As I worked my way through my picks for Kansas, I began to wonder about the differences between Kansas and its neighboring states, and I decided to stay in the area for a while longer. So I’m going to be reading Nebraska next. I was also interested in the “bleakness” and “mean spirit” I saw […]

When most people think of Kansas, we tend to think, “flat.” And, after all, in Dorothy Must Die, author Danielle Paige called the Kansas town Flat Hill. I’ve already talked a bit about the Wizard of Oz movie and book (mis)perceptions of Kansas (including that Baum’s original descriptions were based on his unhappy experiences of […]

First Dawn by Judith Miller is about the post-Civil War all-black pioneer settlement of Nicodemus, Kansas. It tells the story of a group of ill-prepared settlers who travel across the prairie from Topeka to Nicodemus, expecting to find a small, but somewhat established town, with at least a few amenities, only to arrive at a […]

Letters Never Sent by Sandra Moran (2013) was a really good book; it was well-written and an engaging story. I very much enjoyed it, and I’m glad I read it. However, the setting wasn’t really that important to the story. I’m reading my way across the USA, with a focus on books that really help […]

The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard (2006) was a definite winner, at least in terms of learning about Kansas. While Becky Mandelbaum’s Bad Kansas left me full of bleakness, Nancy Pickard’s Kansas gave me some hope. Not that she was all rosy about the state–there were plenty of descriptions of that bleakness. He […]

“It’s either school, a job, or a girl,” she said. “Or death. Those are the only reasons for coming to Kansas. Unless you’re born here, of course. Then it’s a matter of escaping.” This seems to be the consensus among many of the characters in Becky Mandelbaum’s Bad Kansas: Stories (2017), which won the Flannery […]

As I was putting together the book map for Kansas, I came across an interesting conundrum: where in Kansas was Dorothy from? (Or, more to the point, Amy Gumm?) L. Frank Baum’s books don’t give the name of any towns near where Dorothy lived with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em on their farm. And […]

Kansas. I grew up on the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. Not just The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the original from 1900), but all 14 books written by Baum, with Ozma, Rinkitink, Tik-Tok, Glinda, and all the rest. Glinda of Oz, Baum’s 14th installment, was published posthumously in 1920. Even as a child I […]

I would describe Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr. (1947) as a more accessible Ulysses by James Joyce. It is huge, and sprawling, and poignant, and funny. It is historical, and philosophical, pithy and gritty. It is also written in a style that reminds me a bit of Joyce’s stream of consciousness, but is less […]

Earlier in March 2018, I read Murder In Burnt Orange, the 7th in Jeanne M. Dams’ Hilda Johansson Mystery series, and, while it was an entertaining, quick read, I found that it didn’t really give me much of a feel for its setting of South Bend, Indiana. I also speculated, however, that this might have […]