Evelyn and Iowa's Former First Lady Christie Vilsack
Evelyn and Iowa's former First Lady Christie Vilsack exchange books during a visit. Evelyn is holding Christie's book, "Fresh From Terrace Hill," and Christie is holding Evelyn's book "Up a Country Lane."
Accolades

"If the State of Iowa ever designates a 'Living State Treasure,' we nominate Evelyn Birkby for the top of the list!"
~ Shari Stelling
State Historical Society of Iowa Library
March 2011


"Evelyn Birkby, who began neighboring in 1950 with a daily show called Up a Country Lane, and who continues on KMA today, has shared her whole life with listeners. She has delivered encouragement when times were bad; she has discussed the toilet training of children and the decorating of farmhouse interiors; and she has shared her tribulations as a new wife struggling alongside her husband to raise chickens and hogs and to start a dairy farm."
Good Neighbors — Dinner with Iowa's Most Beloved Radio Homemaker
~ Saveur Magazine Issue #132, October 2010
by Jane and Michael Stern


"The author takes a backward look straightforwardly! Though not sentimental, Birkby's is an affectionate record of living simply. It has a commonplace integrity that can seem, in our era, like fantasy."
~ Publishers Weekly


"Residents in southwest Iowa feel they know Evelyn Birkby for her best-selling books Neighboring on the Air, and Up a Country Lane. She has a status that has extended throughout the US."
~ Simpsonian Magazine


"Part of Evelyn's widespread appeal comes from her infectious 'every day is an adventure' spirit; she has such a can-do, 'how hard can it be' attitude. In Witching for William she tells a charming, honest, often humorous story with a clear narrative arc, a bit of mystery, and a very happy ending. Witching for William is a very cohesive story, unusually so. The way Evelyn describes people and places - the way she makes readers feel as if they are part of her journey - is quite amazing. And the photos are lovely."
~ Holly Carver, Director - University of Iowa Press


Evelyn Birkby is a master storyteller and homemaker whose chatty newspaper columns and radio commentaries have entertained, comforted and educated Midwesterners for nearly 60 years. She's done it so well that The New Yorker magazine in 1991 did a 15-page feature on her, and she wound up on all the TV network news shows. This new book Witching for William may be Evelyn's best story ever, and certainly the deepest reporting job she's ever done. It is a search for, and profile of, her long-lost great-great-grandfather William Corrie. She turns it into a riveting adventure. What makes it so for general readers like us is not that Evelyn's family is so much more interesting than yours or mine, but that she tells the story so much better than most of us could. It's helpful that she includes genealogy tips at the end of each chapter. And it's perfect that she includes a fitting recipe after each chapter, too. Her first boss in the newspaper business told her in 1949 always to put a recipe at the end of every column she wrote "because they may not read anything else but they'll always read a recipe." That advice has served her and her readers very well, and the recipes in Witching for William make it possible for you not only to read this story but also to taste it.
~ from Iowa writer Chuck Offenburger


Evelyn Birkby's Witching for William is many things: part genealogy, part how-to, part who-dun-it, part collection of historic recipes and part honest-to-God history. The reader starts off learning about an amiable woman's search for her ancestors with tips on how to do the same for one's own. After a while, she introduces them to us. Soon, they begin to speak for themselves and the times they lived in. In the end, Birkby achieves what Shelly said Shakespeare had, "negative capability"; she disappears, as storyteller, into the characters in the tale she is relating. In other words, the history she has so painstakingly researched comes alive. The greatest compliment one can give an historian is to say, "It was like she was there." It was like Evelyn Birkby was there and we were too through her excellent and spirited writing.
~ Michael Carey, winner of the Iowa Library Association's Brigham Plaque Award and the Des Moines Library Foundation's Iowa Author Award.


"In this season's new cookbooks, farm country nostalgia is in rich supply. And one of the most authentic of the lot is Neighboring On the Air, Cooking with KMA Radio Homemakers" by Evelyn Birkby
~ A New York Times Book Review


"Deliciously un-pretentious, Up a Country Lane (University of Iowa Press) is a slow saunter through sixty years of rural Iowan life. Evelyn Birkby's book is stuffed with recipes and household tips culled from the more than fifty years she has written the newspaper column of the same name. However, what stands out among these are the anecdotes involving family and friends, their contribution to a recipe or simply to the atmosphere of a memorable meal, as well as those highlighting Evelyn's own philosophy of life: "be neighborly and generous." Evelyn has never viewed cooking as merely the precursory act to satisfying hunger. To her, cooking means connection. Every recipe is connected to the people Evelyn knew and to the Iowa she loves. This cookbook is a portrait of midwestern life, all-inclusive and encompassing. While the focus may be food, this is merely the center from which radiates a fully dimensional picture of an era rich with a sense of vitality, community, and the value of a good meal."
~ ForeWord Magazine, July/August 2001


"Fannie Flagg toyed with several ideas for a few years before she decided she wasn't finished with autobiographical themes...In a small bookstore in Fair Hill, Alabama., Flagg spotted Neighboring on the Air, She befriended the author, Evelyn Birkby of Sidney, Iowa, and with her help, Fannie began writing her next book. Her major character in Standing in the Rainbow, based on Evelyn's radio homemakers, continued to appear in Can't Wait to Get To Heaven."
~ Publisher's Weekly


"Evelyn Birkby has discussed virtually everything of importance to her on the radio (and in her books). She has swapped recipes...she has delivered motivational talks when crops were bad, she has discussed training of children, the dressing of chickens and shared her tribulations as a wife and mother. Now she shares her passion for family history..."
~ New Yorker Magazine, 1991
Michael & Jane Stern


"Birkby's love and understanding of her subjects, her characters, even her recipes, reflect both the people and places in which she's been. Birkby's book is a lovingly written testimony of an important and unique part of history. Her books show a literary talent and a passion for rural history."
~ Ed Haag
Farm Journal


"It is her tender-hearted scenes from the golden times past that so charm and move us now."
~ Midwest Today Magazine


"Among Evelyn Birkby's many claims to fame--she's been a cookie judge at the Iowa State Fair for over 12 years. She's an author, too. It's a tribute to the power of Birkby’s writing ability that the University of Iowa Press has published several books of her recipes, home talk, personal reminiscences and local history. It's also a tribute to Birkby's imagination that she can build word pictures and make you feel as if you have been to that place even if you've never been. You know what she is talking about."
~ Paul Hendrickson in the Washington Post


"Evelyn has a way of writing that is so descriptive that you feel you are right there beside her wherever she's been and who she's talked to."
~ Emily Bengtson - longtime friend and neighbor


"I can remember my father's (Willard Archie) delight when he told the family that Evelyn had suggested writing a column for our newspaper. Our family and the Birkbys had many ties and he knew she would be an intelligent and genuine chronicler of rural life with an appeal well beyond her Fremont County neighborhood."
~ David Archie,
Iowan Magazine

 

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