Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nordic Heritage Inspires Author

In the July issue of Viking, we featured 15 favorite summer reads by three Nordic books experts. One of the books featured was Eric Dregni’s “Vikings in the Attic: In Search of Nordic America.” Dregni, a fourth generation Scandinavian-American, has authored and co-authored 16 books, many of which explore the history and culture surrounding his Swedish, Danish and Norwegian heritage. Viking writer Carly Schramm talked with Dregni recently about his latest book and how his Scandinavian heritage influenced his writing and shaped him as a person.

Viking: What inspired you to write “Vikings in the Attic”?

Dregni: After living in Trondheim for a year, I came back to the United States and saw so many subtle things that are directly related to the Scandinavian immigrants. I had taken the Midwestern culture for granted and just assumed that everyone lived this way, until I lived in Italy and Norway.

V: How would you summarize the book?

E.D.: It’s about the unknown history of things that have a Scandinavian influence in the Midwest and throughout the United States. It’s about growing up with things that I didn’t know, but that I wish that I had known.

V: What do you hope readers will gain from reading “Vikings in the Attic”?

E.D.: To understand who we are, essentially. Personally, I hope people see that the idea of being Scandinavian is not all lefse and lutefisk. There’s a lot more to it.

V: How has your Norwegian heritage shaped you as a person?

E.D.: My great-grandfather Ellef was a blacksmith, and therefore very handy. I was brought up with this idea that if you own something, you must learn how to fix it. No matter what you do for your job, working with your hands is important. Also, my dad insisted on having "Norwegian dinner" about once a month, which was always white food on a white plate. For a little kid who liked bland food, this was perfect, but as a teenager who wanted some spice, I dreaded Norwegian dinner. However, as an adult living in Norway, I found that Norwegian foods outside of the Midwest, such as rakfisk and gravlaks, gammelost, salt licorice, moose, whale and cloud berries are full of unusual flavors.

You can find Dregni’s book at your favorite Nordic bookseller, or online at For more summer reading recommendations, check out the July issue of Viking!

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