Eight Miles East of Normal
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From the First Chapter
I grew up eight miles east of Normal, in the small Mid–western town of Swedesville. And although we lived outside of Normal we considered ourselves to be the epitome of normal living. Even the other small towns around us (indistinguishable from one another to anyone outside of Swedesville) could never be–in our
opinion–as normal as Swedesville and we looked down our noses at them (with a somewhat perverse mid–western combination of humility and pride) for their eccentricities.
Swedesville had been settled in the mid–1800s predominantly by Swedish and Italian immigrants. The Swedes were better organized and more stubborn, so they got the town named after them. And the town still celebrates its Swedish heritage with a weeklong festival every summer. The Italians, on the other hand, went to
work having more fun than the Swedes with the result that they quickly out–populated them.
People from other northern European heritages also settled in the village, and after a while, the town took on a fairly eclectic tone–if you happened to be a white Anglo Saxon type (the protestant part of the equation was apparently optional).