Bexley Community Author Series: Susan Orlean’s Ohio upbringing helped her become a writer

Chris Bournea
ThisWeek
Best-selling author Susan Orlean is shown in a screenshot while taking part in the Bexley Community Author Series event  April 27.

Best-selling author Susan Orlean shared insights on how growing up in Ohio shaped her as a writer during the 2021 Bexley Community Author Series event  April 27. 

It was hosted virtually by the Bexley Public Library. 

The Community Author Series is the library’s flagship literary event each year; past speakers have included Pulitzer Prize winners Colson Whitehead, Elizabeth Strout and Richard Ford.  

Orlean originally was scheduled to headline the 2020 event, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, library Director Ben Heckman said. 

Orlean’s most recent best-selling nonfiction book, “The Library Book” documents how libraries contribute to the communities they serve. Her participation in the Community Author Series coincides with the Bexley Public Library’s launch later this year of a new comprehensive strategic plan, Heckman said.  

“’The Library Book’ celebrates the history and importance of public libraries, the role they play in society and how they can build communities,” Heckman said.  

He said the library will reach out in the coming months to find out how it can best serve the community and “be part of the plan” for the library’s future. 

Orlean, 65, is a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine and is the author of eight nonfiction books. Her 1998 book “The Orchid Thief,” which investigates the 1994 arrest of horticulturist John Laroche for poaching rare orchids in South Florida, was adapted into the 2002 Academy Award-winning movie “Adaptation.” Meryl Streep won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Orlean in the movie.  

In a conversation with College of Wooster professor Ivonne Garcia during the event, Orlean said her upbringing in Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb, has been essential to her success as a writer. 

“Growing up in the Midwest, you are always aware that there’s something above you, something below you, something to the left of you and something to the right of you,” she said. “We are in the middle of the country, which makes you feel that your perspective has to be 360 (degrees). 

"That set me out on a path of curiosity,” Orlean said. “It’s my one tool, besides a pretty good computer, that I feel that I couldn’t do without.”  

The BPL will continue its 2021 author visits by partnering with Delaware City Schools and the Flyover Fest to host a free virtual event at 7 p.m. May 6 with Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award winner,  in conversation with author Mahogany Browne, poetry coordinator at St. Francis College. 

During the event, Acevedo and Browne will share insights on the creative process and discuss issues addressed in their books, including social justice.  

For registration and more information, visit bexleylibrary.org

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