A Juneteenth Celebration: Must-Read Books by Ten Black Ohio Authors

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It was first observed in June, 1865, just two months after the end of the Civil War.

Today, 155 years later, too many Black Americans still suffer from violence, inequality, and injustice resulting from systemic racism. We stand united with them in their quest to bring about lasting and meaningful change.

For this Juneteenth, Ohioana would like to share a chronological list of books from among our state’s most noted Black voices, past and present.

Lyrics of Lowly Life – 1896, Paul Laurence Dunbar (Dayton)

One of Dunbar’s earliest works, this collection includes his immortal poem “We Wear the Mask,” about the miserable plight of African Americans after the Civil War, forced to hide their painful realities and frustrations under the mask of happiness and contentment. Dunbar became the first African American poet to win national recognition, because of this poem. Although he lived to be only 33, Dunbar’s work remains a legacy of the past and a beacon for the future.

The Weary Blues – 1926, Langston Hughes (Cleveland)

The first book by the man who became known as “The Poet of the Harlem Renaissance.” The collection includes not only the title work, but also his classic poems, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “I, Too, Sing America,” which was the theme of the 100th anniversary celebration in Columbus of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes wrote in other literary genres as well. His graceful verse and prose showcased the spiritual and creative dignity of the lives of African Americans.

Zeely – 1967, Virginia Hamilton (Yellow Springs)

The first Black Newbery Medalist and a National Book Award winner, no writer of books for African American children has been more loved than Virginia Hamilton. And influential, too: about Hamilton’s first novel, Zeely, the story of a young Black girl who loves to create fantasies, Jacqueline Woodson said, “It was one of the first books I read by an African American about African American people.” The American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award honors an African American author or illustrator whose body of work has contributed significantly to literature for children and young adults.

Beloved – 1987, Toni Morrison (Lorain)

Winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, Toni Morrison was arguably the most important American writer of the last half of the 20th century. But she was more – she was also a tireless and outspoken champion for social justice, right up until she died in August 2020 at the age of 88. Morrison’s best-known work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved, is the story of Sethe, a former slave who escaped to Ohio in the 1870s—but despite her freedom, finds herself haunted by the trauma of her past.

On the Bus with Rosa Parks – 1999, Rita Dove (Akron)

A Pulitzer Prize winner and the first African American to serve as Poet Laureate of the United States, Rita Dove also holds the record for the Ohioana Poetry Book Award, having won four, including for 1999’s On the Bus with Rosa Parks. The collection explores the intersection of individual fate and history, as exemplified by the courageous Black woman whose simple act of refusing to give her seat up on the bus to a white man helped spark the civil rights movement.

Copper Sun – 2006, Sharon Draper (Cincinnati)

Sharon Draper taught high school English in Cincinnati and was named National Teacher of the Year before devoting herself full-time to writing novels for young adults. A New York Times best-selling author, she is the winner of five Coretta Scott King Literary Awards, including for Copper Sun, the epic story of a young girl torn from her African village, sold into slavery, and stripped of everything she has ever known – except hope.

The Butler: A Witness to History – 2013, Wil Haygood (Columbus)

Award-winning journalist and historian Wil Haygood traces the Civil Rights Movement and explores crucial moments of 20th century American history through the eyes of Eugene Allen – a White House butler who served eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan, over the course of thirty-four years. Haygood’s 2008 article about Allen in the Washington Post, “A Butler Well Served by This Election,” inspired the award-winning film, Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

This Is the Rope – 2013, Jacqueline Woodson (Columbus)

Jacqueline Woodson’s many honors include the Newbery Medal and National Book Award; she has served as the Children’s Poet Laureate and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. She also writes for adults and is a 2020 Ohioana Book Award finalist for her novel, Red at the Bone. In her 2013 book for young readers, This Is the Rope, Woodson tells the story of one family’s journey north during the Great Migration and the simple jump rope found by a little girl that she has no idea will become a part of the family’s history for three generations.

Urban Contemporary Poetry Month – 2016, Scott Woods (Columbus)

Scott Woods is a former President of Poetry Slam, Inc., and is the founder of the Writers Block Poetry series and the Streetlight Guild, a performing arts nonprofit. His writing has appeared in a variety of publications and been heard on National Public Radio. Urban Contemporary History Month, his second poetry collection, navigates multiple sides of the issues it raises – police abuse, idol worship, the definition of Black culture, and the importance of the blues chief among them – chipping away at our understanding and acceptance of American life as we know it. 

