Best-selling novelist Jane Hamilton to teach fiction course at Luther

Award-winning novelist Jane Hamilton will teach at Luther College in January, sharing what a USA Today reviewer called her “fabulous ear for character and dialogue.”

Hamilton will join the Luther English department to teach the January term course Adventures in Reading and Writing Fiction. She will also give a reading at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, in the Center for Faith and Life Recital Hall on the Luther campus. The reading is open to the public at no charge for admission.

"If you hear a big humming noise emanating out of Main this January,” said Lise Kildegaard, professor of English, “that will be the sound of the internationally known, best-selling novelist Jane Hamilton, setting all her students’ minds abuzz with creative energy. Don't be surprised if the vibe gets to you and you start writing some wild and awesome stories yourself."

Hamilton says the class will explore short fiction, the one-act play and a genre the students will choose. “The goal is to make stories in a few different forms, to catch ourselves in the act of writing and, most important, to write for the joy of the work,” she told Luther’s student newspaper, Chips.

The Atlantic magazine called Hamilton “among the most graceful and thoughtful writers to work the fertile ground that is the Midwestern family.” Her roots in the Midwest and experience of family dynamics are deep. Hamilton grew up in Oak Park, Ill., the youngest in a family of five children.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Carleton College in Minnesota, and afterward it looked as though she’d leave the Midwest for a publishing job in New York. But on her way east, Hamilton stopped at a Wisconsin apple orchard owned by a friend’s family, fell in love with a farmer and made the place her home. Ever since, she has nurtured her stories of human resiliency from the orchard’s farmhouse.

Hamilton’s first two novels, “The Book of Ruth” and “A Map of the World,” were Oprah’s Book Club selections. “The Book of Ruth” also won the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award for first fiction. Each book was later the basis for a motion picture.

The New York Times named her novel “Disobedience” a Notable Book of the Year in 2001, and the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and Seattle Times all chose her book “When Madeline Was Young” as a best book of 2006. 

Hamilton’s latest book, “Laura Rider’s Masterpiece,” is her foray into comedy. A Chicago Tribune review called it “dark and knowing, lovely and funny.”