Cover Image: Hoosier Hysteria

Hoosier Hysteria

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Member Reviews

Well written memoir of the author’s college days during a turbulent time. I felt like the writing was very good as I could see of the situations playing out in my head. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for the arc of this book in return for my honest opinion. Receiving the book in this manner had no bearing on this review.
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This attempt at a coming of age story falls short. While the author paints a picture of life in Indiana at the beginning of the Civil Rights Era, her story is ultimately focused on herself. There is a lot of teenage angst over the opposite sex and her dating life. 

Henriques repeatedly tries to impress upon us that only she, her minority friends, and people from either the East or West coasts are open-minded and free of bigotry while at the same time condemning  every Midwesterner she meets as a narrow-minded, less-than-intelligent racist. It was a tumultuous time in this country's history and while the integration of universities and schools did not go smoothly, the harsh judgement rendered in this book seems to present the author's current opinions as well as historical opinions. Not recommended.
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An interesting take on the world that was, and the struggles we still deal with as a society. A must read for memoir and history buffs alike.
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This book didn’t work. While the title promises a focus on IU during a period of integration, the book instead focuses on the author as a freshman, spending more time on her haphazard love life than any encountered racism. 

The dialogue is stilted and VERY obviously recreated. The writing in general is bad and all of the characters fell flat on the page. Simply not worth the time to read.
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As a Hoosier and IU alum, I noticed several factual inaccuracies and believe book seems to steer more towards creative non-fiction.
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Meri Henriques was a college freshman when she arrived at Indiana University's campus in the fall of 1963. Unbeknownst to her, Meri was entering a tense racial climate. Dormitories were just finally on the cusp of integration, and Meri found herself right in the middle of the racial tension when she was assigned to a room with a black roommate, Pixie. Meri immediately became an ally to Pixie, but she quickly realizes that standing up for what is right could also put her in a precarious situation with the university.

I loved this blast from the past. The 1963 setting was fascinating. The idea of a dorm mother and all the restrictions placed on the girls was shocking to me. On the flip side, the racial divide, although also shocking in its severity, was also all too familiar even 50+ years later. It certainly is still, unfortunately, a very relevant read in that regard.

I blew through this memoir because Meri had a way of conveying her story in a way that was compulsively readable. It's very much a coming-of0age memoir, as Meri has just left home for the first time and is figuring out who she is and what exactly she believes in.  However, I would have liked more information. Specifically, the relationship between Meri and her parents is alluded to but there is never a full explanation given for the tension there. ALSO, the epilogue was weak as hell. Either Meri is planning to write a separate memoir about her time at UC Berkley or someone really dropped the ball on this. I'm hoping for the former but suspecting the latter. Because I really need to know what happened to her once she got there, specifically was her love interest there waiting for her? Did they have a relationship?

I saw a very disparaging review about Hoosier Hysteria as far as the accuracy of it. I am not the type that's going to research every minute detail to determine whether the author was 100% factual in their retelling of their story. Honestly, I'm not even sure why it's such a big deal to some readers in the first place. Memories are fallible, especially after such a long time. So yes, I would take everything Meri says with a grain of salt. It is, after all, HER story, not a comprehensive history of race relations at IU in 1963.
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I was really interested in reviewing this book since I am originally from Indiana and Indiana University is a large part of my community there. 

Meri Henriques Vahl was an Indiana transplant from New York enrolling in college to go to IU. It was certainly a culture shock to go from a more widely open and diverse city to the small town of Bloomington Indiana. Unfortunately, while there she quickly learned how racial tensions were still pretty high in 1963 as she was quick to find out.

It was an interesting story and as unfortunate as were the circumstances for a lot of the issues Meri faced, I still felt the book was a great look into her perspective as she continued her education and made the most of her experiences.
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A true story about Indiana University in 1963-64. The author was there and does a reasonable job of depicting college life at that time. I was in college during this time but not in the mid-west. Racism was still prevalent everywhere but I had no idea how things were in Indiana. I found the book interesting.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC of this book.
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I was given a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The civil rights era is an interesting time in our nation's history. This book showed one woman's experience in middle America in the midst of this turbulent time. Although it was not what I expected, I think many readers would find this book a good read.
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A memoir is based on a person's knowledge of an event.   This book is Meri Henriques Vahl's story of her freshman year in newly desegregated dorms at Indiana University.  
I really enjoyed this book and felt like I was having a conversation with the author.  When I tried to get some supporting back-up to some of what was written, I could find none.  I wanted to find some as at least one review is flat out rude.  She admitted to changing the names but some of the bigger facts and people like George Wallace should have been verifiable.   I would gladly change my review if the events could be verified.  I did a fair amount of googling to try to find!