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us – 2017, Hanif Abdurraqib (Columbus)

A poet, essayist, and cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib is one of contemporary literature’s most popular and influential young writers. His third book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Questwas a National Book Award longlisted finalist and is a 2020 Ohioana Book Awards finalist. His collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us,chosen by a number of publications as one of the best books of 2017, uses music and culture as a lens through which to view our world, so that we might better understand ourselves. 

Ten books, ten Black Ohio writers. This list here is merely the tip of the iceberg. There are so many, many more. And we hope that perhaps this brief summary will encourage you to explore other gifted Black writers, not just from Ohio, but everywhere. We’ve never needed to hear their voices more than now.

Announcement: The Ohioana Book Festival Goes Virtual!

Earlier this spring, we announced postponement of the 2020 Ohioana Book Festival from April 25 to August 29, in the hopes that the COVID-19 crisis would be in the process of passing and it would be safe to meet in large groups once again.

Unfortunately, as we’re sure you are all aware, this has proven to be an unprecedented, and lingering, health crisis. We have made the difficult decision at this time that the 2020 Ohioana Book Festival will not be presented as a live event. We are confident it is the correct direction to go, for the safety of everyone – authors, attendees, volunteers, and staff.

While we’re disappointed that we won’t be able to see you in person, we ARE excited and happy to tell you the Ohioana Book Festival WILL go on – as a virtual event.

The Ohioana staff has been working from home since March, during which we’ve been building up our virtual programs via Zoom, Facebook Live, etc. We’ve been happy with the wonderful response from both authors and attendees to these programs.

We’re working out details, but we can tell you our virtual festival will involve a variety of formats, including panel discussions on Zoom and other programs spread across all of our social media platforms. We feel it will be to our advantage not to hold it all on one day, so we plan to start on Friday, August 28 until Sunday August 30. We are also looking into the possibility of recording some things in advance to share before the official event as outreach, as we do every year. The Columbus Metropolitan Library will also still be involved in helping us to host and promote all of the virtual events.

At this time, we are exploring a lot of exciting ideas as to what a virtual festival will look like for us. As stated above, we are not entirely sure what format everything will fall into, but we anticipate author readings and some interviews in addition to panel discussions. We also do plan to have books for sale, as always.

Obviously this change is not our ideal. However, we are optimistic given the success of our newest virtual events as well as a number of book fairs and festivals that have already taken place online, that we can have a fun and dynamic virtual event to celebrate the literature and authors of Ohio in 2020.

Thank you all for your patience and understanding in this process. We hope that you are all safe and well, and look forward to seeing you – online – during the weekend of August 28-30! Please follow our social media accounts and check our website for more information soon.

Ohioana Announces 2020 Book Award Finalists


A scene from the 2016 Ohioana Awards ceremony (Photo by Mary Rathke)

The Ohioana Library is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2020 Ohioana Book Awards. First given in 1942, the awards are the second-oldest state literary prizes in the nation and honor outstanding works by Ohio authors and illustrators in five categories: Fiction, Poetry, Juvenile Literature, Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature, and Nonfiction. The sixth category, About Ohio or an Ohioan, may also include books by non-Ohio authors.

Among the literary honors this year’s finalists have previously received are the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Edgar Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. One author is a finalist for her debut book. Five are past Ohioana Book Award winners, and two received Ohioana’s Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant early in their writing careers.

Beginning June 15, Ohioana will profile all the finalists with the return of “30 Books, 30 Days,” a special feature on our social media in which one finalist is highlighted each day.

Later in June, Ohioana will launch its fifth Readers’ Choice Award poll, allowing the public to vote online for their favorite book from the finalists.

Winners will be announced in July, and the 2020 Ohioana Book Awards will be presented at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on Thursday, October 15. The finalists are:

Fiction

DiFrancesco, Alex. All City, Seven Stories Press.

Hurley, Kameron. The Light Brigade, Gallery/Saga Press.

Montgomery, Jess. The Widows, Minotaur Books.

Scibona, Salvatore. The Volunteer, Penguin Press.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Red at the Bone, Riverhead Books.

