Month of Willa Cather

“Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”- Willa Cather

Join us! for a month-long celebration of Willa Cather’s 1918 novel, My Ántonia. We are starting a new tradition at Vail Public Library (VPL) by offering a month of Willa Cather. Cather’s seminal My Ántonia was published Sept. 21, 1918 and cemented her as a force to be reckoned with in American literature.

Born in Back Creek, Virginia on December 7, 1873, Willa Cather moved with her family to Catherton, Nebraska in 1883. The following year the family relocated to nearby Red Cloud, the same town that has been made famous by her writing. The nine-year-old had trouble adjusting to her new life on the prairie: the all-encompassing land surrounded her, making her feel an “erasure of personality.” After a year, Cather had developed a fierce passion for the land, something that would remain at the core of her writing. By 1890, immigrants in Nebraska made up forty-three percent of the state population. Cather found herself surrounded by foreign languages and customs. Drawn together in their homesickness, Cather felt a certain kinship to the immigrant women of the Plains. It was to this land and these people that her mind returned when she began writing novels.

Cather attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating in 1895. While a student, she became a theater critic and columnist for the Nebraska State Journal and the Lincoln Courier. Her experience in journalism and criticism took her first to Pittsburgh and then to New York, where she served as managing editor for McClure’s Magazine. During her tenure, she met Sarah Orne Jewett who encouraged the writer to develop her own voice with her own materials. In 1913, Cather delivered, publishing O Pioneers!, a novel which celebrates the pioneering spirit of Swedish farmers on the plains of Nebraska. She followed this with The Song of the Lark (1915) and My Ántonia (1918), both novels epic treatments of heroic immigrant women.

Cather had a long writing career, over which she became nationally acclaimed and internationally respected. She is most remembered for My Ántonia, A Lost Lady (1923) and Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927). My Ántonia and A Lost Lady are structured around central female characters, Ántonia, a Bohemian immigrant, and Marian Forrester, wife of a prestigious townsman. In the end, these women become emblematic of the past — Ántonia represents the country, the conditions, the whole adventure of childhood which the narrator wants to recapture. Likewise, Mrs. Forrester signals the end of the past: her husband, aging and helpless, recalls the age of the railroad pioneers, the men of big business dreams, now defunct. Marian, however, changes to accommodate the new order, thereby surviving. Cather evoked not only the Nebraska plains but also the history and topography of the southwest. In Death Comes for the Archbishop, she recounted the story of French Catholic missionaries settling New Mexico and Colorado. This novel was an instant critical success, earning the reputation of an “American classic.”

Cather received the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One of Ours. She was given honorary degrees from Yale, Princeton and Berkeley, and was awarded the Prix Femina Américain by the French for her depiction of French culture within North America. Her writing earned her the cover of Time Magazine as well as the gold medal from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Cather wrote, “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” Her ability to tap into these fundamental human stories keeps readers passionately engaged with her fiction.

Willa Cather Books

  • Alexander’s Bridge – 1912
  • O Pioneers! – 1913
  • The Song of the Lark – 1915
  • My Antonia – 191
  • One of Ours – 1922
  • A Lost Lady – 1923
  • The Professor’s House – 1925
  • My Mortal Enemy – 1926
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop – 1927
  • Shadows on the Rock – 1931
  • Lucy Gayheart – 1935
  • Sapphira and the Slave Girl – 1940

November Events

Wed, November 13th @ 5:00pm
Books ‘n Bites (Book Club)

Join us during November’s Books ‘n Bites, to discuss Willa Cather’s My Antonia, in the centennial anniversary of its publication, with a presentation and discussion by CMC College Writing instructor and writer Alane Hall who holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, TX, with a focus on story telling and the art of novel writing, and an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.

Celebrating 100 Years

2018 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the publication of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, which depicts life on the rural farms of Nebraska in the late 1800s. The story is narrated by Jim Burden, who moves from Virginia to Nebraska as a boy to live with his grandparents. On the way, he meets the Shimerda family, also on their way to Nebraska. The Shimerdas, including their daughter Ántonia, come to the United States from Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic). Jim strikes up a friendship with Ántonia and begins teaching her and her younger sister English.  Together they face the struggles of adjusting to an unforgiving environment, an experience drawn from Cather’s own life.

Thur, November 21st @ 5:30pm
Molasses Stack Cake Making

In celebration of the month of Willa Cather.
Join Vail Public Library  & Pastry chef Heather Romero from Rimini Gelato, in making an old fashion stack cake. Made for gatherings or wedding in pioneer times.
Please, RSVP to reserve your spot as we have limited space. Reserve at or 970.4792
We will provide ingredients and tools, come and have fun this November.