House of Earth

By Woody Guthrie
New York : HarperCollins, 2013

Reviewed by Renette Davis

Written in 1946 and 1947 but lost to readers until 2013, House of Earth is Woody Guthrie's only novel. Woody is well known for the thousands of songs that he wrote, the most famous of which is "This Land is Your Land". He is also probably the most famous person who had Huntington's Disease. When I saw this book being checked in at the library where I work, I decided I wanted to read it, and I was very glad that I did.

It's the story of Tike and Ella May Hamlin, who live in a shack which they do not own and who work land that is not theirs in the Texas Panhandle. When Tike orders a five-cent government pamphlet on how to build an adobe dwelling, he decides that he wants to build such a house of earth. However, that is not easy to do when they must fight each day just to survive during the Great Depression.

In the introduction, the question of why House of Earth wasn't published in the 1940s was discussed. One possible answer was that Woody was hoping it would be made into a movie. He had sent the manuscript to film-maker Irving Lerner, who had worked on other socially conscious documentaries. It was when the Lerner estate was organizing its archives that the book was found.

Another possible reason is an explicit lovemaking scene between Tike and Ella May, which at the time would have been considered pornographic. Also, the book is definitely left-learning, which would have been hard to market during that time. At any rate, it has now been published and I enjoyed reading it.

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Created: Nov. 12, 2013
Last updated: Nov. 12, 2013