#HoosierHysteria #NetGalley
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In this biography, Meri Henriques Vahl remembers her college days, in the early 1960’s, at Indiana University. She arrives fresh from New York, ready for a new adventure, excited for what is to come. Little does she know that she will be confronted by issues from day one. Upon registration, the assistants at the desk are horrified to tell her she will have to share a dorm room with – gasp! – a black woman.

And, quickly, Meri realises how racism is deeply imbedded at Indiana University, and it will prove problematic as she tries to navigate through it with her friends.

It’s an interesting book, full of wonderful characters – I had to remind myself that they were real people, they were so full of personality. I enjoyed seeing life from the perspective of a young adult in the 1960’s – the struggle to decide what to study, the perplexing dating problems, that sort of thing. But, while Meri is busy navigating her new life, John Kennedy is assassinated, and the tensions escalate quickly.

It’s a timely read, given political tensions we are dealing with currently. I found it interesting that there was a lot of opposition and taking sides, which is obviously quite prevalent for today.

I’m so glad I read it – and would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good memoir.
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I received an ARC of this memoir from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Interesting memoir set in the beginnings of integration.   I enjoyed the book.
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I was interested to read this book because I entered Indiana University as a freshman in 1973, ten years after Meri stood outside her dorm and became part of a revolutionary change in integration policies at IU.  Her story was very interesting and insightful into the changes that occurred over the next decade.

Meri became one of the first students to be assigned a black roommate in her all female, up to then segregated dorm. She tells her story of her friendship with her black and white friends and how easily they got along despite the university’s concerns. This is very much Meri’s story. The climate of the times and the politics of the school are evident, as is her realization that she doesn’t want to enroll for a second year.

When I checked into my all female dorm, unlike 10 years before, there were no “house mothers”, bed checks, or lock outs at curfew. There were no restrictions on male visitors to the point that one girl on the floor had her boyfriend living there 90% of the time. I was not aware of the students being put on watch lists for suspicious activity like “Folk Music Club”, but there was certainly still social activism.

I would have been very interested in more about what was happening in the general IU student population about race relations and how it sorted itself out among  the students.
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The description of this book caught my eye.  Meri Henriques was a New Yorker who decided to attend Indiana State University in the 1960's amid the changing times in our country.  Of course, the forefront was racism.  It was refreshing to see the book did not center on the social injustices of those around her, more so it was a story of acceptance, self-discovery, and true friendship.  I enjoyed reading about college in the 60's and how it really hasn't changed in regards to class structure, curriculum, dorm issues, and tuition concerns!

Being African American, It saddened me that this story very well could have been written about the US in 2018.  People of other nationalities being discriminated against just on the basis of their skin tone.  The stereotypes, and the fact that people were so blatant in their views. It was interesting to see it from Meri's perspective being Jewish and trying to fit in with people of other nationalities.  She even encountered racism from her own peers!  going thru this made her realize how her African American suitemates felt every day of their lives. 

Hoosier Hysteria was a great read, that took us from Meri's journey of leaving home for the first time, meeting boys, struggling through school, finding and losing love, and the desire to fight for injustice.  

I highly recommend this book!  Thank you for the opportunity to read the ARC copy.
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This memoir was written during the beginning of integration, but it could have just as easily been written today.  It is sad that all of these decades later that people cannot accept people for who they are and not look at race.  The author did a beautiful job of writing this and making me understand what she was feeling at the time.
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I preface this entire review by saying this: I marched in the Civil Rights protests at a very young age. I was kicked out of our local parochial because I was "too liberal and wild." From my teenage years forward, I been heavily influenced by the Kennedy brothers, to the extent that I purchased a house with ties to JFK. I have Bobby's immortalized speech that he gave to a shocked and mournful crowd here in Indianapolis on the day of MLK's assassination. Black Lives Matter to me - a lot. I'm chagrined that I even have to state these facts before proceeding with my review, but I felt I must.

Hoosier Hysteria is a memoir by a Jewish woman who attended Indiana University in 1963. IU is located in the most liberal city in the state of Indiana - Bloomington. It is, was and always will be a very liberal university town. It is the home of the Kinsey Sex Studies, a city with a huge Buddhist population and is often visited by the Daly Lama. It is known in this state's history as the ultra liberal blue dot in Indiana. There are places in Indiana where I would not have gone in 1963 if I was a black person - Bloomington is not on that list.
However, Meri Vahl did go there, a Jewish young woman from New York. The point of her being Jewish is hers, not mine. She opens the book with several of her own biases against small towns, the Midwest, uneducated people who do not understand New Yorkers. In her attempt at humor, she offended the registrar but blamed it on the registrar's lack of humor. I can assure you, if anyone had off-handedly said these things to me today about my state, I would be offended. To say that she got off on the wrong foot is an understatement. She then proceeds to tell, in her own words, how the registrar made a huge commotion about her being roomed with a black woman. It's 1963, it's the height of the civil rights movement, there are protests and riots all around and she is upset because these women were trying to handle a situation that could have escalated quickly if she HAD been a racist. That was a different era than now. Their actions - for that time - were reasonable and sane. Furthermore, allow me to state that all of this is from her own recollection 50+ years later. 

