90 YEARS . . . 90 BOOKS: The 1990s

December 10, 2019

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!

The 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.

Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky, Thylias Moss, 1991

A 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.

Parliament of Whores, P.J. O’Rourke, 1991

Known 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.”

Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps #1), R.L. Stine, 1992

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.

Missing 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. 

Walk 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.

Getting 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.

Tears 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.

Out from Boneville, Jeff Smith, 1995

Growing 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.

The Devil’s Hatband, Robert Greer, 1996

Robert 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.

Broken Symmetry, David Citino, 1997

Few people 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.

Among 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

Originally 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.

The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean, 1998

It’s 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.