50 Authors From 50 States — Here's What to Read From Each of Them
At a time when diverse literature is more essential than ever, it's also important to look at the diverse experiences that make America so beautiful. We've taken a look at authors who hail from each of the 50 states to see how their hometowns have influenced their work (and we felt some major wanderlust in the process). From science fiction to romance, from classic to contemporary, scroll through to see where some of America's best stories have originated. You might be surprised to see where some of your favorite authors come from (as well as who shares your own home state!).
Alabama: Yaa Gyasi
Though Yaa Gyasi was born in Mampong, Ghana, she was raised in Huntsville, AL. Her debut novel, Homegoing, was inspired by a trip she made back to Ghana nearly 20 years after leaving.
Alaska: Eowyn Ivey
Eowyn Ivey was raised in Palmer, AK, and she still lives in Alaska with her husband and two children. Her upbringing inspired her first novel, The Snow Child, which takes place in 1920s Alaska.
Arizona: Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls was born in Phoenix, AZ, though her family was constantly migrating between places with periods of homelessness. Her memoir, The Glass Castle, recounts her poverty-stricken childhood.
California: Edan Lepucki
Edan Lepucki grew up in Los Angeles, where she still lives with her family. Lepucki's novel California reimagines her home state in a frighteningly realistic near future.
Colorado: Justin Hocking
Justin Hocking was born in Glenwood Springs, CO, and he attended the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. Hocking writes about his move from Colorado to New York (as well as the history of surfing, Scientology's naval ties, and the environmental impact of the Iraq War) in his memoir, The Great Floodgates of the Underworld.
Connecticut: Suzanne Collins
Suzanne Collins was born in Hartford, CT, but her family was constantly moving because of her father's job as a military officer. She eventually found her way back to Hartford, where she lives with her family and wrote the Hunger Games trilogy.
Delaware: Colleen Faulkner
Colleen Faulkner grew up in Camden Wyoming, DE, where her family settled more than 300 years ago. It is there that Faulkner has written almost 100 romance and fiction novels (many of which are under different pen names), including Just Like Other Daughters.
Florida: Zora Neale Hurston
Though Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, AL, her family moved soon after to Eatonville, FL, where she spent the rest of her childhood. After a few years in New York City, Hurston moved back to Florida and wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Georgia: Tayari Jones
Tayari Jones was born and raised in Atlanta and later studied at the University of Georgia. Her latest novel, An American Marriage, tells a story of the American dream in the New South.
Hawaii: Kaui Hart Hemmings
Idaho: Tara Westover
Tara Westover was born in Clifton, ID, to Mormon survivalists who homeschooled Westover and her six siblings. Her memoir, Educated, is about her unconventional upbringing.
Illinois: Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago, though her family constantly migrated between Chicago and Mexico City. Cisneros wrote The House on Mango Street based on her childhood experience as a Latina girl growing up in Chicago.
Indiana: Jen Lancaster
Jen Lancaster grew up in Huntington, IN, and later attended college at Purdue University. After losing her job as an associate vice president for a Chicago technology company, Lancaster began her career as a memoirist reflecting on her Midwest roots, such as with Here I Go Again.
Iowa: Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson was born and raised in Des Moines, IA, but dropped out of Drake University to backpack around Europe. He now lives in the United Kingdom, where he came to prominence with his book A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Kansas: Jill Churchill
Jill Churchill was born in Kansas City, MO, but she has spent the majority of her life in Kansas, attending the University of Kansas and working at the Kansas City Star. She lives in Kansas now, where she writes mystery novels such as the Jane Jeffry series, including Bell, Book, and Scandal.
Kentucky: Barbara Kingsolver
Though Barbara Kingsolver was born in Annapolis, MD, she was raised on an alfalfa farm in Eastern Kentucky, except for a brief period when her father's public health job took the family to what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her childhood inspired The Poisonwood Bible, which is about a family from the United States moving to the Belgian Congo in the 1960s.
Louisiana: Rebecca Wells
Rebecca Wells was born and raised in Alexandria, LA, where her family owned and ran a cotton farm, and she later attended Louisiana State University. Her novel Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood tracks four friends from Thornton, LA.
Maine: Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout was born and raised in Portland, ME. The fictional Shirley Falls, ME, inspired by her childhood, is the setting of four of her six novels, including My Name Is Lucy Barton.
Maryland: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates was born in Baltimore and grew up in the Mondawmin neighborhood. His second novel, Between the World and Me, was inspired by the death of a college friend from Howard University who was shot by police in a case of mistaken identity.
Massachusetts: J. Courtney Sullivan
J. Courtney Sullivan was born and raised outside of Boston in an Irish Catholic family. Her debut novel, Commencement, takes place at her alma mater, Smith College, in Northampton, MA.
Michigan: Teju Cole
Teju Cole was born in Kalamazoo, MI, to Nigerian parents, and he returned to Nigeria with his mother shortly after his birth. Cole moved back to Michigan to attend Kalamazoo College, and he later wrote Open City, which is about a Nigerian immigrant.
Minnesota: Peggy Orenstein
Peggy Orenstein was born in Minneapolis, MN, where she still lives with her family. There she studies and writes about women's sexuality, as with her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter.
Mississippi: Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, MS, and later attended the University of Mississippi for a year before transferring to Bennington College in Vermont. Tartt's novels, such as The Goldfinch, often revolve around themes of class and social stratification.
Missouri: Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, though she was sent to live with her grandparents in Stamps, AR, after the dissolution of her parents' marriage. Her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, tells the story of her tumultuous childhood.
Montana: Maile Meloy
Maile Meloy was born and raised in Helena, MT. Her story collection, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, features a flawed cast of Montana residents.
