For poetry lovers, April is very special – it’s National Poetry Month. It was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poets and poetry in the United States.
While National Poetry Month is usually celebrated with activities, programs, and events around the country, many of these have had to be called off or postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Poetry is always an important part of the Ohioana Book Festival. The 2020 festival, initially planned for April, is now rescheduled for August 29, at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library. A number of poets will take part both in the main event and in outreach activities leading up to it.
Ohio is, and has been, the home of many outstanding poets, and the Ohioana Library has been collecting, preserving, and celebrating their works since we were founded in 1929. Kenneth Patchen became the first poet to receive an Ohioana Book Award, when his collection Cloth of the Tempest was honored in 1944. At first given periodically, the poetry book award has been presented annually since 1989.
Among the noted poets who have been honored with Ohioana Awards are James Wright, Mary Oliver, Michael J. Rosen, David Citino, Thylias Moss, David Baker, Kathy Fagan, George Bilgere, Martha Collins, Jacqueline Woodson, and J. Patrick Lewis. Rita Dove holds the record for the most Ohioana Book Awards in poetry with four.
Many Ohio poets have achieved national acclaim. Dove became the first African American to become the U.S. Poet Laureate. She has also won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Mary Oliver won both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. In 2007, the New York Times said that Oliver was “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.” Woodson won a National Book Award, and both she and J. Patrick Lewis have served as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate.
Among the notable young Ohio poets who have garnered national attention in recent years are Maggie Smith, Kazim Ali, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, Hanif Abdurraqib, Ruth Awad, Scott Woods, Rachel Wiley, and Marcus Jackson. In 2016, the Ohio General Assembly created the post of Ohio Poet Laureate. Governor Kasich appointed Amit Majmudar as the first poet to hold that post, followed two years later by Dave Lucas, who won the 2012 Ohioana Poetry Book Award. Ohio’s third Poet Laureate is to be named this year by Governor Mike DeWine.
No Ohio poet is more celebrated than Dayton’s Paul Laurence Dunbar. Although he only lived to the age of 33, Dunbar’s poems influenced generations of African American poets, including Cleveland’s Langston Hughes. Dunbar’s line “I know why the caged bird sings” became famous as the title of author Maya Angelou’s autobiography. In 1936, the Ohio General Assembly made Dunbar’s home in Dayton the first state memorial dedicated to an African American. Several early editions of Dunbar’s books are among the treasures of Ohioana’s s collection. You can learn more about Dunbar from our Winter 2018 Ohioana Quarterly: www.ohioana.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/OQ-Winter-2018-lr.pdf
While most of the public events that normally mark National Poetry Month have unfortunately been cancelled this year, the Academy of American Poets has come up with some great ideas on how we can all celebrate the magic and wonder of poetry right in our own homes during this challenging time. Be sure to check them out here: https://poets.org/national-poetry-month
So while the weather at this particular moment isn’t very spring-y, we thought we’d close this ode to National Poetry Month with Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “Spring Song”, looking forward to a happier, healthier time for all:
A blue–bell springs upon the ledge, A lark sits singing in the hedge; Sweet perfumes scent the balmy air, And life is brimming everywhere. What lark and breeze and bluebird sing, Is Spring, Spring, Spring! No more the air is sharp and cold; The planter wends across the wold, And, glad, beneath the shining sky We wander forth, my love and I. And ever in our hearts doth ring This song of Spring, Spring! For life is life and love is love, ‘Twixt maid and man or dove and dove. Life may be short, life may be long, But love will come, and to its song Shall this refrain for ever cling Of Spring, Spring, Spring!
We have some exciting things planned for the next few weeks, as we all continue to shelter at home during the COVID-19 crisis. Look out for social media posts, including pictures and video from previous book festivals, as well as some exciting new content, including our brand-new virtual book club!
We are excited to partner with our friend, Olivia Matthews, to present this fun community read of her book Alibis & Angels, the latest book in her Sister Lou mystery series.
Giving up murder for Lent won’t be easy . . .
With the Lenten season fast approaching, Sister Louise “Lou” LaSalle looks forward to a final day of indulgence before giving up her favorite sweets. But one Briar Coast resident won’t get the chance to repent. Opal Lorrie, the mayor’s director of finance, was just found in the parking lot of the Board of Ed–with a broken neck.
The sheriff’s deputies are calling the apparent slip-and-fall a freak accident. But Opal was driving her boss’s car and wearing her boss’s red wool coat. Mayor Heather Stanley has been receiving threatening letters and is clearly the real target. Offering her sanctuary could put the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Hermione of Ephesus at risk, but how can Sister Lou turn her back on a neighbor in need? Aided by her loyal sleuthing partners—her well-connected nephew Chris and reporter Shari Henson—Sister Lou must confront the mayor’s myriad detractors during this critical election year. And as the first day of April nears, it’s up to her to unmask an unrepentant killer who has everyone fooled. (via Amazon.com)
What do you need to do to participate? Well that’s simple – read Alibis & Angels, and follow Ohioana on Facebook and Twitter! We’ll be putting up news and information in the coming days, as well as plenty of reminders. Then, on Saturday April 18 at 2:00pm EST, log on to Facebook for an exciting Facebook Live video discussion with Ohioana’s librarian, Courtney, and Olivia. Olivia will also be answering YOUR questions! One lucky participant will also win a $5 Amazon e-gift card!
Need a copy of the book? There are several e-book resources:
If you have a library card, you can check out all of the Sister Lou Mysteries with no waiting list on Hoopla Digital!
You can also read it for free if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, here.
(The first two Sister Lou Mysteries can also be found at the Ohio Digital Library, though there may be a wait list.)
If you would prefer a print copy of the book, we encourage you to order online from your local independent bookstore. Many of them are still shipping books despite being closed, including The Book Loft of German Village and Prologue Bookshop.
March is Women’s History
Month. Ohio has been home to many extraordinary women, in many different
fields. One of them was Cincinnati’s Doris Day. Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in
1922, she was a talented singer who began appearing on local radio while still
in her teens. She sang with several big bands – changing her name to “Day”
along the way – and got her big break when she signed with Les Brown and His
Band of Renown. On March 29, 1945 – 75 years ago today – their recording of
“Sentimental Journey,” with Day as the vocalist, was released. It soon reached
the Number One spot on the charts, and became the favorite of service men and
women returning from World War II.
The song also helped launch
Day on a solo singing career, and she was soon a top attraction on radio and
recordings. In 1948, Day made her screen debut in Romance on the High Seas. Over the next twenty years, Day would
make 39 films, including classics such as Calamity
Jane (her favorite role), the musical biopic Love Me or Leave Me, and the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, The Man Who Knew Too Much, in which she
introduced what later became her television theme song, the Oscar® winning “Que
Day appeared opposite many of
the top leading men of the day – James Cagney, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart,
and Cary Grant. But her most celebrated screen partner was actor Rock Hudson.
They made three comedies together, the first of which, 1959’s Pillow Talk, brought her a Best Actress Oscar
® nomination. At the height of her career, Doris Day was ranked by Hollywood
exhibitors as the Number One box-office star in the world four times, a record
equaled by only one other female film star – child actress Shirley Temple.
In 1968, Day made the switch from films to television, starring in her own eponymous series for five years. After that, Day retired from entertainment to devote her life to her greatest passion – animal welfare. A lover of cats and dogs, she founded the Doris Day Animal Foundation and the Doris Day Animal League to care for and protect the rights of animals. She even made a brief return to television in the early 1980s with Doris Day and Friends, a show about animals.
Because of her sunny
disposition and wholesome personality, Doris Day was often called “The Girl
Next Door.” But her 1975 memoir, Doris
Day: Her Own Story, revealed a life that was not all sunshine: her parents
divorcing when she was young, a childhood accident that crushed her right leg
and ended her early dreams of becoming a dancer, an abusive first marriage, and
a later marriage to a man who squandered her considerable fortune and left her
deeply in debt (something she never knew until after his death).
Day received many honors over her long career. And in 1994, the Ohioana Library honored Day with its Pegasus Award in recognition of her lifetime achievement. By that time, Day no longer traveled from her home in Carmel, California. She sent a beautiful letter and signed photo, which today are among the treasures in the Ohioana Collection. The letter displays all of Day’s warmth and charm, and recounts her favorite childhood memory of Cincinnati – riding the roller coaster at Coney Island!
When Doris Day died last May at the age of 97, it was the passing of a true Hollywood legend. She was a phenomenal success in every field of show business she entered – recordings, films, radio, and television. And her philanthropy and devotion to animal welfare was as renowned as her entertainment career.
