NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Author, poet, and professor Taylor Brorby’s coming-of-age memoir is gaining national attention including from The New York Times.

While the book is a love letter to the prairie and natural world, Brorby takes a critical eye on North Dakota’s culture and man-made systems.

His book “Boys and Oil: Growing Up Gay In a Fractured Land” is making waves across the country, helping LGBTQ+ rural youth find hope for greater belonging and a better way of life.

Never before has there been a memoir like this set in the Northern Great Plains.

“I grew up in the shadow of a great dragline that was ripping away soil that I loved roaming through,” said Boys and Oil: Growing Up in a Fractured Land author Taylor Brorby.

Brorby, grew up in Center, and like many North Dakotans is the descendent of Scandanavian and Germans from Russia homesteaders.

He writes “fossil fuels flow through my veins.”

“Coal mining began with my great-grandpa. And it’s been in every generation of my family, both sides. And so it’s been as basic as the air I breathe is the fossil fuel in the Brorby family,” explained Brorby. “Center, North Dakota is basically a company town. The reason the town now exists is if you don’t farm or ranch, you’re tied to the coal industry.”

From an early age, Brorby was different from the other boys. Instead of football or ranching, Brorby was interested in things like Disney animation and collecting coins.

“And when you don’t quite fit into the status quo. Sometimes you have to find ways of existing outside of the community you grew up in. So I would often go fishing in the square Butte Creek, I take my sketchpad with me, because reading though, now a great love of mine wasn’t overly encouraged,” explained Brorby.

The fracture between the natural world and the man-made world is a central theme of the book.

“North Dakota is one of the most extractive places we have in the country. That’s not a creative story. It’s based on destruction. Not on flourishing or creativity. I think it has to be directly related to why North Dakota every year is the drunkest state in the country,” said Brorby.

Brorby believes the way society treats the land mirrors the way people treat each other.

“The prairie I grew up on models diversity in the way that it allows nature to thrive. A hundred acres of prairie can support 3,000 species of insect, just insects. That’s incredible,” explained Brorby. “How is it that our human systems are predicated on monoculture – that is one way of earning a living: coal mining, big agriculture, oil extraction, things like this. What would it be if we had more diversity in how we farm? We probably wouldn’t make a system that allows us to lose our topsoil.”

New York Times Book Reviewer Jung Yun wrote, Brorby “has written not only a truly great memoir but also a frighteningly relevant one that speaks to the many battles we still have left to fight.”

Brorby is now touring the country, promoting his writing.

“I have to be brave for those people because they need something from me that I’m not sure I give them. But at least by being out publicly in rural spaces, they can know, they’re not alone. And so part of that is my mission, I mean, part of it is to, if part of my mission is to keep queer kids alive, then I find that a very good task, and one that I’m willing to accept that challenge because they need to know that there are safe people there and people who will love them for exactly who they are,” explained Brorby.

Brorby tells us he is currently wrapping up another book and is moving his focus to write novels.

He is serving as the Annie Tanner Clark Fellow in Environmental Humanities and Environmental Justice at the Tanner Humanities Center of the University of Utah.

To learn more about Taylor Brorby’s book go to W.W. Norton & Company.