20190316_180855.jpgWelcome to my stop on the Scenes from the Heartland blog tour sponsored by Suzy Approved Book Tours! Thank you to Suzy for the invitation!

About the Book:

When a contemporary writer turns her imagination loose inside the images of an iconic artist of the past, the result is storytelling magic at its best. Here are nine tales that bring to vivid life the early decades of the 20th century as witnessed by one of America’s most well-known painters. Thomas Hart Benton sketched fiddlers and farm wives, preachers and soldiers, folks gathering in dance halls and tent meetings. Though his lithographs depict the past, the real-life people he portrayed face issues that are front and center today: corruption, women’s rights, racial inequality.

In these stories we enter the imagined lives of Midwesterners in the late 1930s and early 1940s. A mysterious woman dancing to fiddle music makes one small gesture of kindness that helps heal the rift of racial tensions in her small town. A man leaves his childhood home after a tragic accident and becomes involved with the big-time gamblers who have made Hot Springs, Arkansas, their summer playground. After watching her mother being sent to an insane asylum simply for grieving over a miscarriage, a girl determines to never let any man have any say over her body.

Then as now, Americans have struggled with poverty, illness, and betrayal. These fictions reveal our fellow countrymen and women living with grace and strong leanings toward virtue, despite the troubles that face them. (less)

My Thoughts:

Donna Baier Stein has written nine short stories in Scenes from the Heartland. Each story is inspired by a lithograph painted by Thomas Hart Benton in the early twentieth century. Each painting depicts everyday life at the time with dancing, music, and gatherings. 

Baier Stein’s stories add life to the paintings, and the lives behind the depictions are portrayed in sparse, but powerful, prose. The characters are confronting issues still prevalent today, including racism and women’s rights. 

I found the stories to be complex and bravely told. Anyone who is a fan of artwork from this time period would likely be fascinated with these depictions. I love the fact that Baier Stein tackled this because I’ve often looked at paintings and wondered the story or inspiration behind it. In this case, she has written it for us. Overall, these are strong and realistic stories I enjoyed reading. 

I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own. 

About the Author:

My novel The Silver Baron’s Wife launched September 2016 as a #1 New Release Bestseller in Biographical Fiction on Amazon. It was a Bronze Winner in ForeWord Reviews Best Book of the Year, a Will Rogers Medallion Award and Paterson Prize for Fiction Finalist, and more. An early draft of this novel won the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Unpublished Fiction. I am also the author of the short story collection Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award Finalist and 2015 IndieBook Awards Finalist), Sometimes You Sense the Difference (a 2012 poetry chapbook from Finishing Line Press). I also founded and publish a multi-faith literary journal called Tiferet Journal.

My stories and poems have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Confrontation, Prairie Schooner, New York Quarterly, Washingtonian, New Ohio Review, Ascent, Puerto del Sol, and many other journals as well as in the anthologies I’ve Always Meant to Tell You (Pocket Books), To Fathers: What I’ve Never Said (featured in O Magazine), Men and Women: Together and Alone from Spirit That Moves Us Press.

I received a Fellowship from The Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, a Scholarship from Bread Loaf Writers Conference, two awards from the Poetry Societies of Virginia and New Hampshire, a 2015 Third Prize and 2013 Honorable Mention from the Allen E. Ginsberg Poetry Awards, First Prizes in Fiction from Kansas Quarterly and Florida Review, and a 2012 Scholarship from the Summer Literary Seminars in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Before founding Tiferet Journal, I was a founding Editor of Bellevue Literary Review.

I am very grateful for the Fellowship I received from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in 2005. That Fellowship also directly led to another highlight in my writing life: seeing the story I had submitted with my Fellowship application performed by Tony-award winning actress Maryann Plunkett at the Playwrights Theatre in Madison, NJ.

My work has received three Pushcart nominations.

For many years, I also worked as a freelance direct mail copywriter, working primarily for environmental groups and membership organizations like World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Smithsonian, and more. During those years, I published two nonfiction books on copywriting with McGraw-Hill and Thomson Publishing Group.

Have you read Scenes from the Heartland, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR