Thursday, June 30, 2016

Booking with the Bicentennial

This year Indiana is celebrating its Bicentennial, and KHCPL is celebrating all things Indiana during the Summer Reading program. We invite you to book through time with us and explore Indiana's rich literary history. Hoosiers have always been writers, earning a reputation as "a scribbling and forthputting people" as early as 1827.

Indiana experienced a Golden Age of Literature from 1880 to 1920. During this time some of the most acclaimed authors in the United States were native Hoosiers who left their mark on American literature. The two Golden Age authors best remembered today are Gene Stratton Porter and James Whitcomb Riley.

An early environmentalist, the natural world features heavily in Gene Stratton Porter’s work. She used her income and influence for some of the earliest conservation efforts to preserve Indiana wetlands. Her most famous book is A Girl of the Limberlost, which is set in the Limberlost Swamp near her home in Geneva.

James Whitcomb Riley earned the title “The Children’s Poet” as well as “The Hoosier Poet.” He began his career by using local dialect and everyday working class speech in his poetry. He later switched to writing poems specifically for children. Following his death, the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis was founded in his honor. It was the first hospital in Indiana that exclusively served children.

Indiana’s next literary boom occurred during World War II with Ernie Pyle and Kurt Vonnegut as the most notable Hoosier writers of the Greatest Generation.

War correspondent Ernie Pyle, an Indiana native and Indiana University alumni, sent dispatches from first the home front and then the European and Pacific theaters. Pyle wrote war reports from the perspective the ordinary soldiers rather than the commanding officers. His gritty accounts of "dogface" infantrymen earned him a Pulitzer Prize for journalism just prior to his death at the Battle of Okinawa.

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut is known for his trademark blend of satire, science fiction, and social issues. After being captured by Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, Kurt Vonnegut survived the Allied firebombing of Dresden where he was being held as a prisoner of war. This experience formed the basis of his novel Slaughterhouse-Five. His hometown of Indianapolis often appeared in his fiction as a symbol of traditional American values.

Two of the hottest authors of paranormal romance, Laurell K. Hamilton and Karen Marie Moning, both lived and attended college in Indiana. They specialize in ultra-steamy urban fantasy.

Laurell K. Hamilton has two series: the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series and the Merry Gentry series. Anita Blake raises zombies and slays vampires in fictionalized St. Louis while Meredith Gentry is a faeire princess and private detective under constant threat of assassination.

Karen Marie Moning also has two series: the Fever series and the Highlander series. The Fever series is set in Ireland, chronicling MacKayla Lane’s unexpected journey into the dangerous and intriguing world of the Fae. The Highlander series is set in mediaeval Scotland, following a series of supernaturally inclined clansman as they battle for power and love.

The two most famous Hoosier authors are actually cartoonists responsible for creating two of the most memorable children’s characters: Clifford the Big Red Dog and Garfield the lasagna loving, overweight orange cat.

Norman Bridwell was born and raised right here in Kokomo. During one of his many unsuccessful attempts to get a job as a children’s illustrator, an editor at the publishing house made the offhand suggestion that he should turn one of his drawings into a story, and Clifford the Big Red Dog was born.

Jim Davis grew up on a farm outside Fairmount with 25 cats. His first successful comic strip was Gnorm Gnat, which ran in a small Indiana newspaper but was rejected for national syndication because as, the editors expressed, “nobody can relate to bugs.” When casting about for a new idea, Davis recalled his childhood experience and created Garfield.

Indiana is also a power player when it comes to teen fiction.

Young adult author John Green is Indiana’s current literary superstar. His novel The Fault in Our Stars became an international bestseller, and the film adaption met with critical success. The story is set in Indianapolis and features the Funky Bones interactive statue commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

This is only a taste of what Hoosier writers have to offer. If you would like to read local this summer, ask a librarian for more suggestions.