Page Turners

Appears in the December 2022 issue.

Exhibit celebrates local authors

A display from the ‘Stories of DuPage: Reading Between the Lines’ exhibit

Who knew Little Orphan Annie has roots in Lombard?

You can learn more about her creator as well as other area fiction writers at Stories of DuPage: Reading Between the Lines, an exhibit running through March 25 at the DuPage County Historical Museum (102 E. Wesley St., Wheaton). “The exhibit explores how these authors’ experiences in DuPage may have influenced their lives and the stories they wrote, even subconsciously,” explains Emily O’Brien, museum curator. “Authors such as Harold Gray, the original cartoonist for Little Orphan Annie; Marguerite Henry, the author of the beloved children’s book Misty of Chincoteague; and Timothy Zahn, author of the popular Star Wars spinoff trilogy Thrawn, are just a few examples of the 15 fiction authors who are featured.”

A map from the ‘Stories of DuPage: Reading Between the Lines’ exhibit

Other locals showcased include Glennette Tilley Turner, an Underground Railroad historian who also has penned nine children’s books (An Apple for Harriet Tubman and Running for Our Lives); Jeffery Deaver, best-selling thriller author of more than 40 novels; Mary Doria Russell, whose A Thread of Grace was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and Emily Griffin, lawyer-turned-author with 11 novels that have sold a total of 12 million copies worldwide.

“What I found most surprising while working on this exhibit was truly how many well-known authors there were from DuPage County,” O’Brien says. “Growing up out of state, I didn’t necessarily expect to recognize as many authors from DuPage County as I did. It really showed how far-reaching some of these authors are.”

A ‘Little Orphan Annie’ display from the ‘Stories of DuPage: Reading Between the Lines’ exhibit

The exhibit explores its themes through photographs, books, author and book memorabilia, quills, typewriters, and other writing equipment. “My favorite thing is the layers of relatability it has to visitors at the museum,” O’Brien says. “On one hand, you’re localizing authors that many visitors may have known through [the writers’] work to a much more intimate and personal experience of living within DuPage County. It gives visitors a chance to reorient themselves to their favorite stories, like Misty of Chincoteague, and look at it from a different perspective than before. Suddenly there are new connections being made between them and their favorite books that may not have been there before knowing the author grew up right next door.”

A typewriter from the ‘Stories of DuPage: Reading Between the Lines’ exhibit

Although all of the featured authors have lived in DuPage County, only two of the books on display are set there. “Downers Grove is a coming-of-age thriller novel that takes place in Downers Grove and is heavily influenced by Michael Hornburg’s own teenage years there,” O’Brien says. “The Girl Who Owned a City is a dystopian novel that takes place in Glen Ellyn, where O.T. Nelson grew up, and highlights what life would be like for children growing up in a world without adults. Both of these books draw heavily from the authors’ experience as DuPage County residents.”


Photos by Jen Banowetz