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Scenes from the Heartland: Stories Based on Lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  51 ratings  ·  36 reviews
When a contemporary writer turns her imagination loose inside the images of an iconicartist of the past, the result is storytelling magic at its best. Here are nine tales that bring to vivid life the early decades of the 20th century as witnessed by one of America's most well-known painters. Thomas Hart Benton sketched fiddlers and farm wives, preachers and soldiers, folks ...more
Paperback, 154 pages
Published March 31st 2019 by Serving House Books
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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Donna Baier Stein has written nine short stories in Scenes from the Heartland. Each story is inspired by a lithograph painted by Thomas Hart Benton in the early twentieth century. Each painting depicts everyday life at the time with dancing, music, and gatherings.

Baier Stein’s stories add life to the paintings, and the lives behind the depictions are portrayed in sparse, but powerful, prose. The characters are confronting issues still prevalent today, including racism and women’s rights.

I foun
Kate Vocke (bookapotamus)
Do you guys have any hobbies (other than reading of course!) that you love?

I’ve been a doodler since I was little, it was a big reason I went to art school and pursued a career in design. I’ve always had a love of art and culture and was thrilled to receive this book of short stories based on lithographs by the beloved artist Thomas Hart Benton.

I immediately pulled out all my college art books to have the paintings vividly brought to life around me, to supplement the beautiful imagery that is al
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Look for my review in the May issue of the Historical Novels Review.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From the very first sentences, I was in love with these stories by this very gifted, compassionate and truly nuanced author. Set over a little more than twenty years in the American midlands (about 1920-1942), the people's circumstances in small towns and humble jobs are limited in scope. It is hard to understand as I write today from New York City with my iPhone and computer where our daily world is international and drenched with every culture, how it must have been like to live in the Depress ...more
Angelle Barbazon
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
With "Scenes from the Heartland," Donna Baier Stein dives into the world of ekphrastic fiction with finesse. Inspired by the art of Midwestern artist Thomas Hart Benton, she writes stories as colorful as his paintings depicting America’s rich culture and cross section of citizens. Each story featured in "Scenes from the Heartland" is as beautifully written as the next, and I could see this book being a great read for book clubs, sparking lively conversations about class, race, the roles of men a ...more
Marissa DeCuir
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In Donna Baier Stein’s “Scenes from the Heartland”, each chapter of this beautifully written book introduces a new character so that the reader is given a glimpse into the lives of both men and women that are each struggling with something, whether big or small. Each is drastically different; within these little episodes in each character’s life, she touches on racism, adultery, poverty, and grief. Stein certainly has a unparalleled talent for storytelling.
abdulia ortiz-perez
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
I received this book for honest Review.

Scenes From The Heartland
(Stories Based on Lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton) by Donna Baier Stein @donnabaierstein

I read this book in one day.
I love the pictures in it and how it tells a story in it. I love how short story is told. I feel is perfect for a report for school. Anybody who love art and love looking at them and stories of them this is perfect. My two kids love this cuz they both love art work and stories about art work.
Leslie Lindsay
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
What happens when a contemporary writer of semi-autobiographical short fiction turns her gaze to the iconic images of America's past? This glimmering collection, SCENES FROM THE HEARTLAND emerges.

I'm a sucker for anything Missouri, anything Midwest. That's probably because this strange little state smack in the U.S. is what shaped me, the place I still think of as 'home,' even though I've lived elsewhere more than half my life now. There's a realness, an authenticity to the state, which is a co
Jaymi The OC Book Girl
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Do you know who Thomas Hart Benton is? He was an American painter and muralist. The figures in his paintings showed everyday people in scenes of life in the United States, particularly Missouri where he was born in 1889.

Author @donnabaierstein has written a unique collection of nine short stories based on her interpretation of Benton’s lithographs.

