50 States, 50 Novels- Part 4

Kansas – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)

An obvious choice perhaps, but L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel truly illuminates the beauty in rural Kansas life, in spite of its seeming dullness compared with the magnificent land of Oz: “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.”

Kentucky – Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)

No other American novel has had a greater impact on the country’s history than Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with numerous scholars citing it as a catalyst for the Civil War. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel begins in Kentucky, and follows the plight of several slaves, sold by their comparatively ‘benevolent’ owner to pay his debts.

Louisiana – A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)

Championed by National Book Award-winner Walker Percy, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces swiftly became one of the most successful posthumously published novels in American history, and is widely considered to be the greatest representation of New Orleans ever committed to the page.

Maine – The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (1896)

Sarah Orne Jewett’s series of vignettes on the rural fishing communities of Maine gradually build into something more than the sum of their parts, in a blending of the novel and short story forms that likely influenced later works such as Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio.

Maryland – A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015)

A longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland, Anne Tyler has also set many of her novels there, including her most recent work A Spool of Blue Thread, which charts the history of a single family and a single house.

Christian Kriticos