Fifty years ago a Shumway woman stepped on stage and stood behind a podium before her Effingham High School graduating class to accept her scholastic honor as valedictorian for the Class of 1968.
Kubitschek went on to earn a doctorate in literature and taught at universities throughout the country, including Eastern New Mexico University, University of Nebraska, Cornell University and University of Wisconsin. She has spent the last 27 years teaching at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.
After retiring from a 46-year teaching career in May, Missy Dehn Kubitschek returned to Effingham for a book signing of her first fiction publication titled "Homesteading."
Kubitschek is no stranger to writing books. She has written two nonfiction publications, including "Claiming the Heritage," a book about black women novelists and a second book titled "Toni Morrison: A Critical Companion (Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers)," about a black female American novelist.
"Homesteading" is her first attempt at writing fiction.
“Fiction is more fun to write,” she said.
Kubitschek's book is a series of connected short stories set in Indianapolis at a homeless shelter. Her interest in writing the book came from her own experience of volunteering at a shelter for homeless families from 1992 to 1997. However, she stresses the stories in the book are all fiction.
Kubitschek started writing the book many years ago during a sabbatical she was taking to write another book. She started working on the book for about six months then stuck it in a drawer.
With inspiration from a couple of her friends, Craig Werner and Dawn Downs Arnold, Kubitschek revisited the material almost 20 years later, dedicating the final publication to her friends.
“I started writing this material because I was so upset with how I thought poor people were being portrayed in the 1990s,” said Kubitschek.
“It was always poor people like a lump, an abstraction, like all poor people are the same.” Kubitschek explained. “Poor people are absolutely as individual as everybody else and I thought the book should show that.”
“Some people who just hit some hard luck,” Kubitschek said. “Everybody is trying to scramble to keep their kids under shelter.”
Kubitschek says homelessness is a big problem and isn't going away anytime soon.
“If we start demonizing the poor, it never will,” Kubitschek said.