In Lab Girl, the Minnesota of Hope Jahren’s childhood represented silence, emotional distance, and a sense of coldness from outside and within. While she does not question her parents’ love for her, she does not feel particularly close to them, especially her mother. As a child, Jahren was convinced that her mother was perpetually angry with her, though she never quite figured out what she had done to provoke this animosity. She notes that when she came in to her house from the freezing temperatures of a Minnesota winter, Jahren felt a different kind of cold within her family home. She does not mention her brothers by name, and notes that she hardly noticed them leave home for college, as they hardly spoke to one another in the first place. This cold family dynamic is specifically linked to her life in Minnesota, especially considering Jahren never mentions her parents visiting her once she left home. For her, Minnesota—and its Scandinavian heritage—is both a place and a feeling, to be contrasted with the warmth of her new homes in southern climates like California, Georgia, and Hawaii. In addition, Jahren links those southern spaces with a new sense of friendliness and affection, as she makes new friends and finds love away from the closed emotional atmosphere of her childhood.
Minnesota Quotes in Lab Girl
As much as I desperately wanted to be like my father, I knew that I was meant to be an extension of my indestructible mother: a do-over to make real the life that she deserved and should have had. I left high school a year early to take a scholarship at the University of Minnesota—the same school that my mother, father, and all of my brothers had attended.
I started working in a research laboratory in order to save my own life. To save myself form the fear of having to drop out and from then being bodily foreclosed upon by some boy back home. From the small-town wedding and the children who would follow, who would have grown to hate me as I vented my frustrated ambitions on them.
I was convinced that the trees were giving me a sign and that my future career was unraveling. I was panicking, picturing myself on the assembly line, trimming the jowls off of dismembered hog heads, one after the other, for six hours a day, just as the mother of my childhood friend had done for nearly twenty years.