We hope you enjoyed taking this “Sentimental Journey” celebrating a remarkable woman.
You can hear Doris Day
perform that song with Les Brown at this link:
now journeyed through eight decades in our 90 Years . . . 90 Books
retrospective, in which we’re looking back at titles by 90 Ohio authors since
Ohioana’s founding in 1929.
far, we shared 70 books, representing authors from every part of the state,
books of every literary genre, and books for readers of every age. In this
final installment, we highlight 20 books, all of them produced during this
decade which is about to end. Some of these authors have long been popular,
others made their debuts in the past ten years. Several of these books have
been made, or are being made, into works for film or television.
happy so many of you have enjoyed these weekly installments. It certainly has
been fun for the staff to put the series together. In fact, you may not have
heard the end of this as yet! Keep a look out on our social media . . . and
thanks for reading!
Girl of Fire and Thorn,
Rae Carson – 2011
Carson pursued numerous careers and called many places home before moving to
Columbus, Ohio, where she published her debut novel, The Girl of Fire and
Thorns. The story follows Elisa, a princess overshadowed by her elder
sister who must rise to greatness in this fantasy trilogy. The Girl of Fire
and Thorns won the Ohioana Book Award in juvenile literature and was a
finalist for the American Library Association’s William C. Morris Debut Award,
launching Carson into a New York Times and USA Today bestselling
career. Her recent novels include titles in the popular Star Wars
franchise. Carson now lives in Arizona.
Paris Wife, Paula
McLain – 2011
in California and a long-time resident of Cleveland, Paula McLain is the author
of three New York Times best-selling
historical novels. The second of these, The
Paris Wife, a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage,
won the 2012 Ohioana Book Award in fiction, and was a 2013-14 Choose to Read
Ohio title. McLain holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan; has
been a resident of Yadoo and the MacDowell Colony; and was the recipient of fellowships
from the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was
awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize in 2011, the year The Paris Wife was published.
of the Republic,
Candice Millard – 2011
Candice Millard and she’ll tell you her love of books began in the little library
in her hometown of Lexington, Ohio. With degrees from Baker and Baylor
Universities, Millard pursued a successful career writing and editing for National Geographic magazine before
turning to biography. The result: three New
York Times best-sellers chronicling difficult chapters in the lives of
three notable men: Theodore Roosevelt, James A. Garfield, and Winston
Churchill. Millard’s book on Garfield’s assassination, Destiny of the Republic, won her a number of honors, including an
Ohioana Book Award and the coveted Edgar Award, and was adapted into a
documentary for PBS’ American Experience.
Millard lives with her family in Kansas.
Player One, Ernest
Cline – 2011
Ready Player One Ernest Cline envisions the year 2045, where people escape
their dystopian society by living in a virtual reality world called OASIS and
where Columbus, Ohio is a futuristic mega-metropolis. The main character,
teenaged Wade Watts, must use his knowledge of 1980s popular culture to decode
a series of puzzles left by the OASIS’ creator in order to try to realize a
better future. Cline grew up in Ashland, Ohio, from which he drew inspiration
for many of the significant locations in the novel. Cline published a second
novel, Armada, in 2015 and in 2018 Ready Player One was adapted
into a film directed by Steven Spielberg. Cline now lives in Austin, Texas.
Year of the Book,
Andrea Cheng – 2012
Cheng was the daughter of Hungarian immigrant parents and grew up in
Cincinnati, Ohio in an extended family with three generation living under one
roof. Cheng studied Chinese at Cornell University, earning an MS in
linguistics. While there she met and married her husband, James Cheng, like her
the child of immigrants (from China). It was after their three children were
born that she was inspired to start writing. The result: more than 25 books,
including picture books, young adult, and nonfiction. The Year of the Book,
the first in a popular series, follows Anna Wang, a young Chinese American girl
living in Cincinnati. Based on a combination of Andrea and her two real-life
daughters, the book was a 2017-18 Choose to Read Ohio. Andrea Cheng passed away
World We Found,
Thirty Umrigar – 2012
Born in Mombai, India, and a
graduate of the University of Bombay, Thrity Umrigar came to the United States
in 1983 to pursue her graduate studies. Holding an MBA from The Ohio State
University and a Ph.D. from Kent State University, Umrigar has been a
successful journalist and teacher as well as a best-selling author. Her novels
include The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and The Story Hour, which was a 2017-18 Choose to Read
Ohio title. Umrigar won the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for her novel, The
World We Found. In 2017, Umrigar wrote her first picture book for children,
When I Carried You in My Belly. Also a Cleveland Arts Prize recipient, Umrigar is
the Armington Professor of English at Case Western Reserve University.
Ward, Kazim Ali –
Queer, Muslim, American, poet and prose writer
Kazim Ali has always navigated complex intersections and interstices, just to
make a life. Born in the United Kingdom to
Muslim parents of Indian descent, he received a BA and MA from the University
of Albany-SUNY, and an MFA from New York University. Ali’s poetry collections
include Bright Felon, a 2010 Ohioana
Award finalist; Sky Ward, which won
him the 2013 Ohioana Poetry Book Award; and his newest collection, Inquisition. He is the founding editor
of Nightboat Press. Ali, who taught for many years at Oberlin College, is now
Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California in
Charlton-Trujillo – 2013
school is often a confusing, tumultuous and difficult time. This is
particularly true for Fat Angie, the titular character of e. E. Charlton
Trujillo’s 2013 YA novel, who often feels isolated, struggles with her
sexuality and identity, and is desperately trying to hold onto hope for a
sister who was captured in Iraq. Charlton-Trujillo, a native of Texas who has
lived in Ohio for much of her adult life, captures these themes with tenderness
and sensitivity. Fat Angie was a
recipient of the American Library Association’s Stonewall Award and was a
Lambda Literary Finalist and a Choose to Read Ohio book.
a Drop to Drink,
Mindy McGinnis – 2013
the Edgar Award for A Madness So Discreet, Mindy McGinnis is a novelist
who lives in Ohio. McGinnis’ debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink, tells the
story of Lynn, a teenager living in a dystopian world where water is worth more
than gold. This popular book led to a companion novel, In a Handful of Dust,
and has been optioned by Fickle Fish Films. McGinnis has gone on to publish
nine young adult novels that span multiple genres including postapocalyptic,
historical, thriller, contemporary, mystery, and fantasy. Whether they are set
in the past, the present, or a disturbing and not-too-distant future,
McGinnis’s books offer an unflinching look at humanity
and the world around us.
Boys, Brad Ricca –
Shuster and Joel Siegel were two teenagers in Cleveland when in 1938 they
created the first and most famous of all superheroes – Superman. Seventy-five
years later, another Clevelander, Brad Ricca, told their remarkable story in
his Ohioana Award-winning book, Super
Boys. Ricca, who is also the recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize, earned
his Ph.D. from Case Western, where he teaches. His second book, Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, was a finalist for
both the Ohioana Award and the Edgar Award.
the Light We Cannot See,
Anthony Doerr – 2014
Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See
follows two teenagers during World War II, one a blind girl in Nazi-occupied
France, the other a German orphan boy pressed into service by the Nazi army. An
international best-seller, the novel’s elegant prose and masterful storytelling
earned Doerr the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in
fiction, and the Ohioana Book Award, one of four he has won since 2003. Ohioana
has long been an advocate of Doerr, who is a native of Cleveland. He won the
2000 Ohioana Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant for emerging writers, the first prize
in his amazing career. The author of five books, Doerr and his family live in
Idaho, where he was the state’s Writer-in-Residence from 2007 to 2010.
Man, Dav Pilkey –
was born in Cleveland, Ohio. In elementary school, he was diagnosed with ADHD
and dyslexia, and was frequently sent to sit out in the hall for his disruptive
behavior. He filled the time doodling and creating silly stories that were
frowned upon by his teachers. Fortunately, he ignored all the scolding and
pursued his love of cartooning into adulthood, creating multiple New York Times
bestselling series for children. His beloved series include The Dumb Bunnies,
Ricky Ricotta, Dragon, and Captain Underpants, the latter of
which came to the big screen as a DreamWorks movie in 2017. Dog Man is
Pilkey’s most recent graphic novel series, following the antics of a half-dog,
half-human hero through eight adventurous books—and counting!
