largely in a Christian Reformed Dutch enclave out into the larger American society, which occurs as the generations march forward. This book would be of special interest to those who share in Minnie’s Dutch and/or Christian Reformed heritage and to others interested in a first-person account of immigrant life, especially as experienced in relation with the westward frontier.