The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Poetic Documentary of the Plains

These travelers are in the Loup Valley of Nebraska, 1886. Image in the public domain

My Ántonia is a gorgeous book, but it's a tough book and that's part of what makes it so gripping. In the novel [wee spoiler alert!], Ántonia’s father is overcome with anxiety and depression as he struggles to make a place for his family in this new country. Ultimately unable to cope with these mounting pressures, Mr. Shimerda takes his own life. Nebraskan natives Kurt Andersen (host of Studio 360) and Ted Kooser (former U.S. Poet Laureate) weigh in on this accurate depiction of prairie living by the great Willa Cather. Following the commentary is an exquisite reading by cultural figure and poet, Garrison Keillor.

[audio:http://bigreadblog.arts.gov//audio/KooserSuicide.mp3]

[transcript]

To hear the entire My Ántonia audio doc, please go to the Big Read website.

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