For bicentennial book read, discover Indiana’s roots

In keeping with the area’s celebration of the state bicentennial, the Community Book Read — returning after a year’s absence — will feature a wealth of Indiana history.

The book for adults is author James H. Madison’s “Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana,” published in 2014 by Indiana University Press and Indiana Historical Society Press.

The Bartholomew County Public Library has 10 to 12 copies available for checkout. It also has 80 free copies to give to local readers and share with others, said Mary Clare Speckner, community services coordinator at the library and also a member of the Community Book Read committee.

“Hoosiers” writer Madison, who lives in Bloomington, will highlight Hoosier links between past and present in a talk at 6:30 Oct. 18 at the library’s Red Room.

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“Generally, it’s pretty important to have the author of the book here if we can get them,” Speckner said.

Of his book, she said: “It’s history that’s fun — and a different way to look at Indiana.”

Ripley County used Madison’s volume for community discussions last year, Speckner said.

The author, a Pennsylvania native and now a retired Indiana University history professor, moved to Indiana for graduate school and eventually made the study of Indiana history an academic specialty, along with scholarship of World War II, IU officials said. He initially set out to revise his 1986 state history, “The Indiana Way,” in advance of the 2016 bicentennial celebration. But he soon realized more than a simple update would be required.

One area where that’s the case involves the Civil War, according to the book’s promotional material. “Hoosiers” describes the bitter fights in Indiana over the war and the draft, with Gov. Oliver Morton forcefully backing President Abraham Lincoln and a large pro-slavery element fiercely resisting.

“In the crucible of war,” Madison writes in the book, “the outward harmony of the first few months gave way to the bitterest and most violent political battles in Indiana’s history. … Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation unleashed fiery outrage.”

The Community Book Read began in October 2005 with Hoosier author James Alexander Thom’s “Follow the River.”

Other free Book Read events this fall, stretching through October, feature discussions, portrayal of historical figures, a look at the state’s musical legacy, and a recollection of comic and Hoosier native Red Skelton and an examination of noted pilot Amelia Earheart’s time at Purdue University.

Kidscommons is coordinating a variety of book read events for youngsters, Speckner said.

Event highlights of the Community Book Read

Here’s a look at some of the early events linked to the Community Book Read:

  • The Charm, the Harm, and the Daring of Dillinger, Butler University professor Sally Perkins, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bartholomew County Public Library. The program highlights authorities’ 14-month chase of Dillinger throughout Indiana in the 1920s.
  • Indiana’s First Lady, Ann Gilmore Hay Jennings portrayed by Lori Roberts, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Bartholomew County Public Library.
  • Discussion of the book, “IN Writing: Uncovering the Unexpected Hoosier State,” by The Republic columnist and former Associate Editor Harry McCawley, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20, Bartholomew County Public Library. In this book of collected essays, one of them focuses on Columbus and its architecture.
  • Amelia Earhart: Her Indiana Connections, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 28, Bartholomew County Public Library, by Indiana writer John Norberg, examining the pilot’s time at Purdue University.
  • Red Skelton: Good Night and May God Bless, by writer and actress Stephanie Holman, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3, Bartholomew County Public Library. Holman tells Shelton’s story through the women in his life.

Books for the Community Book Read

  • “Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana,” by Hoosier author James H. Madison, for adults.
  • “Raindrops Roll,” by Hoosier author April Pulley Sayre for students in kindergarten through grade 2.
  • “Sidekicked” by Hoosier author John David Anderson for students in grades 4-7.
  • “Positive: Surviving My Bullies, Finding Hope, and Living to Change the World,” by Hoosier author Paige Rawl for students in grades 7 and higher.
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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.