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Photo of Lee ZachariasLee Zacharias
1944 -

Hoosier Connection: Zacharias is the author of a novel and short stories set in Indiana. She graduated from Indiana University in 1966.

Works Discussed: "Disasters," "The Death of Pomloe," and Lessons.

Lee Zacharias (Lela Ann Zacharias) earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of Arkansas in 1975. That same year she began lecturing at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and she also published a collection of her short stories, Helping Muriel Make It Through the Night. Zacharias has since become an associate professor of English and coordinator of the writing program at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She was born in Chicago, Illinois; neighboring Hammond, Indiana, is a common setting for her writings. Zacharias was an assistant director of publications for the Research Center of Language Sciences, Indiana University, for three years following her graduation from Indiana University in 1966. Bloomington, Indiana, is also a setting for her novel, Lessons.

Zacharias describes Hammond in an oppressive manner, referring to its skies as gray, colorless, and dirty. In her short story "Disasters," she gives these ominous skies an almost tangible quality. She writes: "[A] great gray cloud hung just ahead of the Kankakee River on Highway 41..." (31).

In "The Death of Pomloe," Zacharias gives a year round cause for the cloud surrounding Hammond, Indiana. She writes, "The house is one on a street of impenetrable houses made dingy and alike by the frosting of industrial soot… " (54). She also addresses the tight urban residential conditions of Hammond that catalyze urban sprawl. She records the results of this sprawl in "Disasters,"

"We couldn’t have walked here ten years ago," I said. "This used to be a very bad neighborhood."

"Is it a good neighborhood now?"

"No, it’s not any neighborhood. See those lights? That’s downtown." (35)

The dual pressures of growing families and growing businesses push the city's residential areas into the surrounding suburbs.

In her novel, Lessons, Zacharias blatantly blames poor air quality on the steel mills of the region. Zacharias writes, "[W]hen the bus taking me home for Christmas crossed the Kankakee River into the cocoon of soot spun by the mills… " (89). Even Zacharias’ own use of simile shows shades of the damage done by the mills: "The paint on the windowsills was breaking up like ice on the scummy Little Calumet River" (Lessons 9).

Photo of blue skies

Bloomington's Blue Skies

Zacharias’ descriptions of Bloomington, Indiana, are in razor-sharp contrast to her descriptions of Hammond, Indiana. Instead of Hammond’s gray, colorless, and dirty skies, she writes, "[T]he auditorium at Indiana University under a blue sky stretched so tight over heaven, I thought it might break and let Paradise fall at my feet" (Lessons 82). Later she passionately invokes a powerful cinematic allusion in describing Bloomington, Indiana:

Every winter in Bloomington there is a two-or three-day spring, a premature warmth that penetrates the earth and loosens a damp fragrance of loam. Scarlett O’Hara didn’t know what she was missing, with her crummy handful of red clay. Dirt doesn’t mean anything held in your hands; sucked into your lungs, it’s next to your heart. (122)

Clearly, Zacharias’ literary works record not only the variations in the lands of Indiana, but also in the feelings the lands evoke. Zacharias shows us both numb indifference and vibrant passion. She challenges the reader to realize what feelings the lands of Indiana evoke in them.



“Lela Ann Zacharias.” Contemporary Authors. 2001. Gale Group Databases. Ball State Library, Muncie, IN. 7 Dec 2003. <http://www.infotrac.galegroup.com>

Zacharias, Lee. Helping Muriel Make It Through the Night. “The Death of Pomloe.” 43-58. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975.

---. Helping Muriel Make It Through the Night. “Disasters.” 30-42. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975.

---. Lessons. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981.


Walter Clinton Jackson Library. University of North Carolina Greensboro. 2003. 7 Dec 2003. <http://library.uncg.edu/depts/admin/fol/litlandmark zacharias.htm>

Intensive English Program homepage. Indiana University. 2003. 7 Dec 2003. <http://iep.indiana.edu/>