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Willa Cather's classic novel was ahead of its time and also very much of its time

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For the November meeting of the Talk of Iowa Book Club, host Charity Nebbe and her guests have been reading "My Antonia" by Willa Cather. Published in 1918, it tells the story of Antonia Shimmerda, the daughter of Bohemian, or Czech, immigrants to the United States. The family moves into a sod house on a farm outside of Red Cloud, Nebraska where they struggle to survive.

We follow Antonia through her childhood on the farm, working as a hired girl in town, and later as a wife and mother. We see Antonia through the memories and eyes of a childhood friend, Jim Burden, who grew up to be a railroad lawyer.

The book is full of descriptions of the Nebraska plains, prairie being transformed into farmland, observations of the immigrant families that were drawn to the area, and the prejudices and class differences at play in these small towns.

Interested in joining the next meeting of the Talk of Iowa Book Club? Our December selection is "The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan. Join the discussion December 21. You can also chat about book club selections and other literary interests with Charity and hundreds of other readers in the Talk of Iowa Book Club Facebook Group.

Guests:

  • Cecilia Rokusek, Director and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids
  • Melissa Homestead, Professor of English at the University of Nebraska and director of the Cather Project 
  • Leo Landis, State Curator, State Historical Society of Iowa 
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Matthew is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Rick Brewer is a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River