It was interesting to read about the early 20th century - so many hardships and sacrifices. The author does an excellent job of bringing the artist’s
Bonnye Reed
Most everyone is familiar with the lithographs of Thomas Hart Benton. Once you have seen them, you remember them - they are very distinctive and tell an intense story. Well, peanut butter, meet jelly. Donna Baier-Stein has written short stories to bring these lithographs to life. Stories that will break your heart. It would be very hard to pick a favorite, but I truly loved Morning Train. And Trouble at the Dance Hall. And For Her Own Good.

I am very pleased to be able to recommend this collecti
There are so many layers to art, different mediums, and interpretations. The very fact that someone can look at a piece and spin a story is utterly fascinating to me. I love a good story!

The author shares not only the stories but pictures of the inspiring lithographs. In them, you can get lost in the details of the strokes of movement. When you read the corresponding story it adds details in your mind. For example, in one of the stories, "For her own good" I kept flipping back to the picture. "
Molly Jaber (Cover To Cover Cafe)
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
Who is Thomas Hart Benton? Someone I've never heard of for sure. But, I knew who he was when I was finished with this cleverly written book! He was an artist that took everyday people he saw in history and created images for them. Donna Baeir Stein is an author who took some of his Lithographs, and created her stories for them.

Each of the stories is created beautifully. The image of each story is portrayed in detail within the story that Baier Stein created, and as I sat reading each one, I was
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
5 Reasons to Read Scenes from the Heartland
• If you love a good campfire story, you will love this book. Based on lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton from the early twentieth century, Donna Baier Stein spins nine tales that give a perfect campfire feel.
• Though the stories can each stand on their own, they are also tied together in a beautiful thematic way. These nine stories, each based on a picture, cover themes of hardship, love, equality, and faith during a time that is a cornerstone in his
Linda Zagon
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
 Based on "Scenes From the Heartland: Stories Based on Lithographs" by Thomas Hart Benton, written by Donna Baier Stein, readers get the combination  or marriage of Artistic Achievement plus a Literary Interpretation  and Storytelling. Donna Baier Stein vividly describes the lithographs she views with her amazing storytelling skills.  There are about nine stories to match the number of lithographs. 

Thomas Hart Benton describes through his paintings, and art, times of American History in the 1930
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
From the Publisher: “When a contemporary writer turns her imagination loose inside the images of an iconic artist of the past, the result is storytelling magic at its best…Then as now, Americans have struggled with poverty, illness and betrayal. These fictions reveal our fellow countrymen and women living with grace and strong leanings toward virtue, despite the troubles that face them”
Before I received a copy of Scenes from the Heartland, I was familiar with the lithographs of Thomas Hart Bento
Susan Peterson
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Scenes from the Heartland is a brilliantly-conceived idea, a series of short stories based on lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton. The stories, like the lithographs that inspired them, give us an honest portrait of life in the Midwest in the early 20th century. These are stories of hardships and survival, war and peace, bigotry and kindness, that capture the essence of the time, the place, and especially the people.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Scenes from the Heartland is beautifully and uniquely written. Each of the 9 chapters begins with a lithograph from the 30’s and 40’s. From that lithograph photo Donna weaves a story that transcends time. This book really reminds me that art is subjective and can be interpreted how you see it. I am also fascinated by Donna’s stories.

