Best Books of Indiana: Nonfiction 2012
Winner: A Generation at War: The Civil War Era in a Northern Community, by Nicole Etcheson
Beginning with the ax murder of a young wife by her husband, and ending with the successful efforts of a Putnam County resident to promote the building of the Soldiers’ and Sailors” monument on the Circle in Indianapolis, Etcheson uses the personal stories of Putnam County, Indiana residents to present a picture of the social, political, and economic upheaval in a small northern community from the 1850’s to the end of the nineteenth century. Political maneuvering by Whigs, Republicans, Democrats, and Copperheads; racial tension directed at Irish and German immigrants as well as the fluctuating black population during the time period; and women who preferred to be dependent but suddenly had to rely upon themselves during and after the war are major themes in this history of change in Putnam County society during the war period. Etcheson’s research and documentation are impressive. Her book received the 2012 Avery O. Craven Award from The Organization of American Historians.
Finalist: A Home of Her Own, by Nancy R. Hiller & Kendall Reaves
A stunning book even if it were only a book of beautiful photographs of lovingly restored buildings; A Home of Her Own is much more. A woman who had given up her a home during World War II and found healing work afterward in restoring the shell of an 1828 rural house, a Chicago artist who left a traditional house that had become an empty nest to turn an industrial loft into a haven for herself and her art, and a child who fell in love with an 1891 Victorian house that she bought and renovated as an adult are just a few of the fascinating women who formed connections with their homes that were often more lasting than some of their human relationships. The majority of the houses in the book are located in Indiana, and some have considerable historical significance. This book also won the 2012 silver medal in the Home and Garden Category of the Independent Publishers Awards.
Finalist: Bean Blossom: The Brown Co. Jamboree & Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Festivals, by Thomas Adler
Bean Blossom, in Brown County, Indiana was a very isolated small town--the local highway unpaved until the mid-1930’s and electric service unavailable until 1936. Local music traditions thrived in Brown County, and radio created an appetite for live radio barn-dances that led to local and regional live shows. The Brown County Jamboree arose in Bean Blossom around 1939, featuring free shows and an open-air platform. Audience size was impressive, so promoters turned the shows into a moneymaker. From big top tent to an old barn, the venture grew, and was bought in 1952 by the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, who founded the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival in 1967. Adler’s book is a well-documented, enjoyable history of the place, the time, and the music.