Nonfiction

Abdurraqib, Hanif. Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest, University of Texas Press.

Brinkley, Douglas. American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race, Harper.

Kaufman, Kenn. Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Salamon, Julie. An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer, Little, Brown and Company.

Vanasco, Jeannie. Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl, Tin House Books.

About Ohio or an Ohioan

Abbott, Karen. The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America, Broadway Books.

Brouwer, Sigmund. Moon Mission, Kids Can Press.

Grunenwald, Jill. Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian, Skyhorse Publishing.

McCullough, David. The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, Simon & Schuster.

Ruffner, Howard. Moments of Truth: A Photographer’s Experience of Kent State 1970, Kent State University Press.

Poetry

Abdurraqib, Hanif. A Fortune for Your Disaster, Tin House Books.

Atkins, Russell. World’d Too Much: The Selected Poetry of Russell Atkins, edited by Kevin Prufer and Robert E. McDonough, Cleveland State University Poetry Center.

Selcer, Anne Lesley. Sun Cycle, Cleveland State University Poetry Center.

Townsend, Ann. Dear Delinquent, Sarabande Books.

Weigl, Bruce. On the Shores of Welcome Home, BOA Editions.

Juvenile Literature

Guidroz, Rukhsanna. Illus. by Dinara Mirtalipova. Leila in Saffron, Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Hoefler, Kate. Illus. by Sarah Jacoby. Rabbit and the Motorbike, Chronicle Books.

Houts, Michelle. Illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. Sea Glass Summer, Candlewick.

Mora, Oge. Saturday, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Salas, Laura Purdie. Illus. by Angela Matteson. In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House, Wordsong.

Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature

Daigneau, Jean. Code Cracking for Kids: Secret Communication Throughout History, with 21 Codes and Ciphers, Chicago Review Press.

Davis, Ronni. When the Stars Lead to You, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

McGinnis, Mindy. Heroine, Katherine Tegen Books.

Takei, George, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, Illus. by Harmony Becker. They Called Us Enemy, Top Shelf Productions.

Warga, Jasmine. Other Words for Home, Balzer + Bray.

Ohioana Remembers

Memorial Day weekend has just passed. We hope yours was a safe one. This year was especially poignant as we marked 75 years since the end of World War II and also the devastating effects of COVID-19, which has already taken nearly 100,000 American lives since March.
At this special time of year, Ohioana would like to pay tribute to three gifted Ohio authors who have passed away in recent months.

As Ohioana observes Memorial Day, we’d like to pay tribute to three gifted Ohio authors who have passed away in recent months.

Karen Harper

It was a huge shock for Ohioana when we learned of Karen Harper’s passing on April 13, just a week after her 75th birthday. Less than two months before, Karen had been the guest of the Ohioana Book Club, which read her novel, American Duchess, as their winter selection. They loved the book –and her. We knew then that Karen was battling cancer, but she told us she planned to be at the 2020 Ohioana Book Festival, which we had to reschedule to August 29. Little did we know that book club would be her final public appearance.

Born in Toledo, Karen lived most of her adult life in Columbus, teaching English in high school and college until she turned to a full-time writing career in the 1980s. She became the prolific and award-winning author of more than sixty novels, many of them New York Times and USA Today best-sellers. But Karen was more than that. She was warm, caring, and generous to her author colleagues and her legion of fans, who loved her books and who she loved meeting at events like the Ohioana Book Festival, Books by the Banks, and the Buckeye Book Fair.

Karen was also a great friend of Ohioana. She dedicated two of her Cold Creek Trilogy books to the library. She was a long-time member, and in last year’s spring Ohioana Quarterly, was the guest contributor to our “Why I Support Ohioana” column, in which she wrote:

“I support the Ohioana Library partly because Ohioana supports me, and I don’t mean only because I am a longtime published author. I am also a proud Ohioan and an avid reader. For anyone who cares about Ohio, books, knowledge, and the arts in general, Ohioana is worth supporting.”