Jacqueline Woodson – 2014
she was born in Columbus, Jacqueline Woodson was raised in South Carolina and
New York, and always felt halfway home in each place. Brown Girl Dreaming
tells the story of her childhood in verse and shares what it was like to grow
up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of
Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. It also
reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, creating the
first sparks of the writer she was to become. Its many accolades include the
National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the NAACP Image Award, a
Newbery Honor, and the inaugural Ohioana Book Award for Middle Grade and Young
Adult Literature. Woodson is the author of more than 35 books for both children
and adults. The 2018-19 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature,
Woodson lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
Showdown, Wil Haygood – 2015
Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post article
“A Butler Well Served by This Election,” served as the basis for Lee Daniels’
acclaimed film, The Butler. A 30-year
career as a journalist at the Post and
also the Boston Globe, where he was a
Pulitzer Prize finalist, led Haygood to an equally successful career as a
biographer. In Show Down, he tells
the remarkable the story behind President Lyndon Johnson’s historic appointment
of Thurgood Marshall as the first black Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.
It won Haygood the second of his three Ohioana Awards – he also won for 1998’s The Haygoods of Columbus and 2018’s Tigerland, which was a finalist for the
Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Haygood lives in Washington DC.
Tree, Loren Long –
began his career illustrating greeting cards, theater posters, and magazines
before finding his true passion: children’s books. His award-winning books have
encompassed titles he both authored and illustrated—including his popular Otis
series about a loveable tractor—as well as stories written by American icons
like Walt Whitman and Barack Obama. Little Tree tells the story of a
young tree who holds tight to his leaves and is a heartfelt ode to the
challenges of growing up and letting go. It won the Ohioana Award in juvenile
literature and was the inaugural Floyd’s Pick, an annual award presented by the
State Library of Ohio and Ohioana. Long lives in Cincinnati where he finds
inspiration in nature just outside his studio window.
Epitaph, Mary Doria Russell – 2015
Doria Russell is a celebrated American writer who lives near Cleveland. She
drew on her interests both in the Wild West and the Homeric epics when writing Epitaph,
a follow up to Doc that
continues the story of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. The result is a sweeping
a historical fiction novel that is mystical, epic, intimate and masterfully
told. Mary is the winner of numerous awards and accolades, including the 2016
Ohioana Fiction and Readers’ Choice Awards for Epitaph, the Arthur C. Clarke Prize and the American Library
Association Best Novel in Historical Fiction for Doc.
Dothead, Amit Majmudar – 2016
2016, Amit Majmudar received the honor of being named by Governor John Kasich
as Ohio’s first Poet Laureate. The son of Indian immigrants and raised in
Cleveland, Majmudar is a doctor as well as a writer, and diagnostic nuclear
radiologist in Columbus. His poems have appeared in numerous publications as
well as in three books. Dothead,
published the year he became Poet Laureate, is described as “an exploration of
selfhood, both intense and exhilarating.” Majmudar has also published a
translation in verse of the Bhagavad Vita, and two novels, one of which, The Abundance, was a Choose to Read Ohio
title in 2013-14. Majmudar, who lives in Westerville, was succeeded in 2018 as
Ohio Poet Laureate by Ohioana Award winner Dave Lucas.
Brinkley – 2016
Called “America’s new past master” by the Chicago Tribune and CNN’s official
Presidential Historian, Douglas Brinkley is the author of nearly 40 books. His
subjects have included Walter Cronkite, Henry Ford, Hunter S. Thompson, and
Jack Kerouac. Many of his books have dealt with 20th century
American Presidents, including the Ohioana Award-winning, Rightful Heritage, about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s towering
contributions to conservation. Brinkley was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew
up in Perrysburg, Ohio, where both his parents were teachers. He received his
BA from The Ohio State University, and his MA and Ph.D. from Georgetown. Brinkley
lives with his family in Austin, Texas, where he is a Professor of History and
holds the Katherine
Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities at Rice University.
Celeste Ng – 2017
When Shaker Heights was established as a suburb of Cleveland in 1912 it was one of the first planned communities of its kind in the country. In Little Fires Everywhere, as she did in her acclaimed debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng uses Shaker Heights as the setting of the novel, exploring the interesting cultural and class phenomenon that has risen from the concept of such a community with a large and diverse cast of characters. Ng herself lived in Shaker Heights during her middle and high school years, and draws upon her intimate knowledge of the community for the story. Little Fires Everywhere is the recipient of the 2018 Ohioana Award in Fiction and is being adapted into a Hulu miniseries, set to be released in 2020. She is also a Pushcart Prize-winning author of short fiction appearing in One Story, TriQuarterly and Subtropics. A Massachusetts Book Award winner, Ng lives in Cambridge.
Go Ahead in the Rain,
Hanif Abdurraqib – 2019
Poet, essayist, and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib is a Columbus native. Columbus has always featured in his works, whether it is a mention of I-270 or an aside about parking tickets in Bexley, where he attended Capital University. His latest book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest is not only an homage to the seminal rap group, but also a meditation on growing up in the late 1990s and entering adulthood. His books, always deeply personal, are both a reflection and a critique of our admiration of artists whose works touch our lives, and the “relationships” we form with the artists and media we love. His second poetry collection, A Fortune for Your Disaster, was published in September 2019.
Our journey continues with our special year-end anniversary blog, 90 Years .
. . 90 Books, in which we’re taking a look at books by 90 Ohio authors that
have been published since Ohioana was founded in 1929.
We’re up to the 2000s. The first decade of the 21st century was a
memorable time for both Ohio and Ohioana . . . the state marked its
Bicentennial in 2003 and a year later Ohioana celebrated its 75th
anniversary. Many wonderful books by Ohio authors came out between 2000 and
2010, and in this week’s blog we shine the spotlight on twenty of them.
We hope you enjoy reading about these titles, and, as always, that you might
not only see some familiar favorites, but that there will a few that you’re
being introduced to the first time.
And thanks again for the many compliments – we’re glad to know that so many of you like the series!
Among the Missing, Dan Chaon – 2001
Dan Chaon’s story collection Among the
Missing was not only an Ohioana Book Award winner (his first of two), it
was also a finalist for the National Book Award. Hailing from a tiny Nebraska
town with a population of only 20 residents, Chaon has lived for many years in
Ohio, teaching at Oberlin College, where he was the Pauline Delaney Professor
of Creative Writing and Literature until his retirement in 2018. Chaon has also
written three novels, the most recent of which, 2017’s Ill Will, was
named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times and the Los
Trouble Don’t Last, Shelley Pearsall – 2002
Shelley Pearsall grew up in
Cleveland, Ohio, where she sent her first story to a New York publishing house
at the age of thirteen. Although the manuscript was never published, its themes
of survival and freedom ultimately became the inspiration twenty years later
for Pearsall’s first published novel, Trouble Don’t Last. It won both
the Ohioana Book Award in juvenile literature and the Scott O’Dell Award for
Historical Fiction. Pearsall has since won a second Ohioana Award, for her 2015
book, The Seventh Most Important Thing. Pearsall lives in Silver Lake,
Edith Pattou – 2003
Edith Pattou was first inspired to become a writer when she
was ten years old and fell in love with the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis.
Receiving degrees from Claremont College and UCLA, Pattou worked a variety of
jobs before she turned to writing full-time. Her 2003 picture book, Mrs.
Spitzer’s Garden was a New York Times best-seller. Two years later
came her fantasy novel for young adults, East, which won many awards,
including the Ohioana Book Award in juvenile literature. Pattou has written a
number of books since, including 2018’s West, the long-awaited sequel to
East. A native of Illinois, Pattou lives in Columbus, where her husband
is a professor at The Ohio State University.
Beyond the River, Ann Hagedorn – 2003
Dayton’s Ann Hagedorn has had two successful writing
careers: first as a journalist for publications including the Wall Street Journal. Then, since 1994,
as prize-winning author of nonfiction. Her third book, Beyond the River,
received the Ohioana Book Award. She has since won two more Ohioana Book Awards:
in 2008 for Savage Peace: Hope and Fear
in America, 1919 and in 2015 for The
Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Her Security. Hagedorn lives in
the Ohio River town of Ripley, the setting for Beyond the River.
The First Part Last, Angela Johnson – 2003
Born in Tuskegee, Alabama, Angela Johnson began writing in
the fourth grade in Windham, Ohio. She attended Kent State, and worked as a
nanny for award-winning children’s writer Cynthia Rylant, who encouraged her
writing. Johnson was soon producing her own acclaimed books. One of them, The First Part Last, deals with the
issue of teen pregnancy and won Johnson the first of her three Coretta Scott
King Awards. Johnson, whose other honors include Ohioana’s Alice Louise Wood
Memorial Award in juvenile literature and a MacArthur Fellowship, still lives
The Greatest Skating Race, Louise Borden – 2004
Cincinnati’s Louise Borden grew
up inspired by a grandmother who loved history. Borden was fascinated by the
stories of ordinary people and their relation to historical events and majored
in history at Denison University. Her love of history has come into play in
many of the books that have followed, as has her experience – through both
teaching and parenthood – with children’s thoughts, feelings, and concerns.
