Book review: Two Homelands – A Historian Considers His Life and Work by Odd S. Lovoll

One of the most monumental historians of the Norwegian American Migration history considers his life and work in his new book with the suiting tittle, ‘Two Homelands’. Professor Odd Sverre Lovoll was born and raised at the west coast of Norway, but after a while his family moved to the US. The book is presenting his own experience as a citizen of both Norway and America, but he is also trying to view his own experience in light of his exceptional knowledge of the Norwegian American Migration History.

The author is letting the reader into a very personal space filled with drama. Lovoll share his ups and downs in his personal life, such as his loss of family members and his bleeding heart as his son experience bullying when Lovoll and his family moved to Norway for a period. Odd S. Lovoll is using his own personal history to demonstrate the different considerations that a migrants may face, how they form transnational bonds and much more.

Lovoll is also giving his readers insight into an academic’s history. His own academic career started relatively late. He finished his graduate studies at thirty-five before finishing his doctor-thesis at an age of thirty-nine. His academic contribution has been of great importance. He has also been an important advocate for broadening the The Nowegian American History of migration by involving different scholars in the research field, using his role as editor of the Norwegian American Historical Association’s journal, Norwegian American Studies, to publish research from scholars and students of other migrant- and ethnic groups.

Lovoll is also considering a selection of his own academic contributions. This is perhaps the only part of the book where the reader might be disappointed. The last chapter of the book is simply emphasizing how influential he has been within the field of Norwegian American Migration and for the Norwegian Society’s interest in this part of history. The more critical remarks that he has faced, is left out of the story. As a historian with a great intellectual capacity, one would expect him to comment some of the critical remarks to his authorship or at least mention them.

Despite this, the memoir is a very fascinating publication that gives the reader a rare insight into an academic’s life and career. But it is also a great reminder of the everyday challenges and hurdles that humans, hidden behind the term ‘migrant’, has faced. The book is therefore an important reminder of what migration history truly is dealing with. It is not only statistics, border-crossing, terms, and such. It is studying the life of human beings.


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