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 Angeles Times.
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, Ohio.
East, 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 in Kent.
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.
Prep, 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, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Slate, and on “This American Life.”
Dark Angel, 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.
Ophelia, 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.
Haywire, 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.
Acolytes, 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 Tech.
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 election.
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 to 2006.