Hoosier Hysteria

A Fateful Year in the Crosshairs of Race in America

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Pub Date 17 Jul 2018 | Archive Date 11 Jul 2018

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Description

Indiana University, September 1963. Meri Henriques, a naïve freshman from New York, arrives on campus thinking she’s about to enroll at an idyllic Midwestern college. Instead, she discovers a storm is brewing.

An intriguing cast of characters inhabits Meri’s new and often troubled world: Katherine “Pixie” Gates, Meri’s charming and quirky roommate; Rachel, brilliant and sarcastic fellow New Yorker; Daniel, a tough radical with a tender heart; folk singer Derek Stone, Meri’s crush; and Shennandoah Waters, a white coed who only dates black men or exotic foreigners, much to her ultra-conservative parents’ horror.

Over the course of Meri’s first year at college, tragedy strikes twice: John Kennedy is assassinated, and a young, black IU basketball player is castrated and thrown into a ditch—murdered for dating a white coed. And finally, that year’s commencement ceremonies bring an infamous symbol of white supremacy to campus, endangering anyone who dared to protest—thrusting Meri into the middle of violent and escalating racial tensions. Vivid and compelling, Hoosier Hysteria is a timely story of prejudice and political unrest that, today more than ever before, must be told.

Indiana University, September 1963. Meri Henriques, a naïve freshman from New York, arrives on campus thinking she’s about to enroll at an idyllic Midwestern college. Instead, she discovers a storm...


Advance Praise

"Readers interested in Midwestern history, American race relations, and stories of culture shock will find the book both stimulating and convincing." - Kirkus Reviews

"Readers interested in Midwestern history, American race relations, and stories of culture shock will find the book both stimulating and convincing." - Kirkus Reviews


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Featured Reviews

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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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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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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