Author and Activist Taylor Brorby Speaks with Concordia Students

Taylor Brorby at his book reading. Photo courtesy of W. Scott Olsen

Author Taylor Brorby visited Fargo-Moorhead to speak with Concordia students and hold a reading of his memoir, “Boys and Oil: Growing Up Gay in a Fractured Land,” at Zandbroz Variety in Fargo. Published in 2022, the book details Brorby’s experiences growing up as a gay man in rural North Dakota and his family’s ties to the coal industry.

“We hadn’t yet really seen a book that explores growing up gay in rural America alongside discussion of environmental issues. And I just thought, well, that’s my life,” Brorby said, regarding the decision to write a memoir. “And if no one’s written it, that seems easy to me because it’s just writing my life.”

Brorby spent time visiting with Cobbers in English and women’s and gender studies classrooms. His class visits were organized in an “ask me anything” format, although the focus of these chats ranged depending on the class’s focus — whether that be gender studies or environmental studies and literature. Students were invited to ask Brorby questions ranging from writing advice to his experiences as a gay man to his recent op-ed in the New York Times about the proposed book bans in North Dakota.

“I think we share a lot more in common than what makes us different, and we live in a time when the media highlights our differences,” he said. “We need to know we’re not alone.”

Because of this, it’s important for Brorby to visit places that do not attract a lot of authors or artists. It’s also important to him to visit with young and aspiring writers.

“A lot of young writers have an inclination that they want to write or have been told they could write, and I can help energize them and remind them to keep going,” Brorby said. “I think a lot of young writers, more than anything, just need permission to keep going, because writing can be hard. It can be lonely. I can be an extra cheerleader.”

Brorby has visited Concordia three times throughout the past decade. As a graduate of St. Olaf College, he likens visiting Concordia to having a cousin he can pick on a little. However, he does admit to a certain Cobber sentiment: “I always love being here, and I’m always warmly welcomed. It feels safe.”