Harper Lee, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway… These iconic names are among the luminaries hailing from the United States. However, more locally, each state has produced their own homegrown authors who have left an indelible mark on literature with their diverse and significant contributions. A survey of 3,000 respondents by StoicQuotes.com shed light on each state’s most cherished authors, revealing some intriguing outcomes.
Consider Alabama. While many might presume Harper Lee, famed for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” to be the state’s favored author, it was Helen Keller who garnered the majority of votes. Born in Tuscumbia in 1880, Keller’s youth was overshadowed by an illness rendering her blind and deaf. Yet, under Anne Sullivan’s unwavering mentorship, Keller transcended her adversities, evolving into a revered author and speaker. Throughout her journey, Keller held a profound affection for Alabama, often alluding to it as her treasured homeland.
In a similar vein, despite F. Scott Fitzgerald penning “The Great Gatsby,” wasn’t New Yorkers’ top literary pick. That honor belonged to James Baldwin, renowned for “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” This 1953 semi-autobiographical novel delves into intricate subjects like religion, race, and family dynamics, portraying the life of John Grimes, a young African American boy navigating his identity amidst a religious upbringing in Harlem.
New Hampshire’s choice too was unexpected. J.D. Salinger, celebrated for ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, was surpassed by Grace Metalious. Born in 1924, Metalious gained acclaim for “Peyton Place,” a 1956 novel that boldly tackled taboo topics, juxtaposing them against the backdrop of a seemingly quaint New Hampshire town.
However, some states made more predictable choices. Nutmeggers, for example, championed Mark Twain and his “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Mississippi residents honored Tennessee Williams, the eminent playwright best known for “A Streetcar Named Desire.” And Ernest Hemingway, whose “The Old Man and the Sea” clinched the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and paved the way for his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, was the unanimous choice for both Idaho and Florida.
Pearl S. Buck emerged as West Virginia’s favorite author. The renowned author best known for her novel “The Good Earth” which won the Pulitzer Prize, held a special connection to West Virginia. Born in Hillsboro in 1892, at 4 months old she moved with her missionary parents to China. Although much of her adult life and literary career was shaped by her experiences in China, her West Virginian roots grounded her American identity. The juxtaposition of these two cultures, the American Appalachia of her birth and the Chinese landscapes of her upbringing, endowed Buck with a unique perspective on cultural intersections and human universality.
West Virginians’ second choice was Breece D’J Pancake, followed by Louise McNeill (3rd).