Among her many acclaimed books is 2004’s Ohioana Award-winning The Greatest
Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands about an
11-year-old skater who helps two children flee to Belgium, where they will be
safe from German soldiers.
Old Man’s War, John Scalzi – 2005
A New York Times
best-selling author of science fiction, John Scalzi’s many awards won include
the Hugo, the Locus, and the Audie. He is also the recipient of the 2016 Ohio Governors’
Award for the Arts. Scalzi’s works have been translated into 20+ languages. He
was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate:
Universe television series and the writer for the video game Midnight Star. He is the former
president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is serving
as Executive Producer for Old
Man’s War and The
Collapsing Empire, adaptations of
two of his most famous book series, both currently in development
for film/TV. In 2019 three of his short stories were adapted into episodes of
the Netflix series Love, Death +
Robots. A California native, Scalzi lives in Bradford, Ohio, and
writes about his life and work on his award-winning blog, Whatever.
Curtis Sittenfeld – 2005
Curtis Sittenfeld was born and raised in Cincinnati, where
she lived until attending a boarding school in Groton, Massachusetts for high
school. She attended Vassar College and Stanford University where she studied
creative writing and journalism, going on to earn an MFA from the Iowa Writers’
Workshop at the University of Iowa. Her experiences at boarding school were the
basis for her first novel, Prep, about a teenager attending the
fictional Ault School in Massachusetts. Sittenfeld has since published four
novels and a collection of short stories, released in April of 2018. Her short
stories and non-fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The
Washington Post, Esquire, The New York Times, Time, VanityFair, The Atlantic, Slate, and on “This American Life.”
Karen Harper – 2005
Toledo born but a resident of Columbus for many years, Karen
Harper taught English in high school and college before launching a full-time
career as a writer in the mid-1980s. The result: more than 70 novels to her
credit in the past 35 years, covering a variety of genre including suspense,
romance, historical fiction, and mystery. A number of Harper’s books have landed
on The New York Times and USA Today best-seller lists, including
2005’s Dark Angel, which won the Mary
Higgins Clark Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America.
The Teahouse Fire, Ellis Avery – 2006
The Ohioana Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant, named for Ohioana’s
second director, is a special competitive prize for an Ohio writer age 30 or
younger who has not yet published a book. We have been proud to see several
grant recipients go on to great success as authors. Columbus’ Ellis Avery was
one of them. Her novel The Teahouse Fire,
published just two years after she received the Marvin grant, not only won her
an Ohioana Book Award, but also the American Library Association’s Stonewall
Award for LGBTQ fiction. Avery won the award again in 2013, for her second
novel, The Last Nude, making her the
only author to win two Stonewall Awards. Sadly, Avery’s career was cut short by
cancer – she was only 45 when she died in February 2019.
Lisa Klein – 2006
Born in Peoria, Illinois, Lisa Klein spent her childhood
reading and writing. After majoring in English and Theology at Marquette
University and earning a Ph.D. in literature from Indiana University, she
started her time in Ohio as an assistant professor at The Ohio State University
where she taught Shakespeare and researched the writings and domestic culture
of Renaissance women. Her love of history is no surprise for those who have
read any of her five published novels, each a historical fiction. Ophelia, her
first novel, is an elegant retelling of Hamlet from the point of view of
Hamlet’s young wife. It has won multiple awards and accolades, and in 2018 was
adapted into a feature film.
George Bilgere – 2006
Former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins has called George Bilgere “a welcome breath of
fresh, American air in the house of contemporary poetry.” His work
has been featured in many publications as well as on Garrison Keillor’s NPR
programs A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac. A
California native, Bilgere lives in Cleveland and teaches at John Carroll
University. He is the author of seven collections of poetry, including Haywire,
published in 2006, the same year Bilgere received Ohioana’s Laura and Helen
Krout Memorial Poetry Award for his body of work.
Library Mouse, Daniel Kirk – 2007
Daniel Kirk grew up in Columbus and attended The Ohio State
University before beginning his career as an illustrator in New York City where
his work appeared in The New York Times, the Boston Globe and Newsweek,
among others. He began writing after becoming a father and has since
published over thirty picture books and several chapter books. His Library
Mouse series is widely read and beloved; it was a Booklist Editor’s Choice
book, an Education.com Essential gift, a Parenting Magazine Best Mom-Tested
Book of the Year, a Kansas Reading Association Award Nominee, a Book Sense
pick, the winner of a NAPPA Gold Award and was featured on the 2013-2014 Choose
to Read Ohio list. Kirk now lives in New Jersey.
Coal Black Horse, Robert Olmstead – 2007
When Robert Olmstead’s Coal Black Horse – a
historical novel about a young boy sent to find his soldier-father in the Civil
War – was published, it was hailed as joining “the pantheon of great war
novels, including All Quiet on the Western Front and The Red Badge of
Courage. “ The book was a huge best-seller and winner of a number of
awards, including the Ohioana Book Award. Olmstead has since won a second
Ohioana Award, for 2012’s The Coldest Night. A native of New Hampshire
and a graduate of Syracuse University in New York, Olmstead lives in Delaware,
Ohio, where he is a Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at
Ohio Wesleyan University.
Nikki Giovanni – 2007
A writer, poet, activist, and educator, Yolande Cornelia
“Nikki” Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in Cincinnati.
She first caught the public’s attention as one of foremost figures of the late
1960s Black Arts Movement, which sprung out of the Civil Rights Movement.
Today, 50 years later, Giovanni is still one of America’s most celebrated
writers. Among her many honors, which include a 1988 Ohioana Book Award,
Giovanni holds a record seven NCAAP Image Awards, one for her 2007 collection, Acolytes.
Named by Oprah Winfrey as one of “25 Living Legends,” Giovanni makes her home
in Virginia, where she is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia
Lisa’s Story, Tom Batiuk – 2007
Comic strips are supposed to be funny. And Tom Batiuk,
creator of Funky Winkerbean, has crafted characters and stories that
have kept people laughing for over 45 years. At the same time, Tom has not
shied away from tacking sensitive subjects like addiction and teen pregnancy.
In 2007, Tom was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Lisa’s Story. According
to the judges, Tom’s work was deserving “for a sequence in his cartoon strip
that portrays a woman’s poignant battle with breast cancer.” A lifelong Ohioan,
Tom is a favorite at the Ohioana Book Festival, where every year for the past
three years his other popular strip, Crankshaft, has devoted an entire
week to the festival with the adventures of the beloved
bookstore-owner-turned-late-blooming author Lillian.
Knockemstiff, Donald Ray Pollock – 2008
There exist several stories to explain the strange name of
Knockemstiff, Ohio, a community located just southwest of the city of
Chillicothe – though none have every been officially agreed upon. Donald Ray
Pollock, who grew up in the area, took inspiration from it for his first book.
The collection of linked stories features characters who are as unique as the
name of the town in which they live, and paint a vivid, often emotional and
completely unforgettable picture of the small midwestern community. Pollock
spent thirty-two years employed as a laborer at the Mead Paper Corporation in
Chillicothe before earning his MFA from the Ohio State University. Since Knockemstiff,
Pollock has produced two best-selling novels: The Devil All the Time and
The Heavenly Table.
All the Way Home, David Giffels – 2008
As was once written about him, “Spend 20 minutes with David
Giffels and you’ll fall in love with his hometown.” That town – Akron – has
featured prominently in Giffels’ writing career, including his 2008 Ohioana
Award winning All the Way Home, subtitled “Building in a Family in
Falling-Down House.” Giffels won a second Ohioana Award in 2019 for his
poignant memoir, Furnishing Eternity. A past Cleveland Arts Prize
winner, Giffels, who has also been a journalist and wrote four scripts for
MTV’s iconic 1990s series Beavis and Butt-head, is currently working on
a new book about America’s heartland in advance of the 2020 presidential
The Demon King, Cinda Williams Chima – 2009
New York Times bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima was born in
Springfield, Ohio. Her fantasy novels for young adults are set in the magical
world of Ohio (The Heir Chronicles) as well as long ago, far away
queendoms, including The Seven Realms, of which The Demon King was
book one and a 2013-14 Choose to Read Ohio title. Prior to becoming a novelist,
Chima was a clinical dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic, a freelance contributor
to The Plain Dealer, and an assistant
professor of nutrition at the University of Akron.
