2020 Statewide Read Invites Hoosiers to Explore Jean Thompson’s ‘The Year We Left Home’

(INDIANAPOLIS) – More than 30 Indiana communities from Crown Point to Jeffersonville will host events in 2020 as part of a statewide read powered by Indiana Humanities.

This year, the organization’s One State / One Story program is encouraging Hoosiers to read Jean Thompson’s “The Year We Left Home.” The book was selected to help explore themes related to Indiana Humanities’ INseparable initiative, which urges Hoosiers to examine real and perceived differences along urban, suburban and rural divides.

In the coming months, activities across the state will focus on Thompson’s novel, its exploration of the meaning of home and related midwestern themes. Key components include a Weekend Retreat in Greencastle, Community Read programs in 28 cities and towns and Campus Read grants to fund programs at Ball State, IUPUI, IUPUC in Columbus and the University of Indianapolis.

The events will culminate in October with a “Back Home Again Tour” by Thompson, with stops in Batesville, Kokomo and North Manchester. The author will talk about the New York Times bestseller and her career as an award-winning author, as well as field questions from the audience.

“We are excited to bring Jean Thompson and her book to Hoosiers across the state and further our discussion about how we experience urban and rural settings,” said Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities. “Exploring this shared text is a special way to gain a deeper understanding of each other and discuss what home means to us.”

Hoosier readers will be able to take a deep dive into Thompson’s book on March 27 and 28 at the Weekend Retreat at DePauw University’s Prindle Institute.

The retreat will begin Friday evening, March 27, with a keynote lecture, followed by a cocktail hour and dinner party inspired by the book. The next day will offer stimulating talks probing the literary and historical contexts of the novel, breakout book discussions, and themed snacks and drinks.

Franklin College professor Jennifer Smith will kick off the retreat by discussing “What Was, Is, and Will Be Midwestern Literature.” Other talks and panels include “The Stories We Tell about Small Towns (And the Ones We Don’t),” “The Farm Crisis of the 1980s” and “The Future of Rural.”

Two ticket options for the retreat are available at https://greencastleweekendretreat.eventbrite.com. A full ticket ($125) includes all activities and meals for both days. A Saturday-only ticket is $65. Lodging is available for an additional cost at the Inn at DePauw or the Holiday Inn Express in Cloverdale.

Throughout the year, events at schools, libraries and elsewhere will continue the exploration of Thompson’s novel, a National Book Award finalist that follows the Erickson family of small-town Iowa through the many changes affecting American life at the end of the 20th century. From city rooftops to country farms, college campuses to small-town main streets, the characters in Thompson’s novel search for the best place to build their futures.

Here are more details on the One State / One Story programs that will focus on the book this year:


The following 28 organizations have been awarded Community Read grants to implement a series of three or more programs about the book. Details about the dates and times of these events will be announced later by the local hosts and at www.indianahumanities.org.                                  

  • Bartholomew County Public Library, Columbus
  • Batesville Memorial Public Library
  • Bloomington High School North
  • Crown Point Community Library
  • Eckhart Public Library, Auburn
  • Flora Public Library and Delphi Public Library, Flora
  • Floyd County Public Library, New Albany
  • Fulton County Public Library, Rochester
  • Indiana Writers Center, Indianapolis
  • Irvington Historical Society, Indianapolis
  • Jeffersonville Township Public Library, Jeffersonville
  • Kendallville Public Library
  • Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, Kokomo
  • Kosciusko Literacy Services, Inc., Warsaw
  • La Porte County Public Library, La Porte
  • Manchester University, North Manchester
  • Marion Public Library, Marion
  • Osgood Public Library
  • Porter County Public Library System, Valparaiso
  • Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy, Vincennes
  • Roann Paw Paw Township Public Library, Roann
  • Rush County Community Foundation, Rushville
  • Switzerland County Public Library, Vevay
  • Tipton County Library, Tipton
  • Tyson Library Association, Inc., Versailles
  • Wabash County Historical Museum, Wabash
  • Wakarusa Public Library
  • Wells County Public Library, Bluffton


Four Indiana colleges were awarded Campus Read grants to develop courses and programs about The Year We Left Home and its themes, including contemporary midwestern identity.

  • Ball State University (Muncie): English Department faculty will offer a two-part course called “Midwestern Stories,” which encourages students to investigate midwestern identity through Thompson’s novel and a wide variety of other books, film, oral histories, advertisements and more. The courses will culminate in a public exhibition at Minnetrista in Muncie.
  • IUPUC (Columbus): A section of the Reading, Writing and Inquiry course will be re-designed to encourage student engagement with the idea of the Midwest and what it means to be a Midwesterner today.
  • IUPUI (Indianapolis): Religious studies students will turn their attention to the religious history of the Midwest, including local indigenous religion, the history of European religions and their families’ religious history. Along the way, students will read Thompson’s book and other texts. They also will learn research methods and engage with new ways to share this information with the public.
  • University of Indianapolis (Indianapolis): Faculty across several departments and a dozen courses will use Thompson’s novel to create a campus-wide conversation about midwestern history, culture, politics, identity and more. Through local field trips and discussion, students will have the opportunity to talk across disciplines about the many different perspectives that make up our idea of the Midwest.

For more details on the Campus Read grants, go to https://indianahumanities.org/campus-reads-grants


Author Jean Thompson will be paired with a local moderator for a wide-ranging conversation at each of the stops on her “Back Home Again Tour.” The free events will be in:

About Indiana Humanities 

Indiana Humanities connects people, opens minds and enriches lives by creating and facilitating programs that encourage Hoosiers to think, read and talk. Learn more at www.IndianaHumanities.org.  

About One State / One Story

One State / One Story invites Hoosiers to engage deeply with a book as part of a statewide conversation tied to Indiana Humanities’ current theme, INseparable. In 2020, we’re reading Jean Thompson’s “The Year We Left Home.”

About INseparable 

INseparable is a two-year Indiana Humanities initiative that invites Hoosiers to explore how we relate to each other across boundaries, real or imagined, and consider what it will take to indeed be inseparable, in all the ways that matter.  Learn more at www.IndianaHumanities.org/inseparable.