More than 30 Indiana communities from Crown Point to Jeffersonville will host events in 2020 as part of a statewide read powered by Indiana Humanities.

This year, the organization’s One State/One Story program is encouraging Hoosiers to read Jean Thompson’s “The Year we Left Home.” The book was selected to help explore themes related to Indiana Humanities’ INseparable initiative, which urges Hoosiers to examine real and perceived differences along urban, suburban and rural divides.

In the coming months, activities across the state will focus on Thompson’s novel, its exploration of the meaning of home and related midwestern themes. Key components include a Weekend Retreat in Greencastle, Community Read programs in 28 cities and towns and Campus Read grants to fund programs at Ball State, IUPUI, IUPUC in Columbus and the University of Indianapolis.

The events will culminate in October with a Back Home Again Tour by Thompson, with stops in Batesville, Kokomo and North Manchester. The author will talk about the New York Times bestseller and her career as an award-winning author, as well as field questions from the audience.

Thompson will be paired with a local moderator for a wide-ranging conversation at each of the stop. The free event in Batesville is Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 6 p.m., at RomWeber Party Place, 7 S. Eastern Ave. Persons may register at https://backhomeagainbatesville.eventbrite.com.

“We are excited to bring Jean Thompson and her book to Hoosiers across the state and further our discussion about how we experience urban and rural settings,” said Keira Amstutz, Indiana Humanities president and CEO. “Exploring this shared text is a special way to gain a deeper understanding of each other and discuss what home means to us.”

Hoosier readers will be able to take a deep dive into Thompson’s book March 27-28 at the Weekend Retreat at DePauw University’s Prindle Institute.

The retreat will begin Friday evening, March 27, with a keynote lecture, followed by a cocktail hour and dinner party inspired by the book. The next day will offer stimulating talks probing the literary and historical contexts of the novel, breakout book discussions and themed snacks and drinks.

Franklin College professor Jennifer Smith will kick off the retreat by discussing “What was, is and Will be Midwestern Literature.” Other talks and panels include “The Stories we Tell about Small Towns (and the Ones we Don’t),” “The Farm Crisis of the 1980s” and “The Future of Rural.”

Two ticket options are available at https://greencastleweekendretreat.eventbrite.com. A full ticket ($125) includes all activities and meals for both days. A Saturday-only ticket is $65. Lodging is available for an additional cost at the Inn at DePauw or the Holiday Inn Express in Cloverdale.

Throughout the year, events at schools, libraries and elsewhere will continue the exploration of Thompson’s novel, a National Book Award finalist that follows the Erickson family of small-town Iowa through the many changes affecting American life at the end of the 20th century. From city rooftops to country farms, college campuses to small-town main streets, the characters in Thompson’s novel search for the best place to build their futures.

Four Indiana colleges were awarded Campus Read grants to develop courses and programs about “The Year we Left Home” and its themes, including contemporary Midwestern identity.

Ball State University: English Department faculty will offer a two-part course called “Midwestern Stories,” which encourages students to investigate Midwestern identity through Thompson’s novel and a wide variety of other books, film, oral histories, advertisements and more. The courses will culminate in a public exhibition at Minnetrista in Muncie.

IUPUC (Columbus): A section of the reading, writing and inquiry course will be redesigned to encourage student engagement with the idea of the Midwest and what it means to be a Midwesterner today.

IUPUI (Indianapolis): Religious studies students will turn their attention to the religious history of the Midwest, including local indigenous religion, the history of European religions and their families’ religious history. Along the way, students will read Thompson’s book and other texts. They also will learn research methods and engage with new ways to share this information with the public.

University of Indianapolis: Faculty across several departments and a dozen courses will use Thompson’s novel to create a campus-wide conversation about Midwestern history, culture, politics, identity and more. Through local field trips and discussion, students will have the opportunity to talk across disciplines about the many different perspectives that make up our idea of the Midwest.

For more details on the Campus Read grants, go to https://indianahumanities.org/campus-reads-grants.

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