This book read so fast. It is only 150 pages. So many heavy topics are written about in the book but they are so beautifully written you won’t get bogged down.
Books Forward
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Scenes from the Heartland” is a collection of short stories that illustrate life in the era before World War II began. Donna Baier-Stein creates absolute storytelling magic by using Thomas Hart Benton’s lithographs to create beautifully moving stories behind each character. Stein eloquently addresses topics that are still prevalent today. In doing so, she ties together the past and the present through relatable, real-life characters that each reader will find themselves emotionally attached to ...more
Olivia Long
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stein’s collection of short stories are centered around art created by Thomas Hart Benton provides a unique perspective into Missouri before World War II had begun. My favorite thing about these stories is the fascinating characters that Stein chooses to tell each story. In just one chapter per character, Stein was able to make me emotionally attached to each one, as she is a talented storyteller and her writing creates vivid and fascinating images of life before the war. I would absolutely reco ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Donna Baier Stein's anthology, Scenes from the Heartland, is a delightful mix of stories filled with humor, history, and hardships. They bring Thomas Hart Benton's images to life and remain with you long after you finish the anthology. Beautifully written and vivid, each story is a tribute to the artwork it describes. ...more
Laura • lauralovestoread
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, arcs
This was an enjoyable read that I was able to read in a day and really enjoyed it! The photos are so beautiful and insightful. Nine stories told from America’s Midwest during the 1930’s and 40’s, using lithograph sketches to touch on subjects like corruption, women’s rights, and racial inequality. One of my favorite of the stories was Trouble at the Dancehall.
Alicia Bay Laurel
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you, Donna Baier Stein, for time travel by passenger train, horse-drawn cart and even a flying turquoise Ford Tudor automobile, into a lovingly researched, often terrifying, world of rural America in the Big Band era. Each of the nine stories wring compassion from the reader for survivors of harsh circumstances, as well as engender sincere appreciation for Ms. Stein’s choice of the lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton to inspire her fascinating tales.
Priscilla Orr
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Scenes from the Heartland haunted me. I had to read slowly because the stories (and the artwork) were so powerful, that the characters stayed with me for days. The subtle deft way in which Baier-Stein conveys the inner lives of the characters evoked their desolation, their lost dreams, their hope, and the courageous way they came to understand their lives and one another. I highly recommend this book.
Candy Mayer
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As an artist, I loved the stories based on Benton's art! Only thing I don't like about short stories...they end too soon and I want them to go on! ...more
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This collection of artwork-generated storytelling presents a wonderful approach to historical fiction. The idea to create Americana type fictions based on Thomas Hart Benton's creative mid-western scenarios represents an intriguing starting point for creative interpretation. Although the early to mid-twentieth century tends to present a difficult historical era, most of us want to romanticize it a bit and look for the positive themes of determination, resiliency, love, etc. Ms. Stein, who admits ...more
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How often have you seen a painting or a sculpture and wished you knew the story behind it? In SCENES FROM THE HEARTLAND Donna Baier Stein creates fictional histories of nine lithographs by one of the most well-known American painters, Thomas Hart Benton. The fluid characters in his paintings show everyday people in scenes of life in the United States. Each of Baier Stein's stories opens with the picture of one of Benton's most familiar lithographs and is the jumping off point for a short story ...more
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it
A standard writing exercise consists of taking an image and writing a description of it. Sometimes this can lead to more, especially as one comes to know the scene or the persons inside the image. This was essentially the process the Stein went through in writing this book. The title of this collection, thus, is an apt one. The scenes here, however, are not photographs but lithographs, all of them created by Thomas Hart Benton, an artist whose work I have only lightly been familiar with before. ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Scenes from the Heartland is a fascinating short story collection based on a series of lithographs created by Thomas Hart Benton. Set in Missouri and Arkansas in the 1930s and 40s, Stein has created stories inspired entirely by these snapshots in time. While not typically the type of book I’m drawn to, my imagination was captured by the idea that these fictional stories had been inspired by real moments in history. I’m so glad I took a chance with this one because the stories are each powerful a ...more
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When this book made its way onto my radar, I was intrigued. “Shorts stories inspired from lithographs? This could be good. And if it’s not, it’s only 143 pages. I can handle this.” (Don’t judge - I know you’ve all had that same thought process.) So I sat down to try out the first story, and I couldn’t stop. I literally kept thinking to myself I am obsessed with these stories!

So now I’m finding myself on this end of a review where all I want to do is blabber away like a love struck teen. These s
May 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Scenes from the Heartland: Stories Based on Lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton by Donna Baier Stein. Have you ever opened a book with pictures and thought what stories I could tell about those pictures. Well that is exactly what Donna does in Scenes from the Heartland. If you are not familiar with Thomas Hart Benton’s artwork he was famous for showing ordinary people doing common things. His paintings tell a story, Donna Baier Stein has taken about nine of his lithographs and has written stories ...more
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