The Day I Fell For Horatio Alger or My Introduction to the Study of Popular Culture

Somewhere during the first trimester of my sophomore year in college, I realized I was signed up for the wrong major.  I was in music education, and observing just one high school music class was like having a bucket of ice water dumped over my head.  Me, standing in front of those kids?  Trying to teach them something about music? 

I changed to music therapy immediately, but I found myself yearning for a wider education.  There were so many things I wanted to know about, and the music program was so extensive we were restricted to few electives.  So, at the end of the year, I transferred to American Studies, a major which by itself is nearly as useless as my Masters degree in Family Development–unless you happen to write novels about families set primarily in the United States, in which case both choices were brilliant. 

In my first trimester of American Studies I immediately registered for Pop Lit 101, fondly known as Trash Lit.  I was enthralled.  What a terrific idea.  Study a society through it’s popular literature.  Find out how morals, beliefs, opinions, are either influenced by popular culture or the force behind it.  I began reading the books on the syllabus and immediately fell in love.  Horatio Alger was a favorite.  All those plucky boys, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.  It’s no wonder that even today, the old copy of Dan the Newsboy on my bookshelf refuses to be given away. 

Fast forward to this morning.  As I was heaving my old edited manuscripts in the recycling bin after carrying them from house to house for years, I realized I just  didn’t feel comfortable.  Surely these were worth something to somebody.  My agent had suggested the Popular Culture Library of Bowling Green State University in Ohio.  My son was a BGSU grad, and I lived in Ohio for a dozen years.  So on a whim I called them.  Yes, not only do they want my manuscripts, but all the research I did, including a box of books I shipped home from Australia that I am particularly loathe to toss.  Some of those books are rare, although probably not valuable, and now they will have a home.  I’m delighted.

The Brown Popular Culture Library is dedicated to the acquisition and preservation of research materials on American popular culture (post 1876), and it is the most comprehensive repository of its kind in the United States.  In addition to their print collection, they have manuscripts in the genres of mystery, romance, science fiction, popular entertainment, history of popular culture, and more.  My manuscripts and everything else I include will go into storage, where I can still access them if need be, and more important, where scholars can access them.

I love the idea of my manuscripts sitting, side by side, in a climate controlled facility for years to come, my characters chatting away in the darkness.  Sometimes things just turn out the way they should.


  1. Dee Winter on March 20, 2012 at 11:59 am

    And they say the printed word is dead. Sorry, I refuse to be convinced. Thank you from future grads for making your treasures available to all.

    • Emilie Richards on March 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      What a nice comment, Dee. You are very welcome.

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