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Barbara Olenyik Morrow (1952–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1952, in St. Louis, MO; Education: Indiana University, B.A., 1974, M.A. (journalism), 1975. Religion: Presbyterian.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Holiday House, 425 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017.


Journalist and author. Reporter for Herald-Telephone, Bloomington, IN, and Louisville Times, KY; Journal-Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN, editorial writer; freelance writer.

Honors Awards

Pulitzer Prize finalist for editorial writing, 1986; honorable mention for children's literature, Best Books of Indiana award, 2005.


Those Cars of Auburn, privately published, 1987.

From Ben-Hur to Sister Carrie: Remembering the Lives and Works of Five Indiana Authors, Guild Press of Indiana (Indianapolis, IN), 1995.

A Good Night for Freedom, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2004.


Barbara Olyenik Morrow told SATA: "When I moved to a small town in northern Indiana in 1979, a librarian mentioned to me that the Hoosier state had a rich liter-Barbara Olenyik MorrowThe discovery that her neighbors are harboring runaway slaves forces a young girl to act on her own beliefs when confronted by slave hunters in A Good Night for Freedom. (Illustration by Leonard Jenkins.)ary heritage. Not being a native of Indiana, I knew very little about any aspect of the state's history. So I began reading books by and about Indiana authors, and discovered that the librarian was correct—Indiana's literary heritage was exceptionally rich. In the early decades of the twentieth century Hoosier authors regularly penned best-sellers and some, such as naturalist and nature writer Gene Stratton-Porter, had fans in nearly every corner of the world.

"Eventually I wrote From Ben-Hur to Sister Carrie: Remembering the Lives and Works of Five Indiana Authors, in which I profiled the lives of five prominent Hoosier writers. Along with Stratton-Porter, I told the story of U.S. Civil War general Lew Wallace, whose novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was among America's first literary blockbusters. In addition, I wrote about the beloved poet James Whitcomb, the Pulitzer Prizewinning novelist Booth Tarkington, and Theodore Dreiser, whose novel Sister Carrie was extremely controversial in its day but is now recognized as a classic in modern American literature.

"Researching these writers taught me much about the history of America, including its literary coming-of-age in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Through these writers' lives, I came to better understand the impact the U.S. Civil War had on our nation's political and cultural life. As my interest in the Civil War era grew, I began reflecting anew on a subject that had long fascinated me: the Underground Railroad. Before long I discovered that Indiana had another claim to fame. It was home to Levi and Catharine Coffin, an abolitionist couple who worked tirelessly to help more than 2,000 runaway slaves escape north to freedom.

"In A Good Night for Freedom, an historical fiction picture book for children, I acquaint readers with the Coffins, whose Hoosier home was known as the "Grand Central Station" of the Underground Railroad. I also introduce two real-life runaways, whose names I learned researching nineteenth-century court records. The story, as a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted, 'presents young readers with a powerful dilemma.'

"For me, life is all about dilemmas and the choices we make in response. History teaches us that, though the particulars may differ, each generation struggles with essentially the same vexing problems: how to be happy, how to treat others fairly, how to live peacefully. As a writer, I have been inspired by the lives of historical figures—from Lew Wallace to the Coffins. As I've shared their stories, I hope that readers will find some truth to guide them as they weigh their choices and make decisions."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, March 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of A Good Night for Freedom, p. 1206.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2004, Timnah Card, review of A Good Night for Freedom, p. 289.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of A Good Night for Freedom, p. 86.

Publishers Weekly, January 12, 2004, review of A Good Night for Freedom, p. 52.

School Library Journal, February, 2004, Beth Tegart, review of A Good Night for Freedom, p. 118.

Additional topics

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