Anna Keesey, associate professor of English, chats with audience members and signs books after her reading Sept. 13 in Nicholson Library.
Kate Straube/Photo editor
Students, faculty and locals gathered to hear Anna Keesey, associate professor of English, read excerpts from her debut novel “Little Century” on Sept. 13 at Nicholson Library.
“Little Century” has been highly praised. It has been recognized by Vogue, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Los Angeles Times, among others, as well as featured on Oprah’s Top 16 Best Books for June.
“Keesey portrays her men and women as deeply flawed but so achingly vulnerable that it is impossible not to identify with them,” said Liza Nelson, reviewer of “O: The Oprah Magazine.”
Set in 1900s Central Oregon, “Little Century” tells the coming-of-age story of 18-year-old Esther Chambers, a city girl from Chicago who, after her mother’s death, travels to Oregon in search of a homestead.
The novel follows young Chambers and her struggles to make do in an Oregon different than the one she expects, or what Keesey calls, “Esther’s fiction Oregon.”
In her reading, Keesey revealed stories of vigilantism and power and resource conflicts, which Keesey said, “are sadly similar to the number of geo-political conflicts that would follow in 1900.”
Keesey’s second excerpt detailed young Chambers witnessing a dramatic sheep killing by vigilantes, which was common in 20th century Oregon.
This was one of the things I was interested in,” Keesey said, ”what kinds of people and under what circumstances brought people to drive sheep off cliffs. I wanted to figure it out.”
After readings that the audience described as dramatic and exciting, Keesey answered questions about the novel and her experiences throughout the publication process.
Additionally, Keesey talked personally with members of the audience and signed copies of “Little Century” that were on sale.
“I have to know what happens next,” freshman Joanna Buchholz said.
Many of Keesey’s students were present at the reading.
“I’m looking forward to it because she wrote it,” senior Emily Shults said.
“I came because I was interested in seeing what a Linfield professor had written,” freshman Jana Purington said.
Aside from the adventure of the coming-of-age story, Keesey noted educational purposes as well.
“Reading books that take you into other places…it teaches you political and environmental history, but also the persistence of human nature,” Keesey said. “It’s important to read fiction because it sharpens the mind, but I think this is one of the examples of the kinds of episodes of history that become hidden from us over time.”
A graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop with a master of fine arts, Keesey teaches English and creative writing at Linfield.
She received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship and her work has been featured in journals including Best American Short Stories.
The Linfield English Department and Friends of Nicholson Library sponsored the reading.
Chrissy Shane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.