2022 Reading Challenge: Read a Book by a Midwestern Author

This post was contributed by Aura Sewell, a youth services librarian at Benson Branch.

OPL invites patrons to take part in the 2022 Reading Challenge, opens a new window! For each challenge, OPL offers suggestions for titles to listen to or read. As you’re working through the challenge, feel free to tag @omahalibrary on Twitter, opens a new window, Instagram, opens a new window, or Facebook, opens a new window, to let us know which read you picked up this month!

This month, we are reading books by authors from the Midwest - a diverse landscape with rust belts, farms, prairies, and dense metropolitan cities such as Chicago and Minneapolis and, of course, Omaha.

Some classic authors popularly connected to the Midwest are Laura Ingalls Wilder, opens a new window, Willa Cather, opens a new window, Mark Twain, opens a new window and F. Scott Fitzgerald., opens a new window Some authors who you may not have realized have Midwestern roots include: Roxane Gay, opens a new window, Richard Wright, opens a new window, Louise Erdrich, opens a new window, Toni Morrison, opens a new window, Linda Sue Park, opens a new window, N.K. Jemisin, opens a new window and Sandra Cisneros, opens a new window

Midwestern authors have produced rich regionalist fiction with characters, stories and places that could only come from their own eyes. Just as often, they write about other worlds that are complete departures from their homes. 

This month, we invite you to explore the diverse authors of the Midwest; whether they write about harvesting wheat, being harassed by security guards, coming into bad luck, or facing extinction level events.

For a glimpse into Midwestern life, try "You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey, opens a new window" by host of the Amber Ruffin Show, Amber Ruffin and her sister Lacey. This illuminating account of what it’s like to be Black in Omaha includes personal stories about racism experienced in Omaha by each sister, but mainly by Lacey. It is equal parts funny and horrifying. For more tales of woe in the Midwest, try "Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, opens a new window" by Sarah Smarsh. Growing up on a farm 30 miles outside of Wichita, Smarsh remembers her struggles with poverty and explores the growing class divide in the United States.

If you’re in the mood for a novel with a strong sense of place, Louise Erdrich’s gritty mystery "The Round House, opens a new window" is set on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota and is a National Book Award winner. If you prefer dark humor, Lan Samantha Chang’s family saga “The Family Chao, opens a new window,” set in Wisconsin, is a retelling of “The Brothers Karamazov, opens a new window.”

Finally, if you’d like to escape the Midwest, Hugo Award winning "The Fifth Season, opens a new window" by N.K. Jemisin is the first of The Broken Earth, opens a new window science fiction trilogy set in the Earth’s far future. If you’d like to escape earth entirely for an equally dangerous world, Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings, opens a new window” is the first book of The Stormlight Archive, opens a new window fantasy series.

For more ideas check out this list, opens a new window or request a custom reading list or book bundle, opens a new window tailored to your interests by OPL librarians.

You may submit your completed reading log online, opens a new window, or return a completed tracking sheet to any OPL branch to receive a pin and to be entered into a drawing for some fun literary-themed prizes! All completed tracking sheets or online challenge form entries must be received by December 31, 2022, to be entered into the prize drawing.