The Queen’s Secret, Karen’s latest historical novel—a genre in which she was a master—was released posthumously this month. We are saddened that we’ll never see Karen again, but she will never be forgotten

Janet Hickman

Born in the small village of Kilbourne and a resident of Columbus since 1957, Janet Hickman, who died late in April at the age of 79, was an author, educator, and mentor. As her obituary stated, “Her life’s work was teaching others and learning herself how to use children’s literature to enrich the lives and learning of children and young adults.” Janet was the author of seven

books for young adults. Zoar Blue, a historical novel about two Ohio teens living in the Pacifist community of Zoar during the Civil War, won the 1979 Ohioana Florence Roberts Head Award. In 1995, her novel about growing up in a small town in Ohio, Jericho, won the Ohioana Book Award in juvenile literature and was a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book.

Her long teaching career included more than twenty-five years at The Ohio State University, where she spearheaded the foundation of a children’s literature chair in honor of her mentor, Charlotte Huck. For many years, Janet organized a children’s literature conference in Columbus, bringing together educators and authors.

Janet was also a long-time friend and supporter of the Ohioana Library. She particularly loved following the new authors and books for young readers. Her contributions to that field will be long remembered.

Mike Resnick

Science fiction writer Mike Resnick was born in Chicago in 1942. He moved to Cincinnati in 1976, and made the city his home for the rest of his life. In a remarkable career that spanned nearly sixty years, Mike Resnick wrote more than seventy novels, 250 short stories, two screenplays, and edited more than forty anthologies. He holds the record for the most Hugo Awards—thirty-seven, including five wins; plus the Nebula Award and awards from seven foreign countries.

Mike was a featured author at the 2015 Ohioana Book Festival, our first to be held in downtown Columbus. When he died this past January at the age of 77, he had just completed the second novel in his new Dreamscape Trilogy, The Mistress of Illusions, which was published in April.

His legacy will live on as one of the most successful and influential writers in the science fiction genre of the past fifty years.

Little Fires Everywhere: From Page to Screen

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Promotional poster for Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere miniseries.

Last week saw the release of the final episode in Hulu’s 8-part Little Fires Everywhere miniseries, based on the 2018 Ohioana Award winning novel by Celeste Ng. As big fans of Ng and all things Ohio literature related, the staff at Ohioana were very excited for the show. Ng’s novel, originally released in 2017, takes place in the late 1990s and is set in the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Shaker Heights. Upon release, the book became an instant bestseller and was featured on many “best of 2017” end-of-year booklists. The miniseries has now garnered praise and popularity, as illustrated by the concurrent rise of the novel to the become the #1 title on the New York Times fiction best seller list from the weeks of April 12-April 25. Upon watching Hulu’s adaption, it’s not hard to see what people are loving about it – from new viewers to established fans of Ng’s novel.

One of Little Fires Everywhere’s first fans was actor Reese Witherspoon, known for her extensive filmography in movies such as Legally Blond and Gone Girl, and more recently for her starring role in the television adaptation of Big Little Lies. Witherspoon is also an avid reader and hosts a book club online – picking a book each month for fans to read along with her. Little Fires Everywhere was Witherspoon’s pick for September 2017 and on her website she gave it a rave review, saying: “This story of two families in Ohio moved me to tears. Celeste Ng writes with stunning accuracy about the power of motherhood, the intensity of teenage love and the danger of perfection – and the fire that destroys it all. To say I love this book is an understatement!”


Cover of Little Fires Everywhere.

Witherspoon discovered Little Fires Everywhere and began plans for a limited series adaptation before the book’s official publication. It was only a few short months after picking the book for her book club that it was announced on March 2, 2018 that the miniseries was officially in production, with Witherspoon starring. Witherspoon, co-star Kerry Washington, Lauren Neustadter, and Pilar Stone were announced as executive producers of the show, with Liz Tegelaar as writer and showrunner. Celeste Ng was also brought on as a producer and consultant for the show. Joshua Jackson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jade Pettyjohn, Lexi Underwood, Megan Stott, Gavin Lewis and Jordan Elsass were then cast to also star in the series.

