My neighbors, co-workers, elected officials, acquaintances and friends are introduced on the pages of two newly published Indiana Historical Society Press books. The literary works of Indiana’s 19th and 20th century Hoosier authors who are featured in the newly installed Fourth Four Gallery at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick History Center, are on bookshelves at my house.
I feel intimately connected with these books and exhibits.
“Hoosier Latinos: A Century of Struggle, Service, and Success” and “Asian American Voices in Indiana,” both edited by Nicole Martinez-LeGrand and Daniel Gonzales, started as exhibits at the History Center, and then traveled throughout Indiana and were part of the History Train at the Indiana State Fair. I remember reading the panels, paying attention to how everyone sought to fit in as valued citizens. However, after having read and reviewed the also recently published “Indiana’s African American Heritage” volume edited by Wilma Gibbs Moore, these two new books required closer attention. They are more than a retelling of the exhibits between covers. They are opportunities to grow ‘up close and personal’ as we like to think in the vernacular.
Within these pages of transcribed and edited oral histories, people I know are sharing something deeper than what has been exchanged via friendships. Nancy Nakano Conner has been my Indiana Humanities colleague for over three decades. She has taken her place in service to us all. Once again, she makes me sit up and feel something deeper as I read: “To be an Asian American is to be both an Asian and an American and to be neither an Asian nor an American.”
One has to keep reading to feel all the aspects of this equation. A physical attribute is something distinctive. How we react says something about us personally. Are we the people who paid admission to observe “The Chinese Lady” pour tea as part of a 19th century entertainment? The Indiana Repertory Theatre recently brought us into the life of that time in the intimacy of their Upperstage.
As a child growing up in New York, being distinctive seemed natural. Eye shape was right in league with red hair and green eyes. What’s the big deal? And then came the bombing of Pearl Harbor. If I thought my child-world turned topsy-turvy, my mother reminded me not to fall into a trap of being judgmental. People come from all over the Pacific, I was reminded. They are here in America for the same reasons you are here; to have opportunity.
Our Asian American communities are ’in the news’ as I type this. It’s not good news. The terminology now describes our situation as ‘Domestic Violent Extremism’. It’s a public health issue being passed along via social media, cites the news anchor on the television newscast. People of all ages are impacted by fear, explains the guest health care professional. The news anchor rhetorically probes, ‘Who feeds this fear into the minds of ordinary citizens? For what purpose?’ We’re left to ponder on our own.
“Asian American Voices in Indiana” opens with a map created by J. Bruce Jones. We are introduced to five groupings, representing fifty distinct nations and ethnicities stretching across the Pacific Ocean. Nancy Conner, in her opening essay, also introduces us to a short list of renowned individuals within eight groupings, starting with “AsianIndian Americans” and Vice President Kamala Harris. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., president of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana is named in the concluding “West Asian/Middle Eastern American” citation. In between, attention is drawn to “Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Korean Americans, Southeast Asian Americans and Central Asian Americans.”
I tick off people in Indiana I know from different walks of life who represent this array. K.P. Singh shares a story about October 2, 1967, his first work day in Indianapolis. In the afternoon, his attention was drawn to the “Did You Notice” column in “The Indianapolis News,” asking: “Did you see a turbaned and a bearded man looking every bit like a maharajah, reviewing a children’s book exhibit in the city-county building at seven-thirty in the morning?”
“I realized something that can be interpreted as a negative thing, [can be an] opportunity to learn, opportunity to teach, opportunity to share,” reflects K. P. Singh, on page 46.
Book in hand, I walk over to K. P. Singh's work of art I stop at every morning on the way to the kitchen from my bedroom. The inscription, in K. P. Singh’s impeccable calligraphy beneath the dozen-plus facade renderings of worldwide “Cathedrals of Spirit,” reads, “…with a boundless mind should one cherish all living beings; radiating from friendliness over the entire world, above, below and all around without limit.” The attribution is to the Metta-Sutta, 'a place of peace' within the Buddhist tradition.
“Indiana Historical Society Initiative Addresses Neglect of Hoosier Latino History” acknowledges page one of “Hoosier Latinos: A Century of Struggle, Service, and Success.” The front page map introduces me to the western expanse of the people of the South Pacific Ocean and to the South Atlantic Ocean. One can sail on the ocean or trek overland from places to the East or to the South of the USA that spreads between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Studying the map of Latin America rendered by Bruce Jones, it’s an intimidating foot journey from the southernmost tips of Chile and Argentina to the borders between Mexico and the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico separate Latin America from southeast Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and northward.
The four chapters take me across a century of upward momentum within the stories of a mix of heritages. It’s not without pain that the better parts of ourselves, as welcoming all, has transpired. Alongside this splendid book edited by Martinez-LeGrand and Gonzales, read another Indiana author’s understanding of what it has meant to be a migrant worker on the farms of northern Indiana. Larry Sweazy’s “The Devil’s Bones,” shows us how a community can grow hatred and learn its consequences. Sometimes a novel has the ability to tell truthfulness, heal wounds that are not palatable in straightforward history.
