Amy Artisan

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In the Neighborhood

Books (especially fiction) are often viewed as an escape from our surroundings into another world. However, sometimes the books that you read are set in your city, your neighborhood, your familiarity. These can be fun reads as well – allowing you to look at something familiar through a new light. I’m currently reading a book that is set in my neighborhood – it got me thinking about some of of the other neighborhood reads that I’ve enjoyed throughout the years. Let’s take  a stroll through the neighborhoods…

 Fayetteville Mural

(Mural Photo from here)

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – I read this my freshman year of high school when we still lived in Kansas. Not too long afterwards Mom & Dad took us to a special showing of the film adaptation in the movie theater. Within 2 months Dad came home from work one evening and announced that we would be moving to Georgia – at which point he started humming the Tara theme from the movie. It turns out that we moved right to heart of GWTW country when we moved to the ‘Ville.  We were right around the corner from Lovejoy & the mythical Tara was practically in our back yard. This story came full circle in high school when our marching band show my senior year included Tara’s Theme as a selection.

Mercer's Administration Building

Whisper of the River by Ferrol Sams – As a freshman preparing to start at Mercer Univeristy this was required reading. This is the 2nd in a trilogy of books about a small town Georgia boy and his adventures through college and medical school. The school is a fictional representation of Mercer University – so reading about the exploits of Porter Osborne is like being on the campus decades ago. As I became involved on campus I learned more & more about which fictional item corresponded to which reality of campus. It was a rite of passage to climb the rickety ladder in the attic of the administration building to view the city from the tall spires. My sophomore and junior years I was an orientation assistant and always enjoyed the book discussions with the new students. The main character, Porter Osborne, is based on the author – who actually is from the ‘Ville – in fact, the high school auditorium was the Ferrol Sams auditorium and his wife was my doctor in high school.

Chicago Skyline

Many books are set in Chicago. Among the recent (last couple of years) Chicago reads that were very familiar: Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is filled with the sites and sounds of Chicago that I encounter on a regular basis. Early in the book the main characters eat at their favorite sushi restaurant which is practially around the corner from my house – one of these days I will check it out. Set in the late 70s into the 80s, Crossing California by Adam Langer sheds some light on what my neighborhood was like years ago – many of the frequently visited locations in the book are still here – the high school, the hot dog stand, etc. The Yada Yada Prayer Group series by Neta Jackson is set here on the Northside of Chicago within the last couple of years so the referenced restaurants, shops, etc. are places that I have been to or driven by often and the characters in the stories seem like women I could meet at my church.

What in the neighborhood books have you read?


  1. Very cool! Stephen King lived in my town for a short time when he was younger, and I’ve been able to pick out some familiar locations in some of his books. And as I die-hard GWTW fan, all I can say is WOW!!

  2. What a great tour through literature. It sure gives you a special connection when you know the locale.

  3. I love reading books that take me to a different place–I am an armchair traveler. But it is also wonderful to read books that give me insight into places that I know and love. Chicago is one of my favorite places, and it is great fun to encounter places I’ve visited.

  4. Ordinary People is set in the town I grew up in. It was also filmed there. What I remember most was the film was edited so that the actor who was actually walking west and then east looked like he continuing in the same direction. Only someone familiar with the area would pick up on it.

  5. Wow, that mural is amazing! Cool photo!
    Sandra Evertson

  6. I live in the same neighbourhood as the swedish author/music reporter Annika Sundbaum Melin and a couple of years ago she wrote a “diary book” about herself and her life as a single gal (in her late 30s) in my suburbian town. (Bridget Jones in her late 30s, and still haven’t found what she looking for).

  7. Boede and Brock Thoene wrote a series entitled The Shiloh Legacy that had one major story line set in Akron, Ohio during the 1930s. The family lived in the neighborhood where I grew up and I felt like I was walking down the sidewalk and crossing the street with them. Many days I heard the blast of the factory whistle.

    Last year we were back in Akron for the first time in several decades and it was sad to see that for the most part those neighborhoods were no longer there. Not only were the houses and apartments either run down or torn down, but the schools and churches were gone too.

    It is nice to know that the charm of south Akron was captured in these books.

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