Author Natalie Joynton to speak tonight on ‘Welcome to Alpena’ chapter in her memoir

Courtesy Photo Author Natalie Joynton named her memoir “Welcome to Replica Dodge” after the property she lives on, with a western town in her front yard. Above is a glimpse of the old buildings that welcome visitors to her Michigan homestead.

This author’s yard has a town in it. Literally. And she is at least as unique as her life-sized lawn ornaments.

Natalie Ruth Joynton will be at Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library at 6 p.m. tonight to read from her memoir, “Welcome to Replica Dodge.”

She will be reading from the chapter called “Welcome to Alpena” for about 30 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session.

“It’s about a spiritual journey,” Joynton said of her memoir. “I was raised Southern Baptist, then I made a purposeful conversion to Reform Judaism in my early 20s.”

Her dad, Dr. Olin Joynton, was president of Alpena Community College in the early 2000s. She took her summer breaks in Alpena, a place she visited for 12 years. A place permanently parked in her heart.

In 2013, she married Alpena native Joe Grochowski, whose parents Rich and Patty Grochowski, live in Alpena.

“This memoir is also a love story,” Joynton said.

Joynton is originally from Houston, Texas — population 2.2 million. Now she lives on four acres in the rural Michigan township of Custer, near Ludington. With an old western town in her yard, no less.

“Our place is called ‘Replica Dodge’,” she said about the homestead she lives on with Joe and their children. “The previous owner built a replica of Dodge City, Kansas, in our front yard, which begs the question, ‘Who’s crazier? The person who built it or the people who bought it?'”

When she first set foot on their newly purchased property, she said to herself, “Welcome to our property. Can you survive here as a city-girl Jewish woman?”

Her memoir delves into the evolution of change and accepting one’s true self.

“At its peak, it had nine buildings,” Joynton said of her yard-town. “It’s beginning to disintegrate. … I feel this odd kinship with it,” she added, noting that she is familiar with “feeling out of place.”

Here is what Nina McConigley, author of “Cowboys and East Indians,” winner of the PEN Open Book Award, says about Joynton’s memoir: “In her honest, openhearted prose, Joynton examines her conversion and life as a Jew in the Midwest, and with her powers of observation and compassion, she in turn, gives us a new pioneer narrative. A smart and insightful debut.”

The book is illustrated by her cousin, Emily Joynton, and published by Wayne State University Press. Copies will be for sale at tonight’s reading. For more information, call the library at 989-356-6188, at 211 N. 1st Ave. in Alpena.