In her introductory essay, Sujey Vega asks hard questions; “Will Americans continue to divide and diminish the worth of others in increasingly dysfunctional battles for belonging? Or will we look to our neighbors and see how our wellbeing, our economy, and our success depends on what we can contribute to each other?”
I was at page 48, rereading the founding of the La Cuauhtemoc Theatre because Mexicans were not allowed to go to the two movie houses already operating in northern Indiana, when my computer pinged with a news release from The District Theatre, calling for scripts by ‘underserved playwrights.”
Hope is such a nice word, I emailed Pauline Moffat, who will be energizing this newest initiative. Speak the word ‘hope’ out loud—feel the smile energize your face and shimmer throughout your body. ‘Hope’—; it’s what brought my parents to ‘America’; along with the subjects of these new books.
We experience journeying best when maps are at hand. I’ve pulled out my atlas to trace routes. It’s daunting and heroic. What lures a family, an individual, to leave an old home for a new home? It’s as much my personal story as it is the stories of the people on the pages of these books, whose connections with Indiana go back much farther in time than I do. Over my forty years as a Hoosier, I’ve connected with many of the people whose voices and images are in both books. I’ve worked with Indianapolis City-County council member Zach Adamson to bring live theatre into diverse neighborhoods, and to invite diverse audiences to already extant spaces. He is part of the legendary Carmen Velasquez family, whose work with the migrant farmworkers of Grant County Indiana is a prototype of effective community service.
“If you want to read the perfect book there is only one way: write it,” advised Ambrose Bierce, who grew up in Kosciusko County, Indiana. His ancestors emigrated to North America as part of the Great Puritan Migration of 1620-1640. His family’s story is as intriguing as are his notable books, a trove of short stories and verse that are part of the Realism literary movement, and his wide reaching journalism career marked by biting satire. He was born June 24, 1842, and sometime around 1914 he disappeared in Mexico. He served with distinction in the Civil War and went on to garner accolades for his influence on literary criticism. You readily can find his books, films and plays based on his books and short fiction, and biographies that share his heroic deeds. His influence on younger writers remains across genres.
“Indiana’s Golden Age of Literature: 1880-1920” circles the Fourth Floor Gallery. Along with Bierce, I spent an afternoon communing with Emma Lou Thornbrough, Etheridge Knight, Evaleen Stein, Norman Bridwell, Theodore Dreiser, Edward Eggleston, Mari Evans, Susan Wallace, Joaquin Miller, Juliet Virginia Strauss, Mary Ritter Beard and Ernie Pyle. Plan an extended visit here, and then head down to the History Market to continue this literary journey into the 21st century.
For more information about exhibits and other IHS events, call (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org
January 28, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Indiana Historical Society (IHS) celebrates “Eva Education Day” in Indiana, an annual day of recognition honoring Eva Mozes Kor, Indiana’s most prominent Holocaust survivor, who was 10 years old when her family was taken to Auschwitz. The educational version of the documentary can be found and watched https://www.wfyi.org/programs/eva/television/eva-a-7063---educational-version
Learn more here:
See: Ben Baumann, “A Guide to Conducting Successful Oral History Interviews,” Indiana History Blog, January 23, 2023, accessed https://blog.history.in.gov/a-guide-to-conducting-successful-oral-history-interviews/.
February 4, the 27th annual Art & Soul Festival kicks off at Gallery 924. Information for all events here: https://indyarts.org/about/art-soul #ArtSoulIndy #IndyArts
February 11, the Indiana State Museum with Arte Mexicano En Indiana, kicks off the Artist Mentorship Program led by artist Daniel Del Real. Interested artists who identify as Latino can email Marisa Zambrano at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about the INhumanities statewide Indiana Authors programming and awards here: https://www.indianaauthorsawards.org/about-indiana-authors-awards/news/?mc_cid=545e25a4e5&mc_eid=0a0475e1ab
February 15, at 6:00-7:30 p.m., attend the free “In conversation with A’Lelia Bundles" at Hine Hall Auditorium-IUPUI, at 658-598 Blake Street, Indianapolis, 46202. Award winning journalist and Madam C.J. Walker biographer A’Lelia Bundles is the inaugural Prestigious Fellow at the Center for Africana Studies and Culture in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Bundles will be joined by special guests Justin Garret Moore, Program Officer for the Mellon Foundation and Indianapolis native, Lourenzo Giple, Deputy Director of Planning, Preservation, & Urban Design for the city of Indianapolis and Dr. Olon Dotson, Indianapolis native and Chair of Architecture at Ball State University and member of the Board of Directors at Indiana Landmarks, to discuss the complexities of displacement and development in historically Black Indianapolis neighborhoods and the strategies for future development and heritage preservation.
April 7 is the submission deadline to the DNR Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology’s annual preservation photo contest. For complete rules and guidelines and for the required entry form, see on.IN.gov/preservationmonth.
The contest has been held since 2005 to promote Indiana’s historic resources. It is open to photographers of any age and skill level.
June 1, is the submission deadline for the IU Kokomo Art Gallery Native American fine art and crafts Exhibition from Native American artists residing in the Midwest, including Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota. “Questions should be directed to email@example.com with subject line “Native American Art and Crafts.”
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