Judy and the twins, circa 1958
Photo provided by Judy Blunt.

Breaking Clean: South First Creek School

I climbed the narrow wooden step and entered South First Creek School as a student at age 5, proud of the new dress sewn for this day, mercifully unconcerned about the high-water bangs sheared into the front of my Dutch-boy haircut…. South First Creek squatted on the prairie within driving distance of three rural communities, a stucco-covered shotgun shack with a steep pitched roof. It looked large to me only because there was nothing around it to compare—no trees, no boulders, no other buildings in sight except the outhouses. (61-62)

Blunt, Judy. Breaking Clean. New York: Knopf, 2002.

About the Book

Breaking Clean

Judy Blunt was born into a third generation of Montana homesteaders. Breaking Clean covers the first 30 years of her life in rural communities near Malta, culminating with her critical move across the state to attend college in Missoula.

Breaking Clean won the Whiting Writers’ Award, the PEN/Jerard Fund Award, Mountains and Plains Nonfiction Book Award, Willa Cather Literary Award, and was one of the New York Times’ Notable Books.

While the settings in Breaking Clean are clearly drawn from actual locales, it is understood that the book—including its places—is ultimately the product of the author’s imagination. The intent of this literary map is to enrich the reading experience by interpreting those places, not to render them literally or definitively.

About the Author

Judy Blunt

Married to a local rancher at age 18, Blunt had three children over the next 13 years. As her story unfolds in Breaking Clean, Blunt’s desire to explore life beyond the ranch increases. Eventually, her curiosity and courage prevail. “A decade after leaving Phillips County, I find that place defines my voice as a writer as surely as it once defined my life.” (Judy Blunt, from an interview with Random House Publishers)