Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Authors Explore Indiana Themes

Famed Indiana writer and wit George Ade once observed that a Hoosier seemed often to be a "puzzling combination of shy provincial, unfettered democrat, and Fourth of July orator," as well as being a storyteller by reason of being born in the state.

What it means today to make a home in the nineteenth state is examined in the Indiana Historical Society Press's new collection Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana. Editors Tom Watson and Jim McGarrah have brought together some of the state's finest writers to reflect on such themes as family, security, and, as the editors noted, "quests for a better life, a life rooted in Indiana."

"Perhaps this state is to the United States what the heart is to the body," the editors note in the book's introduction. "Everything that is the essence of what keeps us alive flows to and from this center, drawn in and pumped out to replenish and reinvigorate all the other parts."

The book includes essays from such well-known Hoosier literary figures as Kurt Vonnegut, Scott Russell Sanders, Susan Neville, Michael Martone, and David Hoppe. The many different meanings of "home" are examined in the book, including Alyce Miller discussing her attempts to become a Hoosier after having moved to Indiana from California, and Michele Gondi finding a place in the community of Mount Vernon after moving from her native Argentina.

The tone of the essays collected in Home Again range from the pastoral, as in Scott Saalman's account of his work with his grandfather in "Cider Days," to humorous yet scholarly, as in Rick Farrant's examination of the history of the name for Indiana residents, "Hunting for Hoosiers." Other essays explore such subjects as the Amish, hardware stores, lakes, Bobby Knight, unlocked doors, and urban sprawl.

McGarrah is an Indiana native. He has been managing editor of the national literary magazine The Southern Indiana Review since 1998 and teaches creative writing at the University of Southern Indiana. McGarrah codirects the RopeWalk Readers Series and serves on the RopeWalk Writers Retreat staff in New Harmony, Indiana, as well as the New Harmony Arts Committee.

Watson was born and raised in La Porte, Indiana. He is an online adjunct instructor of creative writing for Indiana University and recently retired from teaching writing for thirty years to at-risk populations for the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Watson has been an associate editor for The Crescent Review and a contributing editor for Hunger Mountain, the Vermont College journal of arts and letters.

Home Again costs $19.95 and is available at the Society's Basile History Market gift shop. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.

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