Nebraska Center for Writers

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About Marilyn Coffey


Great Plains Patchwork
Copyright © 1989
by Marilyn Coffey
Iowa State UP

The novelist Marilyn Coffey has put together an entertaining, insightful collection of stories, combining fact and legend, about her beloved central plains between the mid-1880's and the late 1950's. "Like a speck on the eastern horizon appears a wagon loaded with Coffeys," who in 1885 migrated west to the Great Plains from Illinois. There were 10 of them — great-grandfather James, his wife, Mary, their seven sons and a daughter. The Coffey boys were a raucous bunch who liked a good joke, usually physical, and would try anything once — great-uncle Ben even entered a "bear-wrassling" contest and won. Stories of the family are integrated with graphic firsthand descriptions by survivors of the natural disasters that periodically struck the Plains — floods, grasshopper infestations, tornadoes, man-made mischief on a grand scale. Ms Coffey offers insights on what it is to grow up in Middle America. It "gives one a different perspective on history than the typical Easterner has, an inside-out view." As a child, she "never doubted for an instant" that she "was dead center in the middle of everything ... a world narrowed by dust storms, bread lines, and Al Capone." — New York Times

Mail-Order Kid: An Orphan Train Rider's Story
Copyright © 2010
by Marilyn June Coffey
"Out West" Press

The massive orphan train exodus whisked three-year-old Teresa from the safety of her New York orphanage, where the worst thing the Foundling nuns did was wash her curly black hair, to a desolate house and cold-hearted "parents" in Kansas. There she entered a small and strange Volga German world whose inhabitants spoke a language she had never heard. In this odd world, she encountered whippings and sexual abuse. Perhaps half a million children, like Teresa, were plucked from orphanages and shipped by rail (or "relocated") to nearly every state in the Union from 1854 to 1929. Mail-Order Kid looks at the orphan train movement through the eyes of one small child who yearns to know her "real" mother, survives a tortured childhood, and ultimately, as an adult, comes to terms with her past, her faith, and herself. — from the publisher

Copyright © 1973
by Marilyn June Coffey

Marcella Colby is thirteen; she lives in Kansas, and her country is at war with Germany and Japan. But other wars go on closer to Kansas — Marcella's war with her mother and father, and her war with her own body.
For Marcella discovers her body and the pleasure it can give her, but then she discovers that what she is doing and cannot stop doing is a very great sin against God, whom she loves very much — but not so much as the things she does at night in her bed.
In Marcella, a woman has written honestly and graphically for the first time about the fears and feelings of a girl growing into young womanhood. Marcella is about the terror at the first sight of blood flowing from one’s own body and the despair of knowing that for the rest of one's life, a woman's body is not under her control. Marcella is about the pride of blossoming into womanly curves and the chill of knowing that a woman must protect herself from the urges of others and from her own strong drives. Marcella is about the thrilling knowledge that a woman can give herself the most extraordinary pleasure, side by side with the terror of knowing that what feels so right to oneself is so horribly wrong in the eyes of society.
Marilyn Coffey's intense, finely fashioned novel is the story of Marcella Colby, who comes of age in agony, whose struggle with her sexuality and her morality is a memorable and gripping reading experience. But Marcella is also the story of all women who know the exhilaration and fright that come with leaving dolls and blocks for the pleasures and anguish of adult sexuality. — from the publisher

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