You may not know the extent of your impact on someone when you make a reading recommendation or offer encouragement, but I am here to tell you that the librarians I’ve met throughout the years changed my life. An avid reader and writer since childhood, I spent many cherished hours at my local library, always guided by the librarian’s recommendations. She took the time to get to know my interests, and the books to which she shepherded me were some of the most formative texts I encountered; these were the novels that made me want to write. I vividly remember the vintage suitcases stacked in the children’s section, the elation of an impending voyage as I inspected the shelves. At my parents’ encouragement, I submitted to our public library’s story contests every year, which taught me not only the value of a deadline but also the value of a stranger’s attention on my work. It was electrifying to know that adults I’d never met were giving my stories their time, and this knowledge motivated me to try my hardest.
Thanks in large part to the kindness of these librarians, I continued writing fiction as I grew up, studying English with a concentration in creative writing at Notre Dame. At the age of 22, I left my Rust Belt hometown for the first time and moved to New York for an MFA at NYU. At both institutions, I relied upon the generosity and expertise of the university librarians for research and writing assistance. At NYU, I realized that I’d never encountered a novel that took place in a city like my hometown, so I decided to write one. Early on, the true protagonist of this story revealed itself to be Vacca Vale, Indiana: a fictional Rust Belt city orphaned by the automobile industry in the sixties. A place full of desperation but also jagged and mesmerizing beauty. A place where poverty and violence collide with otherworldly splendor. A place that teaches its residents to alchemize despair into humor, to seek transcendence in the pedestrian, to cultivate faith in kindness. The human protagonist of this novel, Blandine, takes refuge in books and considers the library her sanctuary. I often describe The Rabbit Hutch as an ode to the post-industrial Midwest, but it is also an ode to reading and learning, to the stories that can liberate you from the places you want to escape, the ideas that can deliver you into a more compassionate and luminous world.
I couldn’t have written this book without people like you.
All my thanks,
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