Governor Kristi Noem released yesterday her autobiography, Not My First Rodeo: Lessons from the Heartland.
The book is a first – no other South Dakota governor has released an autobiography while in office.
The first South Dakota governor to write and publish a memoirs was Joe Foss, who like Noem was nationally prominent during his career. Foss’s book, A Proud American: The Autobiography of Joe Foss, was co-written with his wife and released in 1992, decades after he had left the governor’s office.
A couple of other writings of former governors have been published posthumously. This blog compiled a list of books written by, or written about, South Dakota governors at this post.
Noem’s biography is written for a national audience, and so for those in South Dakota who have known her or followed her career, some details are familiar, such as the tragic death of her father in a farm accident. The book, however, goes beyond that familiar biography; it shares many stories about her father and her life growing up on the farm, and lessons that she took from that upbringing and has applied in her public career.
The biography also includes Noem’s account of her entry into public life – her state legislative service, and her decision to run for Congress and her service in Washington. The book is not a detailed account of legislative politics or South Dakota political personalities, although a few are mentioned, but it gives Noem’s perspective on the key events of her tenure, so far, as Governor, including the Covid pandemic. As the subtitle indicates, Noem shows how her South Dakota upbringing prepared her to lead during these situations and informed her decision making.
For those who are interested in South Dakota history, Noem’s autobiography is well worth reading. I hope that its publication, along with the publication last year of W. J. Bulow’s autobiographical manuscript and other such efforts, will encourage more political figures to take the time to tell their stories and contribute to our state’s historical record.