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Iowa History Daily: October 23 - Jane Smiley's "1000 Acres"

Iowa History Daily: On October 23, 1991, Jane Smiley’s modern adaptation of “King Lear” set on an Iowa farm titled “1000 Acres” debuted. The book won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Jane Smiley arrived in Iowa for graduate study at the University of Iowa in the early 1970s. After obtaining an MA, an MFA, and a PhD while in Iowa City, she headed west to serve as a faculty member at Iowa State University. While at Iowa State, Smiley won the O. Henry Award in 1985 for a short story published in ‘The Atlantic’ called “Lily.”

Also during her time in Ames, Smiley completed “1000 Acres.” The story focuses on aging farmer Larry Cook, who decides to incorporate his farm and hand joint ownership to his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline. When the youngest daughter objects, she is removed from the agreement. Setting off a chain of events, the transfer brings dark truths to light.

The book proved a critical and popular success, garnering awards and inspiring a 1997 film adaptation of the same name. Pairing literary brilliance with believable incorporation of Iowa farm life, Smiley’s work debuted as an opera by the Des Moines Metro Opera during the 2022 season. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistory Calendar


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