According to The Writer’s Almanac, today is author Anne Tyler’s birthday. This is a great day to talk about her and one of her books I just finished reading. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, Digging to America is the story of two families, one American and one Iranian, who each adopt a baby girl from Korea.
It opens at the airport where the two families meet while picking up their babies who are flown in by a Korean adoption agency. The families form a friendship, and every year, they take turns hosting what they call an arrival party to commemorate the night they picked up the girls at the airport. The book covers the next few years of the Korean girls’ lives until they are about six years old.
Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different main character: the American grandfather, who loses his wife to cancer and develops an on again off again relationship with the Iranian grandmother, who came to this country as part of an arranged marriage years ago, the Iranian father and mother, the American father, and the American mother, who is diagnosed with cancer close to the end of the book. When the American family adopts a second baby girl from China, the first Korean girl talks to her American grandfather about children in China digging a hole to the United States, hence, the title, Digging to America.
Other books I’ve read by Anne Tyler include Earthly Possessions, The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. I don’t think her books fit into any particular genre. They’re mostly about ordinary people who face life changes.
According to http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/atyler.htm, Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis. Her family lived in various Quaker communities in the rural South before settling in a Celo community in the mountains near Burnsville, North Carolina in 1948. This town operated on a shared labor basis, and her family lived in their own house and raised some stock and used some organic farming techniques.
By the age of seven, Anne Tyler had started writing stories. When she was nineteen, she graduated from DukeUniversity in Durham, North Carolina, where she won the Anne Flexner Award for creative writing twice. Her first published short story, “Laura,” appeared in the university’s literary magazine. She did post-graduate work in Russian studies at ColumbiaUniversity before settling in Baltimore where she lived for most of her adult life. In 1961, she married an Iranian child psychiatrist who died in 1997. They had two daughters.
Her first novel, If Morning Ever Comes, was published in 1964. In 1967, after working as a bibliographer, she became a full-time writer. She won an American Academy Award in 1977 for Earthly Possessions. In 1986, The Accidental Tourist won a National Critics Book Circle Award and was made into a film in 1988. In 1989, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons.
Digging to America is available on the National Library Service for the Blind’s Braille and audio download site. I’m sure that this and other books can be purchased in print and eBook formats from local bookstores and online retailers. I recommend her books to anyone who likes a good family story with a twist.