The miniseries consists of 8 episodes and makes good use of every minute of that time, giving careful attention to each detail of the story and building a narrative that is emotionally investing and tense. Fans of the book will be happy to find that the miniseries is quite true to the plot and pacing of the novel, with a few key differences. For those who are not familiar with the premise: the story begins when Mia (Washington), an artist and single mother, and her daughter Pearl (Underwood) move to Shaker Heights, Ohio. They rent an apartment from a well-to-do family called the Richardsons – Elena (Witherspoon) and Bill (Jackson) with children Lexie (Pettyjohn), Trip (Elsass), Moody (Lewis), and Izzy (Stott) – who live in the wealthiest part of Shaker Heights. Eventually the members of each family become inextricably tangled in the lives of each other and that of Bebe Chow (Huang Lu), a poor immigrant mother who is trying to win back custody of her daughter who is being adopted by a family friend of Elena’s. The story explores topics of inequality, motherhood, sexuality, immigration, friendship and family relationships.


Celeste Ng with Ohioana Board President Daniel Shuey at the 2018 Ohioana Awards.

Little Fires Everywhere presents a familiar setting – and not just to those of us who are intimately acquainted with Shaker Heights and Ohio. The setting of 1990s suburban Ohio might be enjoyably recognizable to those of us Ohioana who watch it (though the series was actually filmed in California) but the scenarios that take place and the superb acting that bring the characters and story to life are what really give the series its shine. One of the most notable aspects of Ng’s novel was the ensemble-cast style form of storytelling – each character was given sufficient time in the limelight, their story examined and empathized with, their flaws brought into realistic and sometimes uncomfortable clarity.

The miniseries captures this feeling of character study excellently. Witherspoon and Washington are particularly captivating in their leading roles, often acting as opposing forces against each other. Witherspoon as Elena Richardson is fantastic as the upper-class mother of four, shiny and perfect – until she is forced to confront the things she doesn’t want to think about. Kerry Washington plays the creative, headstrong and fiercely loving Mia Warren convincingly – and shows the darker aspects of the character just as authentically.

As mentioned, a few differences do exist in the book versus the miniseries, a choice that can often risk alienating fans of the source material. However, the changes in Little Fires Everywhere truly seem to enhance the themes of the story and were done with Ng’s input and consultation. The first big change is that Mia and Pearl Warren are black, whereas in the book their race was never specified. Ng, who is Asian American, had initially wanted to write Mia and Pearl as people of color, but didn’t feel it was her place to tell that story (Atlantic). Though issues of race are explored in the novel, adding in this detail about the Warrens adds a new aspect that further complicates the relationship between the Warren and Richardson families.


Celeste Ng at the 2018 Ohioana Awards.

The second change that fans of the novel will notice is that the ending of the miniseries diverges significantly. An interesting aspect of this change is that it seems to better set up the series for a continuation of the story. Though the novel has no sequel, and at this time there are no official plans for a second season, the miniseries has gained significant enthusiasm and popularity that indicates that viewers would like to see more. Regardless, the Little Fires Everywhere miniseries proves itself as a beautiful adaptation of Ng’s work that both acts as a companion to the novel and stands alone very well.

Have you watched Little Fires Everywhere? If you’ve read the book, how do you think the miniseries compares? Would you like to see the story continue in a second season? We would love to hear your thoughts! Please share with us in the comments of this blog post or write to us on our social media platforms.

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Sources: https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/03/little-fires-everywhere-hulu-series-pivotal-change-from-novel/609151/

Festival Flashback Wrap Up

Thank you for joining us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and here on the blog today as we took a look back at some of our favorite memories from past Ohioana Book Festivals. We hope you’ve enjoyed it – we certainly did!

Below is a collection of links to everything we have shared today. We’re looking forward to seeing you on August 29th for the 2020 Ohioana Book Festival!

Festival Flashback: OBF Kids’ Room Crafts

It’s spring! Along with the season comes fresh flowers, warm sunshine and, historically, the Ohioana Book Festival. Right now in Ohio, we are following a stay at home order to keep our communities safe. As such, the Ohioana Book Festival, which was originally scheduled for April 25th, has been postponed until Saturday, August 29th. That doesn’t mean the fun has to be put entirely on hold, though! We thought today was the perfect opportunity for us to share some of our favorite memories from past Ohioana Book Festivals – we’re calling it a Festival Flashback!

We also figured there was no better time to share the templates for a few crafts from Ohioana Book Festival’s past. Spending time at home is a great chance to get creative and use things you can find around your household to make these fun, literature themed creations. These crafts were all featured at Ohioana Book Festival’s in past years – each one incorporates themes from books by Ohioana Book Festival authors from that year. 