Sweethearts of Rhythm, Marilyn Nelson – 2009
A poet, translator, children’s book author, and teacher,
Marilyn Nelson was born in Cleveland. Her father was one of the last of the
Tuskegee Airmen, her mother a teacher. Marilyn grew up on military bases and
began writing while in elementary school. The author of more than twenty-five
books for children and adults, she has won the Anisfield-Wolf Award and is a
three-time National Book Award finalist. Her 2009 Sweethearts of Rhythm
is a children’s poetry book that tells the story of “the greatest all-girl swing
band in the world” and was a 2011-12 Choose to Read Ohio for teens. Her memoir,
How I Discovered Poetry was named as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014.
Nelson lives in Connecticut, where she was the state’s Poet Laureate from 2001
It’s been great hearing from many readers who tell us
they’ve really been enjoying our special year-end blog, 90 Years . . . 90
Books, in which we’re taking a look at books by 90 Ohio authors that have been published
since Ohioana was founded in 1929.
So, since the magic number is 90 – our third entry will focus on the 1990s. The last decade of the 20th century saw a number of debuts by authors who are as popular today as they were when they first arrived on the scene. Some of the fifteen books we’re shining the spotlight on might be favorites of yours. Others you may be discovering for the first time.
Whatever the case may be, we hope you enjoy learning about
them all, and that our blog may continue to add to your list of books to read
over the holidays and in the coming year!
People I Know, Nancy Zafris, 1990
Our last 90 books list ended with a collection of stories and our new one begins with another. Nancy Zafris’ The People I Know, a collection of nine stories told by characters who hover at the edge of life, won not only the Ohioana Book Award, but also the prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. A native of Columbus, Zafris is the author of three other books and serves as the series editor for the O’Connor Award. She was previously fiction editor of the Kenyon Review, for whom she now serves as a teacher and associate director of the summer writer’s workshop.
Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky,
Thylias Moss, 1991
poet, author, experimental filmmaker, and playwright of African American,
Native American, and European heritage, Cleveland-born Thylias Moss began to
write when she was seven years old. Her fourth collection of poetry, Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky, won the Ohioana Poetry Book Award, the Whiting Award, and the Witter
Byner Poetry Prize. Moss’ other honors include the Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships.
A graduate of Oberlin and the University of New Hampshire, Moss lives in Ann
Arbor and has taught at the University of Michigan since 1993.
of Whores, P.J. O’Rourke, 1991
for his frequent appearances as a panelist on NPR’s popular game show Wait .
. . Don’t Tell Me, Toledo’s Patrick Jake O’Rourke has also been a
journalist and contributor to publications as diverse as Rolling Stone and
The Atlantic Monthly. But he is best-known as one of America’s foremost
political satirists, thanks to books like Parliament of Whores,
subtitled “A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government,”
which was an international best-seller and praised by Time magazine as “a
riotously funny and perceptive indictment of America’s political system.”
to Dead House (Goosebumps #1), R.L.
In 2011, Robert Lawrence Stine received a singular honor when the Guinness Book of World Records named him “the world’s most prolific author of children’s horror fiction novels” with more than 300 books to his credit. While Stine has written several series over his long career, none has been more popular than Goosebumps, and it all started with this novel in 1992. Among Stine’s many other awards is the 2000 Ohioana Career Medal. He said his writing all stems from one goal: “to give kids the creeps.” No one can deny that he has succeeded. A Bexley native, Stine now lives in New York City.
May, Cynthia Rylant, 1992
Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May, a touching book for young adults about grief, won the 1993 Newbery Medal. That same
year, Rylant, who had previously won two Ohioana Book Awards in juvenile literature,
received Ohioana’s Alice Louise Wood Memorial Award for her body of work. Born
in West Virginia, Rylant received her MA from Marshall University and her MLIS
from Kent State University. She lived in Kent and later Akron for many years,
working as a librarian and a teacher. Rylant, who has more than 100 books to
her credit, now lives in Oregon.
Two Moons, Sharon Creech, 1994
Children’s author Sharon Creech was born and raised in the Cleveland suburb of South Euclid. Growing up, she often visited her cousins in a small town in Kentucky, which would later find its way into a number of her books. Creech lived and taught abroad for 18 years, and her first books were published in England. Her first US book, Walk Two Moons, won the 1995 Newbery Medal. Seven years later, Creech’s Ruby Holler won Britain’s Carnegie Medal, making her the first American recipient, and the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie. She now lives in New Jersey.
Rid of Bradley, Jennifer Cruise, 1994
Jennifer Smith of Wapakoneta took her grandmother’s maiden last name on her way to becoming one of America’s most popular authors of romantic fiction. Her first career was as a teacher, and it was only when she was working on her MFA dissertation – about the role of women in mystery fiction – that she decided to try her hand at romance writing. Her third novel, Getting Rid of Bradley, won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award, the genre’s equivalent of the Oscar. Crusie, who lives in New Jersey, has seen more than 20 of her novels published in 20 countries.
of a Tiger, Sharon Draper, 1994
Sharon M. Draper is a professional educator as well as an accomplished children’s writer. She has been honored as the National Teacher of the Year and is a New York Times best-selling author. She’s won five Coretta Scott King Literary Awards, including for 1994’s Tears of a Tiger. Draper began writing when challenged by one of her 9th grade students to enter a story in a competition. She won the $5,000 first prize. When the story was published, she got a note of congratulations and encouragement from Roots author Alex Haley. Born in Cleveland, Draper has lived in Cincinnati for many years.
from Boneville, Jeff Smith, 1995
up in Columbus, Jeff Smith loved cartoons – the Peanuts and Pogo comic
strips, and the animated adventures of Scrooge McDuck. Smith’s own first
cartoon series, Thorn, was created for the student newspaper, The
Lantern, while he was a student at The Ohio State University. In 1991 came Bone,
a series that mixed light-hearted comedy with dark fantasy. It became a
sensation, winning Smith ten Eisner Awards over the course of its 13-year run.
1995’s Out from Boneville was the first anthology. In October 2019,
Netflix announced that a Bone animated series is in the works.
Coyote v. Acme, Ian Frazier, 1996
In 1997, the Thurber Prize for American Humor was established. The inaugural winner: Coyote v. Acme, a collection of essays by Cleveland’s Ian Frazier, the first of which imagined the opening statement of an attorney representing cartoon character Wile E. Coyote in a product liability suit against the Acme Company, supplier of unpredictable rocket sleds and faulty spring-powered shoes. Best-known as a writer and humorist for The New Yorker, Frazier became the only two-time (thus far) winner of the Thurber Prize in 2007 for Lamentations of the Father.
Devil’s Hatband, Robert Greer, 1996
Greer is truly a Renaissance man – doctor and professor of pathology, cattle rancher,
and writer. Born in Columbus, Greer holds degrees from Miami, Howard, and
Boston Universities. For the past 40 years, he has lived and worked in Denver,
Colorado, the setting for his popular contemporary western mystery series featuring
black bail bondsman CJ Floyd, which started in 1996 with The Devil’s Hatband. Besides the series, Greer has written several
standalone novels and a story collection. He is also editor-in-chief of the High Plains Literary Review, which he
founded in 1986.
Symmetry, David Citino, 1997
were as passionately involved in Ohio’s literary life as David Citino. A
Cleveland native, Citino spent the last three decades of his life teaching
English and creative writing at The Ohio State University, which in 2002 named
him as its first Poet Laureate. His many other honors included the inaugural
Ohioana Helen and Laura Krout Poetry Prize for his contributions to the field
and two Ohioana Book Awards. The second was for Broken Symmetry, in
which “a poet approaching the end of the 20th century
takes stock of a single life.” Citino died in 2005 due to complications from MS.
the Hidden (Shadow Children #1),
Margaret Peterson Haddix, 1998
Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm in Washington Court House. After receiving degrees from Miami University, she worked as a newspaper reporter in Indiana and Illinois. When she married her husband, who was also her editor, she decided that instead of being his employee, she would turn to writing fiction. The result was one of the most successful careers of any children’s author of the past 25 years. Her best-known works include the Shadow Children series, of which Among the Hidden was the first novel. Haddix won the 2009 Ohioana Book Award in juvenile literature for Uprising, a historical novel based on 1911’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
The Truth About Small Towns, David Baker, 1998
from Maine, David Baker has lived in Granville, Ohio since 1984, where he holds
Denison University’s Thomas B. Fordham Chair in Creative Writing. The Poetry
Editor for the esteemed Kenyon Review, Baker is also the author of
twelve books of poetry, including 1998’s Ohioana Award-winning The Truth
About Small Towns. His many awards include grants from the Guggenheim
Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Mellon Foundation. Baker’s
most recent book is 2019’s Swift: New and Selected Poems.
Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean, 1998
not every day you are portrayed on screen by the likes of Meryl Streep. But
Cleveland’s Susan Orlean was, when in 2002 Hollywood adapted her nonfiction
book The Orchid Thief into a film called, appropriately enough, Adaptation.
A journalist and staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992, Orlean
has also contributed to many other leading magazines. She won a 2012 Ohioana
Book Award for Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend. Her 2018 The Library
Book was named by a number of publications, including the Washington
Post, as one of the ten best of the year.
Thanks to everyone who responded so enthusiastically to our
first 90 Years, 90 Books blog!
So here we are, with the second entry in our list of 90
books by 90 Ohio authors that have been published since Ohioana was founded in 1929.
As with our first list, some of these books and their authors may be unfamiliar,
while others may be among your favorites.
This week’s blog will shine the spotlight on twenty books,
all of them published during our middle three decades, from 1959 to 1989.
We hope you enjoy the series, and that it might add to your list of books to read over the holidays and in the coming year!
The Branch Will Not Break, James Wright – 1963
James Wright rose from an unhappy childhood in Martins Ferry, Ohio, to become one of the seminal poets of his generation, a Pulitzer Prize winner who was admired by critics and fellow poets alike. The Branch Will Not Break, published in 1963, is generally considered to be his finest work. A poetry festival in Martins Ferry celebrates his legacy and in 2018, Jonathan Blunk’s authorized biography, James Wright: A Life in Poetry, was an Ohioana Award finalist.
A Thousand Days, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. – 1965
In the aftermath of his tragic assassination, President John F. Kennedy was the subject of dozens of biographies. None was more acclaimed than Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, drawn from the author’s personal experiences as a close friend and confidante of JFK. A native of Columbus, and the son of an Ohioana Award-winning historian, Schlesinger himself won two Ohioana Book Awards, and in 1992 received the library’s highest honor, the Career Medal.
Hanger Stout, Awake!,
Jack Matthews – 1967
A 2006 Ohioana Career medalist, Jack Matthews was born in Columbus and graduated from The Ohio State University. Matthews wrote novels, short stories, plays, and essays over a career lasting more than 50 years. He made his home in Athens, where he spent four decades as a professor of creative writing and drama at Ohio University. Matthews’ 1967 Ohioana Award-winning Hanger Stout, Awake! put him on the American literary map. In 2018, the coming-of-age novella was re-released for the first time as an e-book, introducing Matthews to new audiences.
The Lord of Light,
Roger Zelazny – 1967
Best known for his 10-part series, The Chronicles of Amber, poet and fantasy/science fiction writer Roger Zelazny was a native of Euclid and a graduate of Case Western and Columbia Universities. He worked for seven years for the Social Security Administration while at night churning out novels and short stories. In 1969, he quit his job to write full-time, and went on to become one of the most prolific and popular authors of sci fi/fantasy of his era. Zelazny received six Hugo Awards (out of 14 nominations) during his career, including one for his 1967 novel, The Lord of Light.
The Frontiersmen, Allan W. Eckert – 1968
A historical novelist and naturalist, Allan W. Eckert was a native New Yorker who moved to Ohio to attend college near Bellefontaine. He would remain there for many years, turning his love of Ohio’s early history into fiction for both adults and children, including his 1967 Ohioana Award-winning book, The Frontiersmen. Eckert was also an Emmy Award-winning writer for television’s Wild Kingdom, but undoubtedly his best-known work is the outdoor drama Tecumseh. Nearly 4-million people have seen the drama since it premiered at Chillicothe’s Sugar Loaf Mountain Amphitheater in 1972.
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Harlan Ellison –
Cleveland’s Harlan Ellison was as well-known for his outspoken, combative, personality as he was for his prolific writing, which encompassed more than 1,700 published works in the fantasy/sci fi genre. He was expelled from The Ohio State University in 1953 after hitting a professor who had denigrated his writing ability. For the next 20 years, Ellison would send the professor a copy of every story that he published. One of those stories was 1968’s Hugo Award-winning I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, which was also the title of a collection released that same year of Ellison’s best short fiction.
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison – 1970
Probably no one guessed, when 39-year old Toni Morrison’s debut novel, The Bluest Eye (a story set in her hometown of Lorain, Ohio) was published, that it marked the beginning of one of the greatest literary careers in American history. When she died this past August, tributes poured in from around the globe. Morrison, whose first writing prize was the 1975 Ohioana Book Award (for her second novel, Sula), would go on to receive the world’s highest recognition for an author – the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Her most celebrated work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved, was named by critics in 2012 as the greatest novel of the last quarter of the 20th century. But The Bluest Eye, which marks its 50th anniversary in 2020, is the book that started it all.
Just Wait Till You Have Children of Your Own, Erma
Bombeck – 1971
Bellbrook native Erma Bombeck had an unusual gift: being able to translate the normal routines of a suburban housewife and mother into comic fodder. Her popular column, “At Wit’s End,” first appeared in 1965 in the “Dayton Daily News.” Within a few years, it was reaching 30-million people in 900 newspapers in the US and Canada. Bombeck was a national celebrity, even appearing on the cover of Time magazine. Her 15 books include 1971’s Ohioana Award-winning Just Wait Till You Have Children of Your Own. Bombeck kept writing until her death in 1996. Her legacy lives on via a bi-annual workshop for writers at the University of Dayton, which holds all of Bombeck’s papers.
The River Styx, Ohio, and Other Poems, Mary Oliver –
Mary Oliver was born and grew up in Maple Heights, a semi-rural suburb of Cleveland. From childhood, she loved to go for long walks in the country. Nature would inspire Oliver’s poetry, which she began writing at the age of 14. Her first collection was published in 1963. Nine years later, The River Styx, Ohio, and Other Poems won her the first of her two Ohioana Poetry Book Awards in a career that would see her also receive a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. In 2007, the New York Times said that Oliver was “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.” Oliver, whose writings spanned more than 50 years, died in Florida in 2019 at the age of 83.
M.C. Higgins, the Great, Virginia Hamilton – 1974
No writer of books for African American children has been more loved, or been more influential, as Virginia Hamilton. Named for the state from which her maternal grandfather escaped from slavery via the Underground Railroad, Hamilton was born and raised in Yellow Springs. His stories moved her to begin writing her own. Zeely, the first of her more than 40 books, was published in 1967. In 1975, she became the first black author to win the Newbery Medal, for M.C. Higgins, the Great. It also won the National Book Award, making Hamilton the first author to receive both prizes for the same title. In 2010, eight years after Hamilton’s death at age 65, the American Library Association created the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award, “to recognize an African American author, illustrator, or author/illustrator for a body of his or her published books for children and/or young adults who has made a significant and lasting literary contribution.”
The Warriors (American Bicentennial Series), John Jakes – 1974-79
John Jakes’ Ohioana Award-winning series (also known as “The Kent Family Chronicles”) was created to wrap around the 200th anniversary of America’s independence in 1976. Born in Chicago in 1932, Jakes came to Columbus in 1954 to pursue his M.A. in literature at The Ohio State University. He later spent ten years in Dayton, working by day in an advertising agency while writing at night. Called “The Godfather of Historical Novelists,” many of his works have been made into films or television mini-series, including the popular North and South trilogy. A long-time resident of Florida, Jakes returned to Columbus in 2003 to receive the Ohioana Pegasus Award for his lifetime achievement as a writer.
The Liberation of
Tansy Warner, Stephanie S. Tolan – 1980
Canton native Stephanie S. Tolan said she knew from the age of nine, when she wrote her first story in the 4th grade, that she would become a writer when she grew up. A graduate of Purdue University, Tolan has authored more than 25 books for young readers. The Liberation of Tansy Warner, her third book, won Tolan the 1981 Ohioana Award in juvenile literature. Her best-known book, Surviving the Applewhites, received a Newbery Honor in 2003, and was chosen by the State Library of Ohio and Ohioana as a 2013-14 Choose to Read Ohio title. Tolan has lived in North Carolina since 1999.
Dale Loves Sophie to
Death, Robb Forman Dew – 1981
Although she grew up in Louisiana, where her father was a doctor, Robb Forman Dew was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio. She spent much of her childhood in Gambier, where her grandfather, John Crowe Ransom, was the first editor of the widely regarded Kenyon Review. Surrounded by poets and writers, Dew became one herself. Her debut, Dale Loves Sophie to Death, won the 1981 National Book Award as “Best First Novel.” Dew, who’s written both fiction and nonfiction, lives in Massachusetts where her husband is a professor of history at Williams College. Kenyon College awarded Dew an honorary degree in 2007.
