50 States, 50 Novels – Part 7

New Mexico – Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (1972)

One of the cornerstones of Chicano literature, Rudolfo Anaya’s debut novel is an astonishing first person narrative following the life of Antonio, who recounts memories of his childhood in small town New Mexico.

New York – The Assistant by Bernard Malamud (1957)

New York City is arguably the most popular American setting for literature, and, in his second novel, Bernard Malamud explores the lives of working class immigrants in Brooklyn. The story, which revolves around a small grocery store, is one of sorrow and persistence, which perfectly embodies Malamud’s famous quotation “Life is a tragedy full of joy.”

North Carolina – Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe (1929)

One of the most influential American novelists of the early 20th century, Thomas Wolfe began his writing career with this autobiographical novel set in the fictional Altamont, Catawba, which is based on his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.

North Dakota – Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (1984)

National Book Award- winner Louise Erdrich’s debut novel comprises a series of interconnected stories, following the lives of a group of Native Americans living on a reservation in North Dakota.

Ohio – The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970)

Set in her hometown of Lorain, Ohio, Toni Morrison’s debut novel tells the story of a young African American girl who wishes for blue eyes. The novel’s protagonist is also aged ten during the time of the novel (early 1940’s) which would have been Morrison’s age at the same time, leading many to speculate that the novel contains autobiographical elements.

-Christian Kriticos