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Nelson Algren Museum to celebrate Richard Wright's 'Native Son'
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Nelson Algren Museum to celebrate Richard Wright's 'Native Son'

Algren's Miller home

Pictured is Region author Nelson Algren's Miller Beach home in the 1950s.

The Nelson Algren Museum plans to celebrate Richard Wright's masterpiece "Native Son," which the Modern Library and TIME Magazine both ranked as one of the best novels of the 20th century.

The museum in Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood will host Ivy Tech Professor, youth advocate and TEDx curator Gary McKenya Dilworth at 4 p.m. on May 16 for a lecture on "Native Son" at the new Nelson Algren 616 Sound Stage at 616 S. Lake Street in Miller. The museum's two-part retrospective is titled "Richard Wright's Native Son, 80 Years Later."

"We'll provide a framework of how to approach the book and then follow up with a book discussion Sunday, June 27, also at 4 p.m.," said Sue Rutsen, co-founder of the Nelson Algren Museum of Miller Beach.

If it rains, the events will be moved from the outdoor venue to Nelson Algren Museum of Miller Beach at 540 S. Lake Street in Gary's lakefront Miller neighborhood.

Green Door Books is writing its next chapter. The used bookstore, known for its art shows, $1 books, extensive zine library and namesake green door, is moving to a bigger spot in downtown Hobart after the local chain Toys in the Attic bowed out.

Rutsen will give an introduction to Dilworth's talk on the book about 20-year-old South Sider Booker Thomas that is widely taught at universities and high schools. 

"Richard Wright’s 'Native Son' was an immediate best-seller, selling 250,000 hardcover copies within three weeks of its publication by the Book-of-the-Month Club in March 1940. One of the earliest successful attempts to explain the racial divide in America, 'Native Son' made Wright the wealthiest black writer of his time, establishing him as a spokesperson for African American issues and the 'father of Black American literature,'" organizers said in a press release. "As Irving Howe said, 'The day Native Son appeared, American culture was changed forever.’'"

Coming Sunday, ride along with Specialist Dyer as he patrols LaPorte.

Wright was friends with the National Book Award-winning novelist Nelson Algren, who though closely associated with Chicago long lived in a cottage in Miller Beach. They worked together at the Federal Writers' Project in Chicago and Algren bequeathed him the title "Native Son," which is what his first book "Somebody in Boots" was originally called.

Tickets are $10 at the door. Masks and social distancing are required. Copies of "Native Son," beer and wine will be available for purchase.

For more information, visit nelsonalgrenmuseumofmillerbeach.com or email suerutsen@gmail.com.

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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