. . . And Ladies of the Club, Helen Hooven Santmyer – 1982
A writer, teacher, and librarian, Helen Hooven Santmyer was also very active in the literary scene of her adopted hometown of Xenia. She was chair of the Ohioana Library’s Greene County Committee. In her seventies, after retiring she wrote … And Ladies of the Club, the story of four generations of women who belong to a literary club in a small Ohio town. The novel won the 1982 Ohioana Award in fiction, but sold only a few hundred copies. A year later, after it was picked up by a major publisher and selected as a national Book-of-the-Month Club title, it took off, selling more than 2-million copies. An “overnight star” at the age of 88, Helen was asked how she would handle the book’s huge commercial success. “I have no plans for the money,” she said, “but it’ll be awfully nice to have it.”
Harvey Pekar – 1986
Often called “a true American original” and “the blue-collar Mark Twain,” Cleveland’s Harvey Pekar – comic book writer, music critic, and media personality – helped to “change the appreciation for, and the perception of” the graphic novel through his autobiographical series, American Splendor. “Autobiography written as it happens” is how Pekar described it. American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar in 1986 was the first anthology of the series, and served as the basis for the Academy Award-nominated 2003 film, starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as Pekar’s wife, political comic writer Joyce Brabner.
Thomas and Beulah, Rita Dove – 1986
Rita Dove was only 40 years old when she was named in 1993 as the U.S. Poet Laureate – not only the youngest poet ever named to the position, but the first who was African American. The Akron native has been praised for the lyricism and beauty of her poetry, as well as its sense of history and political scope. Her verse novel Thomas and Beulah, the semi-fictionalized story of her maternal grandparents, won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. Dove has received four Ohioana Poetry Book Awards, more than any other Ohio poet in the history of the awards.
Pepper Pike, Les Roberts – 1988
Chicagoan Les Roberts spent 24 years as a writer and producer in Hollywood, where his credits included being the first producer and head writer of television’s popular Hollywood Squares game show. It was that talent the brought Roberts to Cleveland, Ohio, when he was hired to create the weekly show for the Ohio Lottery. He decided to stay and turned to a new career as a mystery novelist. In 1988’s Pepper Pike readers met Roberts’ creation – Cleveland private eye Milan Jacovich. The book was a hit, and spawned a series that remains popular today, and has influenced other writers to create mystery novels set in their cities.
Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold – 1988
The daughter of an engineer and pioneer TV meteorologist to whom she credited her early interest in science fiction, Lois McMaster Bujold was born in Columbus and attended The Ohio State University. It wasn’t until she was in her thirties that she pursued writing as a career. Falling Free, part of the Vorkosigan Saga, won her the first of her three Nebula Awards. Her many other awards include a record-tying four Hugos for Best Novel, three Locus Awards, the Minnesota Book Award (she now lives in Minneapolis) and the 2006 Ohioana Career Medal. Bujold, considered one of the greatest writers in her genre, has seen her works translated into nearly 20 languages worldwide.
A Great Deliverance, Elizabeth George – 1988
Elizabeth George, born in Warren, Ohio, in 1949, is the New York Times and internationally best-selling author of twenty British crime novels featuring Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley. The character was first introduced in 1988’s A Great Deliverance, which won George the Agatha Award as Best First Novel, as well as the Ohioana Book Award in fiction. George’s novels inspired an Inspector Lynley television series on the BBC in England. George is a popular speaker and instructor at workshops and conferences around the globe, and is the author of the creative writing book, Write Away.
Dreams of Distant Lives, Lee K. Abbott – 1989
Lee K. Abbott was born in the Panama Canal Zone, the son of
an Army colonel who eventually settled the family in Las Cruzes, New Mexico. The
southwest and desert often played a prominent role in Abbott’s writing. After
receiving his BA and MA degrees at New Mexico State University, Abbott began a
teaching career that would ultimately bring him to Ohio, including Case Western
and The Ohio State University, where he would inspire and influence many young
writers. Abbott’s first story collection appeared in 1980, and 1989’s Dreams
of Distant Lives would win him the Ohioana Book Award. Hailed as one of the
masters of short fiction, Abbott died in Columbus in 2019 at the age of 71.
Each year for the past six years, we’ve done a series called
30 Days, 30 Books, in which we will feature one Ohioana Book Award finalist a
day. It has become very popular with readers, who tell us how much they look
forward to it every spring.
So, to put a fitting epilogue to Ohioana’s 90th
anniversary, we decided to expand on that idea: to select 90 books by Ohio
authors that have been published since 1929 and put the spotlight on each one.
Some of these books and their authors may be unfamiliar. Others may be among
We won’t do a book a day, but rather present a number of
books in a group by decades. Our first post will cover fifteen books, all of
them published during our first three decades, from 1929 to 1959.
We hope you enjoy the series, and that it might add to your list of books to read over the holidays and in the coming year!
Secret of the Old Clock,
Carolyn Keene (Mildred Wirt Benson) – 1930
In April 1930, a new literary character appeared on the scene when 16-year old amateur sleuth Nancy Drew made her debut in The Secret of the Old Clock. The writer – “Carolyn Keene” was a pseudonym for the actual writer, Toledo’s Mildred Wirt Benson, who was only 24 years old herself. “Millie” Benson would go on to write 22 more Nancy Drew books in the iconic series, and many other works in a career that lasted until she died at the age of 96 in 2002.
of the Pecos,
Zane Grey – 1931
Named for the Ohio city where he born (which was founded by his maternal grandfather), Zane Grey’s novels included 1912’s Riders of the Purple Sage, considered the greatest western of all time. Originally a dentist, Grey gave his practice up to concentrate on writing, and went on to produce more than 90 books, all westerns, including 1931’s West of the Pecos.
Sherwood Anderson – 1932
Camden, Ohio’s most famous son is best known for his hugely popular collection of short stories entitled Winesburg, Ohio (many say the fictional town actually IS Camden). But he did more than just short fiction – Anderson also wrote poems, plays, nonfiction, and novels, including 1932’s Beyond Desire. The Ohioana Library has a number of original letters from Anderson that are a treasured part of our collection.
Crane – 1933
One of the most significant American poets of the 20th century, Hart Crane, born in the small town of Garrettsville, Ohio, was also a tortured and tragic figure. In April 1932, at the age of 32, Crane took his own life when he leaped from the deck of the steamship Orizaba into the Gulf of Mexico. His body was never found. A year later, Collected Poems was published. In the decades following his death, writers ranging from poet e.e. Cummings to playwright Tennessee Williams cited Crane as a major influence.
of Life, Fannie
Hurst – 1933
In post-World War I, there was no more popular female author than Hamilton’s Fannie Hurst. During the 1920s, she was the highest-paid female author in the world. Hurst was an ardent supporter of many liberal causes, including feminism and African American equality. Her novels combined sentimental, romantic themes with social issues of the day, such as women’s rights and race relations. One of the most popular (and daring for its time) was 1933’s Imitation of Life, about the friendship between two women – one white and one black – as they struggle together to raise their daughters. Several of Hurst’s books – including Imitation of Life – were made into successful films.
Life and Hard Times,
James Thurber – 1933
Only a month after Ohioana was founded, a startling new book made its debut with the outlandish title of Is Sex Necessary? The book (co-authored by E.B. White) introduced a nation of readers for the first time to a Columbus-born writer and cartoonist named James Thurber. Before then, Thurber was known mainly as a contributor to The New Yorker magazine. He became the quintessential American humorist of the 20th century, and his 1933 memoir, My Life and Hard Times is considered to be his best of his many works. Thurber had a long association with Ohioana, winning our Career Medal in 1953.
Louis Bromfield – 1937
Although he is best-known today for his Malabar Farm in Richland County, for his innovations in soil conservation, and his nonfiction books on sustainable agriculture, Louis Bromfield was in his own time one of America’s most celebrated novelists. The Mansfield native won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1927, when he was only 30 years old, for his third novel, Early Autumn. The Rains Came, published in 1937, was a sensational best-seller, and two years later was made into an Oscar-winning film. Like Thurber, Bromfield was a good friend to the Ohioana Library, serving as a judge for the very first Ohioana Awards in 1942 and himself receiving the Career Medal in 1946.
