Saturday, June 16, 2012

Round on the Edges, High in the Middle

I learned the hard way that Ohio was the Rodney Dangerfield of states. Telling someone you’re from Ohio was a guaranteed death-knell to any conversation. The usual response is "oh" followed by an excuse to find the bar for a refill. You may even feel you are suddenly invisible. This is because we lack distinctive identities. There’s no aura of New York sophistication or the hipness of California or Seattle or intellectual superiority of Cambridge. We can’t charm folks with lilting accents, distinctive hats and boots or entice pastoral romantics with our picturesque fall calendars (even though our less showy maples spew out more syrup than all those cute little New England states combined). We don't have in your face bumper stickers (what is it about Texas that we're not supposed to mess with?) And we don’t have distinctive, over-spiced cuisines with colorful names like "jumbuliah."  There’s just nothing flashy a Buckeye can show off to get a conversation out of first gear.  Here's a few books that I've collected to show the hidden beauty of the first Midwestern state. 

1.  Family, Ian Frazer (1994).  New Yorker contributor Frazier weaves a fascinating family from the small northern Ohio town of Norwalk, Ohio.  He turns his family story into a fascinating saga.  

2.  Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson (1919).  Coming of age for a Midwestern boy, set in the fictional town of Winesburg (a fictional name for Anderson's boyhood hometown, Clyde, Ohio).  

3.  Ohio States: A Twentieth Century Midwestern, Jeffery Hammond.  Hammond's growing up was done in the the northern Ohio landscape of flat farmland and gritty rust belt cities.  Hammond's writing is strong enough show the idyllic side of growing up in a small town and restlessness that eventually comes with leaving.  

4.  Out of the Midwest, Johnathan T. Frederick (1944).  A collection of stories running from the western edge of the Appalachians to the Great Lakes to Great Plains.  

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