I received this tweet the other day from a local friend:

As soon as I read through the list, and the author’s reasoning behind putting the list together, I knew I needed to add a link to the map to my Andrea Reads America resources. The article’s author, Kristen Iverson, explains about her book choices:

“All are literary in voice and spirit; every last one will let you understand a time and place in a more profound way than you maybe thought possible.”

I was particularly excited to see titles from my to-read list on there, along with some of my favorites that are usually edged out by other titles. I knew this list was for me when I saw the New Hampshire pick was not the obvious Hotel New Hampshire but the even better John Irving choice: A Prayer For Owen Meany.

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners mapped by US setting

I have a confession to make. A major motivator in my Andrea Reads America project is my ambition to read more Great American Literature. I’ve read Faulkner and Ellison and Steinbeck; I’ve read Cather and Walker and Lee; but Philip Roth – who’s he? John Updike? Never tried him. Toni Morrison? I want to read more of her work. As I work my way across the USA, reading three books set in each state, I aim to finally get to some of the big names that I might otherwise never read.¹

Map of Pulitzer winners and finalists set in each US state on andreareadsamerica.wordpress.com
Pulitzer Prize fiction winners and finalists set in specific US states
Map of National Book Award Fiction Winners set in each US state on andreareadsamerica.wordpress.com
National Book Award fiction winners set in specific US states

Following the lead of researchers Kidd and Costano, who published a recent paper in Science suggesting that reading literary fiction improves empathy, I turned to the Pulitzer and National Book Award lists to find examples of Great Literature. I compiled lists of winners and finalists, and based on blurbs, reviews, and Goodreads tags, I noted the setting of each book in my spreadsheet.² If the narrative was set primarily in a specific state within the United States of America – not in generic-town-USA, not overseas, but in a specific location within the US – I plotted it on the maps above.³ Books that are based mainly on a journey across states are, for the most part, not included.⁴ Full list of titles follows.⁵ ⁶

I am reading America: 3 books from each state in the US with the following authorships represented – women, men, and non-Caucasian writers. 


¹ No, I do not plan to read every book listed here. Are you crazy?

² If I am wrong on any of these, please correct me. In cases where I haven’t read the book (i.e. most of them. 88% in fact.), I cannot be sure how much of the narrative takes place in a particular setting. Also, the stars on the maps do not indicate specific cities or setting within a state, only that the book is set in the state. I’d be here forever if I scaled down to city level, and I’ve got reading to do.

³ The spread is fascinating, isn’t it? What’s up, Western States? Also, look how many Pulitzer winners are set in New York: NINE if you include finalists. The committee was hooked on Maine for a while there, too. And the state with the most National Book Awards? Illinois. What does it all mean, people?!

⁴ My personal familiarity with the books came into play here. Though the story travels from Texas to Montana, I included Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove for Texas, mainly because the point of view is clearly Texan, and because McMurtry evokes Texas so beautifully that the state becomes a character in the story. I wonder if John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath works similarly for Oklahoma, as it is told from the Okie perspective as Oklahomans journey west to California. I do not remember the book well enough to feel comfortable plotting it in either Oklahoma or California. If you have strong feelings on this, please let me know in the comments.

⁵ Pulitzer Fiction Winners and Finalists by state setting

AL – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1961)
AL – The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau (1965)
AK – The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (2013 finalist)
DC – Advise and Consent by Allen Drury (1960)
FL – Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens (1949)
FL – Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (2012 finalist)
GA – Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor (1956)
GA – The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1983)
IL – An Unfinished Season by Ward Just (2005 finalist)
IN – The Bright Forever by Lee Martin (2006 finalist)
IA – A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (1992)
LA – A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1981)
ME – Tinkers by Paul Harding (2010)
ME – Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (2009)
ME – Empire Falls by Richard Russo (2002)
MA – The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor (1962)
MI – Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2003)
MS – The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty (1973)
MS – The Reivers by William Faulkner (1963)
MO – The Way West by A. B. Guthrie (1950)
NE – The Echo Maker by Richard Powers (2007 finalist)
NJ – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2008)
NJ – American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1998)
NM – House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (1969)
NY – The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos (1990)
NY – Ironweed by William Kennedy (1984)
NY – The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever (1979)
NY – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (2001)
NY – Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser (1997)
NY – All Souls by Christine Schutt (2009 finalist)
NY – The Privileges by Jonathan Dee (2011 finalist)
NY – Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos (1996 finalist)
NY – At Weddings and Wakes by Alice McDermott (1993 finalist)
ND – The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (2009 finalist)
OH – The Town by Conrad Richter (1951)
OH – Beloved by Toni Morrison (1988)
OK – Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan (1991 finalist)
PA – The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1975)
TN – A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor (1987)
TN – A Death in the Family by James Agee (1958)
TX – Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (1986)
TX – Collected Stories by Katherine Anne Porter (1966)
UT – The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer (1980)
VA – The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2004)
VA – The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron (1968)
WY – Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx (2000 finalist)