Burnett – 1940
Springfield-born author W.R. (which stood for William Riley) Burnett didn’t simply write in a genre – he created one. The gangster novel was born when Burnett produced his sensational Little Caesar in 1929, immortalized on screen a year later with tough guy Edward G. Robinson in the title role. Burnett did it again in 1940 with High Sierra, which made a star out of Humphrey Bogart when translated to the cinema the following year. Burnett would work in other genres as well (westerns and war stories, most notably the screenplay for the 1963 drama The Great Escape), but it is for his gangster novels and their film adaptations he remains best-known.
Way for Ducklings,
Robert McCloskey – 1941
Few picture books for children are more beloved than Make Way for the Ducklings, the story of a mallard pair and their eight ducklings, set on an island in the Charles River in Boston. The author and illustrator was 27-year-old Robert McCloskey, a native of Hamilton, Ohio. McCloskey was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal for Ducklings and would win it a second time in 1958 for Time of Wonder, one of the nine picture books he both wrote and illustrated. In 2000, the Library of Congress named McCloskey a “Living Legend” for his contributions to children’s literature.
Lenski – 1945
Lois Lenski, born in Springfield in 1893, would produce nearly 100 books for children as an author and illustrator between 1927 and her death in 1974. Among her best-known works are the illustrations for 1930’s The Little Engine That Could and a series of historical novels. Her three-part “regional series,” set in the South, was designed to give children “looks at vivid, sympathetic pictures of the real life of different kinds of Americans.” Strawberry Girl, the second book in the series, and the most popular, won both the Newbery Medal and the Ohioana Book Award.
Shane, Jack Schaefer – 1949
Born in Cleveland in 1907 and a graduate of Oberlin College, Jack Schaefer was a journalist and editor who had never been further west than Chicago when in 1946 he produced a three-part story for Argosy magazine entitled “Man from Nowhere.” The story was a hit with readers, so Schaefer decided to expand it into a full-blown novel. The result was 1949’s Shane, which became a huge best-seller. The film version, starring Alan Ladd in the iconic title role, was released in 1953. Today both the film – and Schaefer’s original novel – are considered by critics as among the greatest westerns. Schaefer would go on to write more western novels, including one for children, Old Ramon, which won an Ohioana Book Award and was a Newbery Honor title.
Richter – 1950
Although he was born (1890) and died (1968) in Pennsylvania, Conrad Richter spent a good part of his twenties in Cleveland, working as the private secretary to a wealthy industrialist. He was also writing and selling short stories during this time, and he became fascinated with the Ohio frontier. Ultimately it led to The Awakening Land trilogy, a pioneer saga set in the Ohio Valley. The third and final book, The Town, won Richter the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Ohioana would honor Richter in 1967, when The Awakening Land was published for the first time as a single novel.
Man’s Son, 2050 A.D.,
Andre Norton – 1951
Her real name was Alice Mary Norton. But when the Cleveland native began writing and publishing science fiction in the 1930s, she adapted Andre as her first name (she also wrote under two other masculine names: Andrew North and Allen Weston). She became one of the most prolific sci-fi/fantasy authors of her time, producing her last original book in 2005, just before she died at age 93. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, which two years after her death created the Andre Norton Award, given for an outstanding work of science fiction or fantasy for young adults.
Rage in Harlem,
Chester Himes – 1957
Born in Missouri and raised in Cleveland, Chester Himes’ writing career began in an unusual place – the Ohio Penitentiary, where in the early 1928 he was sentenced to a 20-25 year sentence for armed robbery. In prison, he began writing stories, partly as he said to gain respect from guards and also to avoid violence. By the mid-1930s, his stories were finding their way into print in national magazines. Released from prison, he turned full-time to writing, producing a number of novels in the 1940s. But it wasn’t until he moved to Paris in the mid-1950s that he achieved critical acclaim and popular success with his popular “Harlem Detective” series of novels, of which 1957’s A Rage in Harlem was the first.
Hughes – 1958
Acknowledged as “The Poet of the Harlem Renaissance,” Langston Hughes, like Chester Himes (whose work he encouraged while Himes was still in prison), was born in Missouri and grew up in Cleveland, where his first writing appeared while a student at Central High School. His debut collection of poetry, The Weary Blues, with his celebrated “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” made him one of the leading African American literary figures of his time. Before his death in 1967 at the age of 65, Hughes’ astounding output would include not only poems but novels, short stories, plays, nonfiction books, an opera libretto, and books for children. Selected Poems, published in 1958, is a collection spanning the first 30 years of his career.
There are two sides to every story. The mad Prince of
Denmark is the star of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but what if Ophelia had the
chance to share her tale? This is the premise of Ophelia, the young
adult novel by Columbus author Lisa Klein. Lisa was a professor of English
before embarking on her career writing books for young readers. Dissatisfied
with the original portrayal of Shakespeare’s Ophelia, she crafted a modern
retelling of the classic tragedy. Ophelia became Lisa’s first published
novel in 2006. And now—over a decade later—the book has made a remarkable
journey to the big screen as a feature film!
After viewing the movie at Gateway Film Center, Ohioana’s
office manager and kidlit enthusiast, Kathryn Powers, had the chance to
interview Lisa regarding this exciting book-to-movie journey.
1) The process of how a book becomes a movie is so mysterious!
Can you describe how this happened with Ophelia?
Just after Ophelia was published, an independent
producer “optioned” it, reserving the rights while he pulled a production
together. First came the script, which the
producers used to attract a director, whose vision shapes the production. It’s
important to sign well-known actors to round out the package and attract
financiers. The producers have to scout locations for the filming, hire crew,
and build sets. And everyone’s schedules have to match. It’s a complicated
process, requiring patience and diplomacy.
Sometimes it falls apart (as when the director who was interested bows out),
and the producer has to start over again. This happened more than once, which
is why it took ten years to finally “greenlight” Ophelia!
2) Were you able to give any input regarding the Ophelia
Once I signed the contract, I effectively gave up creative
control. I was shown the script early on, as a courtesy, and I offered some
input. A few of my suggestions
were adopted. But the script is the creation of the screenwriter as much as the
novel is the creation of the author, and I came to respect that distinction.
The movie is not the book, but stands as its own wonderful reimagining of the
3) Are there many differences between the book and movie?
Yes, several! The movie keeps the romance between Hamlet and
Ophelia alive until the last possible moment (to please a movie audience),
while the book emphasizes their conflict and Ophelia’s decision to go it alone.
The last quarter of the novel, which
occurs in a convent, is reduced to a scene of a few seconds in the movie. My character
Mechtild, an herbalist, is at the center of a new subplot, created to give the
actress Naomi Watts a larger role. (She plays Queen Gertrude and her sister, Mechtild.)
There are other differences, but the
story is still Ophelia’s, told in her voice.
And it’s visually stunning, so readers who prefer to bring a story alive
in their own imaginations won’t be disappointed.
4) What was it like to visit the set in Prague?
Exciting and a bit unreal. My friend Jody Casella, who is
also a writer, came with me. She kept pinching me (well, not literally) and
saying “Can you believe these hundreds of people are all here making a movie
because of a book you wrote?” We met Daisy Ridley and George McKay and
Clive Owen and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy!) who were all very gracious. People
kept thanking me for writing the book, and I was like, “Don’t thank me, thank
Shakespeare. We all owe what we are doing to Shakespeare.”
5) Where can people view the movie?
The movie is playing in select theaters through July, and is
currently available for streaming online.
6) Additionally, is there anything you want to share with us
about your writing or next projects?
It has been a thrilling journey having my book made into a
movie, and now that I’ve seen it on the big screen and celebrated, it’s time to
settle down and get back to my writing. What was I working on again? Oh, my
first novel for adults, set in Venice in the 1500s.
We can all use a little more poetry in our lives … maybe a LOT more poetry.
And since we want everyone who reads the Ohioana Quarterly to become familiar with our Ohio poets, we want more poetry reviews.
We’ve been thinking about how to get more of those reviews into the OQ, so we’re taking a moment here in the Ohioana blog to provide a few resources to writers who maybe already review as well those who want to. These are interesting articles as well, and provide good insights.
From the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine: “100 Years of Poetry: Re-Reading Reviews” by Joel Brouwer. From the article: “What should a book review do? Analyze, empathize? Compare, contrast? Historicize, contextualize? Defend, demolish? When I started reviewing poetry, I had no idea. I flailed away blindly at each assignment until, somehow, I knocked it out.”
There’s plenty of good ideas here for poets who would like to see their books reviewed as well as hone the craft of writing poetry. By spending time evaluating the work of others, you get a lesson on improving your own work. You also support other poets by giving their work thoughtful consideration.