Nebraska: Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay was born in Omaha, NE, to a family of Haitian descent. Gay's essay collection, Bad Feminist, engages pop culture with her personal experiences growing up Haitian-American in Nebraska.
Nevada: Juanita Brooks
Juanita Brooks was born and raised in a Mormon household in Bunkerville, NV. Brooks later wrote The Mountain Meadows Massacre, which was the first definitive study of the attacks on the Baker-Fancher emigrant wagon train.
New Hampshire: John Irving
John Irving was born and raised in Exeter, NH, with his stepfather, who worked at Phillips Exeter Academy, and he later attended the University of New Hampshire. Irving's novel The Cider House Rules includes a character whose plane was shot down over Burma, inspired by the real-life experience of the biological father Irving never met.
New Jersey: George R. R. Martin
George R. R. Martin was born and raised in Bayonne, NJ, where his father was a longshoreman, and he grew up in a federal housing project. Martin became the creator of an epic fantasy series, A Song of Fire and Ice, starting with A Game of Thrones, which was adapted into HBO's Game of Thrones.
New Mexico: Mira Jacob
Mira Jacob is an Indian-American author who was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. In an interview with Kirkus Reviews, she said that "nobody knew what East Indian was. They all thought we were Hopi or Apache or Mexican." Her debut, The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, tells the story of an Indian family grappling with American life in New Mexico.
New York: Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead was born in New York City and grew up in Manhattan, where he attended Trinity School. He still lives in New York City, where he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Underground Railroad.
North Carolina: David Sedaris
Though David Sedaris was born in Johnson City, NY, he spent his childhood in a suburb of Raleigh, NC. His humorist essay collections, such as Me Talk Pretty One Day, often reflect back on his middle-class upbringing there.
North Dakota: Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman was born in Breckenridge, MN, but he grew up on a farm nearby in Wyndmere, ND, and later attended the University of North Dakota. Working as a reporter in North Dakota, Klosterman started writing his essays on American pop culture, compiled in Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century.
Ohio: Celeste Ng
Though Celeste Ng was born in Pittsburgh, where her parents settled after moving from Hong Kong, she grew up in Shaker Heights, OH. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, is based on two families living in Shaker Heights.
Oklahoma: Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison was born and raised in Oklahoma City, OK, where his father died early on in a construction accident. Ellison's best-known novel, Invisible Man, tells the story of a nameless black man in a small Southern town and the relationship between his race identity and Marxism.
Oregon: Katherine Dunn
Katherine Dunn was born in Garden City, KS, though her family moved often and eventually settled in Tigard, OR. Dunn attended Reed College and remained in Portland, where she wrote her novel Geek Love, which is about a traveling carnival.
Pennsylvania: John Updike
John Updike was born in Reading, PA, and raised in the nearby town of Shillington. Updike's childhood in Berks County, PA, later served as the influence for his Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy, including Rabbit, Run.
Rhode Island: Alexander Chee
Alexander Chee was born in South Kingstown, RI, though he spent parts of his childhood in South Korea, Kauai, Truk, Guam, and Maine. He now lives and teaches in New Hampshire, but his latest work, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, reckons with his many different identities.
South Carolina: Ron Rash
Ron Rash was born in Chester, SC, and received his master's from Clemson University. His second novel, Saints at the River, is about a South Carolina community torn over the issue of environmentalism.
South Dakota: Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson was born in South Dakota to a family of mixed Northern European and Native American heritage. This shifting identity inspired his second novel, The Orphan Master's Son, in which an orphan in Chongjin, North Korea, believes himself to be the son of the titular Orphan Master.
Tennessee: Ann Patchett
Though Ann Patchett was born in Los Angeles, she moved to Nashville as a child when her mother remarried. She still lives with her family in Nashville, where she runs a bookstore and writes novels such as Bel Canto.
Texas: Ijeoma Oluo
Ijeoma Oluo was born in Denton, TX. Though she now lives in Seattle, she often reflects on her Southern upbringing in her critiques of race and the erasure of black women's voices, as she does in So You Want to Talk About Race.
Utah: Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card was born in Richland, WA, but grew up in Orem, UT, where he attended Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. Card now lives in Greensboro, NC, which has had a greater influence on his work than his childhood in Utah, particularly his military science fiction novel, Ender's Game.
Vermont: Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian was born in White Plains, NY, but has spent the majority of his life in Lincoln, VT. Many of Bohjalian's novels take place in fictional Vermont towns, such as his novel Midwives.
Virginia: William Styron
William Styron was born in the Hilton Village historic district of Newport News, VA. His birthplace was less than a hundred miles from the site of Nat Turner's slave rebellion, which was later the source for Styron's most famous and controversial novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner.
Washington: Debbie Macomber
Debbie Macomber was born in Yakima, WA. She now lives with her family in Port Orchard, WA, and her romance novels often take place in Washington as well, like A Turn in the Road, which takes place in Seattle.
West Virginia: Pearl S. Buck
Pearl S. Buck was born in Hillsboro, WV, to Southern Presbyterian missionaries, though she spent most of her childhood with her family in Zhenjiang, China. Her novel The Good Earth is influenced by her exposure to peasant life in China.
Wisconsin: Ayad Akhtar
Though Ayad Akhtar was born on Staten Island, he was raised in Milwaukee, WI. Influenced by his childhood, Akhtar's novel American Dervish tells the story of a young Pakistani-American boy growing up in the American Midwest.
Wyoming: C. J. Box
C. J. Box was born and raised in Casper, WY, and he still splits his time between his home and his ranch in Wyoming. Many of Box's novels — such as Off the Grid, part of his Joe Pickett series — take place in the mountain town of Baggs, WY.