⁶ National Book Award Winners by state setting

CA – In America by Susan Sontag (2000)
FL – Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (2008)
GA – Paris Trout by Pete Dexter (1988)
GA – The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1983)
HI – From Here to Eternity by James Jones (1952)
IL – The Man With the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren (1950)
IL – Herzog by Saul Bellow (1965)
IL – The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder (1968)
IL – So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell (1982)
LA – The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (1962)
LA – Victory Over Japan: A Book of Stories by Ellen Gilchrist (1984)
MA – The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever (1958)
MI – Them by Joyce Carol Oates (1970)
MN – Morte D’Urban by J. F. Powers (1963)
MS – Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (2011)
NE – Plains Song by Wright Morris (1981)
NE – The Echo Maker by Richard Powers (2006)
NJ – Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth (1960)
NY – The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud (1959)
NY – World’s Fair by E. L. Doctorow (1986)
NY – Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2009)
NC – Paco’s Story by Larry Heinemann (1987)
NC – Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1997)
ND – The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012)
PA – Ten North Frederick by John O’Hara (1956)
PA – The Centaur by John Updike (1964)
PA – Rabbit is Rich by John Updike (1982)
RI – Spartina by John Casey (1989)
WV – Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (2010)

If you’ve read any of these and have opinions on them, please let me know. I’ve read a few and thought Bah, what’s the big deal? while others have blown me away. I’m curious what your thoughts are. Thanks!

This was originally published February 3, 2014 on Andrea Badgley’s Butterfly Mind.

Authors of Color From Each US State – A Photo Gallery

I am looking for titles set in each US state by authors from that state. Can you help fill the gaps or notify me of egregious omissions? Scroll down for details on the project. Thank you!

One of the most challenging aspects of my Andrea Reads America project has been finding works of fiction set in each state written by non-Caucasian authors who are either from the state or have lived there as a resident. When I wrote about this difficulty in a previous post, Where are the ethnic authors?, several readers asked that I compile a list of the titles I have so far so that they could help fill in the gaps. (Thank you @LissGrunert and The Afro-Librarians for the suggestion. I’m holding you to your offer now.)

As of this posting date, March 12, 2014, I have found non-Caucasian authors from 38 states and the District of Columbia. I lack titles for the remaining 11:







New Hampshire

South Carolina


West Virginia


If you have favorite titles that meet the following criteria, please leave me a note in the comments below (or via Twitter at @andreabadgley) and I will add them to the list. If you know a title set in a specific state but do not know where the writer is from, don’t worry: please give me your titles anyway and I’ll research the author’s background. All genres are welcome:

  • Non-Caucasian author (African-American, Asian American, Latino, Native American, Indian American, etc.)
  • Narrative set in a specific US state
  • Author born in or has lived in the state in which the title is set OR author writes about personal ancestors in the state

Thank you so much for your help, and here we go!


Train Whistle Guitar by Albert Murray

(completed: please see Andrea Reads America: Alabama for writeup)


Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival by Velma Wallis

(completed: please see Andrea Reads America: Alaska for writeup)


Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko

La Maravilla by Alfredo Véa, Jr.

(completed: please see Andrea Reads America: Arizona for writeup)


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Daisy: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Janis F. Kearney

Ark of Bones and Other Stories by Henry Dumas

(completed. Please see Andrea Reads America: Arkansas for writeup)


The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Lê Thi Diem Thúy

The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

(completed. Please see Andrea Reads America: California for writeup)


The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz by Manuel Ramos (added March 23, 2014)


The Narrows: A Novel by Ann Petry


I’m On My Way But Your Foot is On My Head by Bertice Berry

District of Columbia

Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


The Color Purple by Alice Walker


Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport

House of Thieves by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers by Lois-Ann Yamanaka


The Jailing of Cecelia Capture by Janet Campbell Hale


Native Son by Richard Wright

Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks



(no authors of color yet)


Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee


Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes


Blackberries, Blackberries by Crystal Wilkinson

Water Street by Crystal Wilkinson

Blacks in Appalachia, edited by William H. Turner (KY) and Edward Cabbell (WV)


Cane River by Lalita Tademy


(no authors of color yet)


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass



The Living is Easy by Dorothy West

The Wedding by Dorothy West


The Autobiography of Malcom X by Malcom X and Alex Haley

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson


The Birchbark House by Louse Erdrich


Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Black Boy by Richard Wright


(no authors of color yet)


Winter in the Blood by James Welch


(no authors of color yet)


(no authors of color yet)

New Hampshire

(no authors of color yet)

New Jersey

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

New Mexico

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

New York

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

Passing by Nella Larsen

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

North Carolina

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacob

North Dakota

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

The Round House by Louise Erdrich


Beloved by Toni Morrison


Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan


The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow

The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson


Buck: A Memoir by M.K. Asante

Rhode Island

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

South Carolina

(no authors of color yet)

South Dakota

From the Deep Woods to Civilization by Charles Eastman


Roots by Alex Haley


The Border is Burning by Ito Romo

Caballero by Jovita Gonzalez



(no authors of color yet)


See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid


The Known World by Edward P. Jones


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

West Virginia

(no authors of color yet)


Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr


(no authors of color yet)

Please pass this list around to any readers you know so we can fill it in and provide a resource for folks who’d like to diversify their reading. Thank you!

This was originally published January 13, 2014 on Andrea Badgley’s Butterfly Mind.