As we’re working from the kitchen, doing schoolwork from the couch, and in general doing our part to stay inside and keep ourselves and others safe, we can still stay busy and have fun. Reading is a favorite pastime of Ohioana’s, of course, and so are these crafts! We hope you enjoy.

Images and tutorials for the crafts are below. If you or your family tries out any of these creations, we’d love to see what you’ve made! Share your pictures with us on Facebook and Twitter @Ohioana.


It’s National Library Week!

National Library Week 2020 poster (American Library Association):
 
Find Your Place at the Library

When the American Library Association picked “Find Your Place at the Library” as its theme for this year’s April 16-25 celebration of National Library Week, little did anyone know at the time that we’d be in the middle of an unprecedented world health crisis that would force most libraries to close temporarily. The Ohioana Library being one of them.

Libraries may not have their physical spaces open to the public, so that we can help keep everyone safe and healthy. But they are continuing to creatively serve their communities by providing virtual services and digital content online. If anything, this crisis has shown that libraries are more vitally needed – and more appreciated – than ever before.

And so recently the ALA decided to flip its original text to create a second theme for National Library Week 2020: “Find the Library at Your Place.”

The Ohioana Book Club discusses David Giffels’ award-winning “Furnishing Eternity” in the library’s Martha Kinney Cooper Reading Room.

Since 1958, National Library Week has been set aside to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries – school, public, academic, and special – participate.

The Ohioana Library is a special library – of course EVERY library is special! But we are special in the sense that we have a very specific purpose and focus: to collect, preserve, and celebrate Ohio literature and other creative endeavors.

To fulfill our mission, Ohioana works with just about every kind of other type of library there is, especially on our largest program, the Ohioana Book Festival. Librarians from the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA) help put together our teen programming at the event. Several OELMA members help arrange visits to their schools by festival authors. A number of public library systems throughout Ohio partner with us on the festival, including Cleveland, Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Toledo and Lucas County, and right here in Central Ohio the libraries of Bexley, Pickerington, and Upper Arlington. And of course the festival itself takes place at Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library.

Crowds at the 2019 Ohioana Book Festival, Columbus Metropolitan Library Main Library (Photo by Mary Rathke)

These, and libraries throughout the state, sponsor their own programs and events that make literature come alive. The days when a library was only a place where your borrowed a book or other physical item are long gone. Today’s library is a vibrant part of the community it serves. Today’s libraries offer everything from helping adults learn computer skills to teens getting homework help to story time for toddlers and book clubs for senior citizens.

YA authors Margaret Rogerson, Kerry Winfrey, Natalie D. Richards, and Mindy McGinnis at the Pickerington Public Library’s Teen Book Fest (Photo by Kathryn Powers)

The adaptability of the modern library has never been more evident than in the COVID-19 crisis. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, ZOOM – all are tools that libraries like Ohioana are using. Just this past weekend, Ohioana held its first-ever virtual book club. It was a great success, and we have had many people already asking when we’ll be doing one again!

National Library Week 2020 wraps up this Saturday. But there’s still plenty of time to join in the celebration, and many ways to celebrate. Just check out these ideas on the American Library Association’s website: http://www.ala.org/conferencesevents/celebrationweeks/natlibraryweek

Find your place at the library today!

Celebrating Ohio Poets for National Poetry Month


The 2020 National Poetry Month poster

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.


A poster for an Ohioana Book Festival poetry reading at the McConnell Arts Center.

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.


Four-time Ohioana Award winning poet Rita Dove at the 2010 awards ceremony (Photo by Mara Gruber)

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.


Marcus Jackson receives the 2019 Ohioana Poetry Book Award from the Ohio Arts Council’s Chiquita Mullins Lee (Photo by Mary Rathke)

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


David Baker recites one of his poems at an Ohioana Book Festival outreach event at the Book Loft of German Village.

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!


Introducing Virtual Book Club!

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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.

For more information about Sister Lou and Olivia Matthews, aka Patricia Sargeant, visit her website, Kensington Books, or read this exciting interview with Chandra Sparks Splond. You can also follow her on Twitter @BooksByPatricia and on Facebook @AuthorPatriciaSargeant.

Follow Ohioana’s social media pages for more information and updates. We hope to see you on April 18!

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