Author talk Sunday, July 28th for local writer's first book - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Author talk Sunday, July 28th for local writer's first published book


Ethel Barker has always loved writing. After studying fiction writing for about ten years at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City, she felt ready to write her first published book: For the Love of Pete: An Orphan Train Story.

It's a fiction book inspired by actual history.

"It was a movement about what to do with the orphans in New York. It was after an immigration rush from Europe," said Ethel Barker.

A minister in New York started a foundation that eventually began sending the orphans around the country on trains to be "adopted." Upstate New York took the most orphans, followed by the state of Iowa.

"Many Iowans do not know this history, and it's an important part of Iowa history. I've also had many people come and say my grandfather or somebody in my family did come that way," said Barker.

Ethel Barker first learned of the orphan trains in 1980 when she read about it in what's now Iowa Heritage Magazine. It inspired her to write this book about three children on the orphan train: seven-year-old Rosie, 14-year-old Iris and 14-year-old Pete. Each chapter is written from the perspective of one of the children.

"And then they put this all together as a book, and we get to hear their experiences as it was in 1880," said Barker.

The book is largely for young adults, Barker said she tried to take a piece of Iowa history and make it interesting for everyone.

"My favorite subject to write about is Iowa," she said.

Barker said she wanted all the characters, especially Pete, to be good people and good role models.

She simply hopes people enjoy her book while learning about an important part of the history of our state.

You can join Ethel Barker for an author talk and reception on Sunday, July 28th at the Hearst Center in Cedar Falls at 2:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Ethel Barker previously lived in Cedar Falls. She now lives in Iowa City with her husband.

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