Celebrating 50 Years of
Writing the Midwest:
A Symposium of Scholars and Writers
May 20 – 22, 2021
The Newberry Library
60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, IL 60610
We will be celebrating the 50th Symposium of the SSML with special events that take advantage of all that Chicago has to offer, including a night at the Museum of American Writers and panels of past winners of the Mark Twain Award. Please make plans to join us! More details at the end of August.
We will be honoring Marilynne Robinson, the winner of the 2020 Mark Twain Award, Dr. Liesl Olson, winner of the 2020 MidAmerica Award, in addition to the winners of the 2021 awards.
Previously . . .
Programs from previous years’ conferences are available here.
The 2021 Mark Twain Award for outstanding contributions to Midwestern literature will be awarded to Rebecca Makkai. Makkai’s first novel, The Borrower (2011), begins in Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, MO; her next two novels, The Hundred-Year House (2014) and The Great Believers (2018), move to her own hometown of Chicago. The Great Believers, her most recent, examines the AIDS crisis as it devastates the Midwest in the 1980s. It won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, the ALA Stonewall Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. The Chicago Review of Books predicted The Great Believers was “sure to become a classic Chicago novel.”
We are pleased to announce that the 2021 MidAmerica Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Study of Midwestern Literature will be presented to Dr. James Shortridge, emeritus professor of Geography at the University of Kansas. Shortridge is the author of numerous books and articles, particularly about Kansas and the Plains region. Among his many publications, The Middle West: Its Meaning in American Culture (1989) won the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize for the best book in American geography by the Association of American Geographers. It is canonical in Midwestern studies, still cited for its foundational perspective on the development of Midwestern identity and culture.