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Dan Wakefield: An Indianapolis Writer

Dan Wakefield is an Indianapolis born writer, whose focus in journalism lead him down a path to fiction. He carries on the tradition of Indy as the mother of nationally and internationally renowned writers such as Booth Tarkington, Theodore Drieser, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and James Whitcomb Riley. Dan Wakefield will surely join this list of notable people from Indianapolis.

Though his career as a journalist took him around the world, Dan Wakefield’s sensitivity to what it means to American was instilled in him by his childhood in the Hoosier State. Born in 1932, Dan Wakefield saw the Circle City as it grew to be a part of a nation at war and then at peace again. His interest in politics and knack for writing was nurtured by many fine Indianapolis schools including Short Ridge High School.

Author round table video including Indianapolis, Indiana native, Dan Wakefield

The support he received at the Indiana public schools led him to study at Indiana State University in Bloomington. However, this Indianapolis boy had bigger ideas in his mind. After only one year in Bloomington, he transferred to Columbia University in New York City. He graduated in 1955 and received a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Dan Wakfield started as a young man writing for newspapers in magazines. He worked at a variety of notable publications. He found himself moving up the food chain working as a staff writer for  Nation in New York City, then as a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly in Boston, and a contributing writer for GQ Magazine. Dan Wakefield also spent his time teaching at Universities across the country. Eventually, numerous grants and awards that he received allowed him to write fiction.

Dan Wakefield’s style as a journalist was unique for his time. He believed to really understand something and report on it, you must go to wherever that event is happening. He would find himself in New York’s  Spanish Harlem covering riots during the Civil Rights movement. He saw first hand the brutality and injustice that was setting the United States on fire. Wakefield sacrificed distance and objectivity in his reporting and immersed himself in the problems of the time. The style of raw reporting influenced him as a writer of fiction.

The critics called his and other author’s works of fiction published with a gritty point of view from an honest standpoint “New Journalism.” New Journalism used the conventional techniques of realistic fiction  such as characterization narrative arches, imagery and symbolism. These traditional techniques were then paired with the new signs, lingo, and symbols that were emerging in the country. It was new American fiction for a new America.

His book, Going All the Way, follows the story of two soldiers returning home to Indianapolis after the Korean War. Impatient to get on with their lives, these veterans are faced with obstacles in a society they are no longer use to and confusion in themselves and from others about their experience and identity. The two main character, Sonny and Gunner, are faced with adjusting in a society that has moved on without them. The novel examines the plight of veterans returning and readjusting to life in the United States.

In his writing, Dan Wakefield represents Indianapolis culture, Indianapolis art, and Indianapolis media on a grand scale, but also seems to speak to the nature of being American. Read this Indiana writer, who has inspired so many young Hoosiers to believe that they two can come to represent the world with their ideas.

The Work of Dan Wakefield

Novels

  • Going All the Way (1970)
  • Starting Over (1973)
  • Home Free (1977)
  • Under the Apple Tree (1982)
  • Selling Out (1985)

Uncollected Short Stories

  • “The Rich Girl” (1965)
  • “Autumn Full of Apples” (1966)
  • “A Visit from Granny” (1966)
  • “Moon Full in Sagitarius” (1973)

Plays

  • James at 15 (1977)
  • The Seduction of Miss Leona (1980)
  • The Innocents Abroad from the novel by Mark Twain (1983)

Others

  • Island in the City: The World of Spanish Harlem (1959)
  • Revolt in the South (1961)
  • Between the Lines: A Reporters Personal Journey Through Public Events (1965)
  • Supernation at Peace and War (1968)
  • All Her Children: The Making of a Soap Opera (1976)
  • Returning: A Spiritual Journey (1988)
  • The Story of Your Life: Writing a Spiritual Autobiography (1990)
  • New York in the Fifties (1991)
  • Expect a Miracle (1995)
  • Creating the Spirit: Living Each Day as a Creative Act (1996)
  • How Do We Know When It’s God?: A Spiritual Memoir (1999)


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