As the story progresses, the situations worsen in her mind until finally she highlights a tale about how IU students partied and cheered upon discovering that Kennedy had been assassinated. I have no doubt that a few hayseeds might have done so; however, there is NO record of this happening at IU in any press, in any other documentation, in any other memoir about that fateful day. The only time I ever have encountered this "hysteria," is in Vahl's memoir. I have talked with professors who were there, historians at our Historical Bureau - a group of people who educate Hoosiers on their somewhat murky past. The Klan had its heyday here in Indiana - but NOT in Bloomington. There were horrific governors but they did not affect or influence IU. Again, if her story had been set anywhere other than Bloomington or Indianapolis, I might be more inclined to budge here - but I firmly believe that much of the "hysteria" she describes is due to a first year student from NY who brought her own preconceived ideas about this Midwestern town and then exaggerated the point in order to sell this book. 

IF this was not being passed off as a "memoir," which suggests truth, a bit of non-fiction, if you will, then I would read this book as pure fiction. But that is not what the author has done. Despite her offering no proof, having no proof and admittedly relying on only her own recollection and some notes she jotted down in a diary, she is passing this off as truth - with the names changed to protect the innocent. Sure.
The author left IU after that year and went to Berkeley. I love Berkeley a great deal. I'm glad she was happier there. 

Of note: I'm from a very small town in Indiana, it was smaller then than now. In 1960, Kennedy came to Indianapolis on his famous, historical Tour of the Midwest. The people of this town literally hi-jacked his caravan and forced him to stop at a rally they had prepared for him on our main street. Their faces are joyous - they loved him. Now, it is filled with racists, sadly, but THEN they were filled with hope. That is the historic Indiana that I know. The one she describes is completely foreign to me. I do not recommend this book because I do not, will not, can not support anything that further divides this nation especially when I believe that it is not historically accurate and is more a fantastical remembrance that has grown exorbitantly in this author's mind. And please note - my opinions are my own, most of which can be corroborated with historic documents in the IU archives and at the Indiana Historic Bureau. 
0 Stars.
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This novel is one that (unfortunately) will always be relevant. An in depth and heart wrenching look at race in the time of integration and a very true reflection of the struggles still faced by Black people today.

Well written prose makes you feel like you're there in the moment with the characters, experiencing everything along side them. Brilliant novel/memoir.
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1963 was a tumultuous year no matter where you resided in America. <i>Hoosier Hysteria</i> (a name commonly known to refer to enthusiasm for college sports, but the phrase is aptly turned on its head in this book) gives readers a glimpse into what that year looked like on the campus of a major university located in the heart of the Midwest. Meri is an incoming freshman at Indiana University in the fall of 1963. She's a Jewish woman from New York entering a place where white Christians are the majority, which becomes just one of many culture shocks she gets, even in that first day. 

Meri ends up being a part of the school's slow move toward integration, because IU at this moment in time is staunchly against integration, civil rights, political activism, women's rights, the Kennedy Administration as a whole, and a host of things that were deemed too radical at the time. What readers get is a personal account of a young woman that for the most part is a complete outsider to all of this chaos, being able to reflect on how this made an impact on her as a person, on the campus, and on the rest of the region. 

Reading this book revealed to me, a lifelong Indiana resident, some of the more shameful parts of this state and how, even forty years later when I attended college in Indiana (though not IU), some of the same issues still arose. They don't teach you in your Indiana history class that IU itself, as well as large populated areas such as Indianapolis, were so bigoted at this point in American history. If you learned anything at all about racism in the state, the examples given always pre-dated WWII, which tells me that this late-stage institutional bigotry is not something the state wants to remember. 

And there were parts of Meri's college experience that reflected my own. While racism wasn't front and center during my college years, classism was prevalent, as well as a religious fervor that could turn a relatively pleasant person into someone you no longer recognized. I even experienced a similar incident like Meri did with the deck of cards frightening her neighbor that the devil might be coming to get her, only my experience pertained to a Ouija board and a neighbor so terrified she acquired a bottle of holy oil to counteract anything that might have been conjured into the dorm. These were the same students that were afraid to be influenced by taking a religious studies class, but then once they did, they didn't see the class as promoting commonality in religious beliefs, but as a way to learn more about someone's beliefs in order to convince them to join their side—similar to the change that Meri saw in her friend Shennandoah after attending church with her family. 

It was fascinating to see that much about attending a Midwestern college hasn't changed. While college administrations are no longer looking into the personal politics of their students and making sure they are completely above board on the school's definition of morality, the local students still seem to bring plenty of culture shock to those who are of a different city, country, or mindset.
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