Listed in program order.
Townships , Michael Martone, ed.
This collection of essays by Midwestern authors reveals the anger, humor and challenges of growing up in vast farmland. Through the eyes of writers as diverse as Ray A. Young Bear, a poet from the Mesquakie Reservation in central Iowa, Michael Wilkerson, Howard Kohn, and Ellen Hunnicutt, we come to understand the idea of township and how it has been uniquely and variously expressed throughout the American Midwest.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , Mark Twain
Mark Twain's classic novel intertwines humor and cruelty to take the reader into the heart of America and race relations in the nineteenth century. Huck and Jim, a renegade slave, raft down the Mississippi River, facing danger, adventure, and a cast of sometimes menacing, often hilarious characters.
Beloved , Toni Morrison
Award-winning author Toni Morrison explores the heartbreak and despair of slavery through the eyes of a young slave and mother of three, Sethe. Morrison creates an unforgettable and richly imagined world that is both beautiful and horrible. Set primarily in a house that is haunted by Beloved, the ghost of Sethe's daughter, the novel is filled with flashbacks of the horrors and cruelty of slave life, and the complex story of Beloved's death.
Main Street , Sinclair Lewis
In Sinclair Lewis's brilliant satire of small-town, midwestern America, Carol Kennicott wants desperately to transform Gopher Prairie into something grander. Originally from the city and now married to the local doctor, she is frustrated with both his and the town's docility and what seems to her as a lack of cultural aspiration.
The Nick Adams Stories , Ernest Hemingway
Each story more satisfying than the next, this collection takes the reader through the stages of boyhood to manhood, closely paralleling Hemingway's own life as a soldier, veteran, writer and parent, each piece a jewel delivered in his trademark crisp, masculine style.
Native Son , Richard Wright
Arguably one of the most compelling novels of the twentieth century, Native Son explores the consequences of racism. Wright's genius is to reveal the truth about American social and class relations through the eyes of an unlikable, ignorant character whose world of poverty, despair, and frustration turn him into a killer.
A Sand County Almanac , Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold brought the world to its knees with this critically acclaimed book on nature that is credited with inspiring the conservation movement in America. His then-revolutionary philosophy combined preservation of wild places with respect for them and for the animals and plants that inhabit them, regarding humans as part of the mix--as opposed to the lords to whom Nature must be subjugated.
The Adventures of Augie March , Saul Bellow
Bellow's twentieth-century masterpiece is the story of a young boy growing up in a working class Jewish family in Chicago. The Depression puts a halt to his education and work becomes odd jobs, including stealing cars. Augie wanders through life looking for definition while tripping over convoluted relationships with friends and lovers.
Chicago Poems , Carl Sandburg, and Selected Poems , Gwendolyn Brooks
These two collections about working class life in Chicago are gems from these celebrated, quintessentially American poets. Here Sandburg mixes his passion for socialism with his eye for beauty to produce powerful poems of lasting impact. In Selected Poems, Brooks shows her immense talent with a variety of forms: ballads, sonnets, blues and blank verse. The first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize, Brooks wrote about her youth and marriage and later became known for her socially conscious writings on the civil rights movement.
them , Joyce Carol Oates
Although Oates has written 30 novels (and counting!), them, winner of the National Book Award in 1970, is considered her most emotionally powerful work. Through the prism of the life of a poor, white family in post-war Detroit, she explores the fear of loss of identity, especially during the turbulent 1960s.
A Thousand Acres , Jane Smiley
Jane Smiley provides a powerful retelling of Shakespeare's classic Lear story, set on a contemporary Iowa farm. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and a hugely popular novel, A Thousand Acres captures the grim realities of farm life and the conflicting passions brought on by the reality of a vast inheritance.
The Antelope Wife , Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich returns in The Antelope Wife to the Ojibway people, whose lives, loves, and passions she has so masterfully chronicled in previous novels. In her fictional world, where myth is woven deeply into the fabric of everyday life, "there is light as well as darkness ... and encountering it offers pain and exhilaration in equal measure."-- The New York Times Book Review
The Feast of Love , Charles Baxter
In this engrossing novel--alternately hilarious and sad--the author presents varying versions of events, each from the point of view of a different character. Writer Lorrie Moore says of Baxter, "One of Mr. Baxter's great strengths as a writer has always been his ability to capture the stranded inner lives of the Middle West's repressed eccentrics."