Connecting with Willa Cather

Growing up in south central Nebraska, it is standard curriculum to read the works of one of our most notable authors, Willa Cather. She did, in fact, spend her childhood only a few miles from my hometown, Bertrand.

My Antonia was the first book that I read. And (I hate to admit it) I was bored.  I mean, I could step outside my house and see what Cather was describing. It wasn’t until I lived in Chicago for a few years that I picked up the book again. I missed my family in Nebraska and life on a farm. I wanted to re-connect.

Reading My Antonia was like stepping back into my family farm. Willa Cather had captured the prairie and I am in love with her writing. Here’s a excerpt from her book:

Alone, I should never have found the garden–except, perhaps, for the big yellow pumpkins that lay about unprotected by their withering vines–and I felt very little interest in it when I got there. I wanted to walk straight on through the red grass and over the edge of the world, which could not be very far away. The light air about me told me that the world ended here: only the ground and sun and sky were left, and if one went a little farther there would be only sun and sky, and one would float off into them, like the tawny hawks which sailed over our heads making slow shadows on the grass. While grandmother took the pitchfork we found standing in one of the rows and dug potatoes, while I picked them up out of the soft brown earth and put them into the bag, I kept looking up at the hawks that were doing what I might so easily do. -My Antonia

I’m on my fifth book by Cather and I plan to read all of her works. Perhaps someday I will attend the annual Willa Cather conference. The 57th annual spring conference is happening this weekend in Red Cloud, Nebraska.

How about you? Which author best captures your hometown?

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