Garfield Park39.729521, -86.138737

Alan Helms
Marguerite Young

Garfield Park is home to two literary places. Author Alan Helms, raised on Cruft Street, writes about his upbringing in his novel Young Man from the Provinces: A Gay Life before Stonewall, and the Tube Factory is home to a mural of writer Marguerite Young.


Alan Helms
b. 1937

Marguerite Young
b. 1908 – d. 1995

Literary Inspiration

Multiple Works

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Young Man from the Provinces: A Gay Life before Stonewall

Published 1995

“The Midwest of Everywhere”

Published 1945


1125 Cruft Street
Indianapolis, IN 46203

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Young Man from the Provinces: A Gay Life before Stonewall

Alan Helms

That night during supper on Cruft Street, I saw more clearly than ever how poor & small & cheap my home was, & I hated it more than ever. I hated eating off a plastic tablecloth under an overhead light in a kitchen with an ugly linoleum floor. I hated Mom’s uninspired cooking & Mom & Dad’s unpracticed attempts at being gracious. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.


“The Midwest of Everywhere” in Mademoiselle (1945) and Inviting the Muses: Stories, Essays, Reviews (1994)

Marguerite Young

For me, a plain Middle Westerner, there is no middle way. I am in love with whatever is eccentric, devious, strange, singular, unique, out of this world—and with life as an incalculable, a chaotic thing.


When Miss MacIntosh, My Darling was released in 1965 it was the subject of one of those huge spreads they used to print in Life magazine, back when a major new book was major news. People lined up on the streets of New York to buy the book, and there was a parade on Fifth Avenue, complete with rented buses and angels passing out champagne and playing trumpets.

The New York Times review by William Goyen called the novel “. . . a work of stunning magnitude and beauty. Its force is cumulative; its method is amassment, as in the great styles of Joyce or Hermann Broch or Melville or Faulkner. . . . It is a masterwork.” National Book Award winner Jerzy Kosinski has called Miss MacIntosh a “novel of massive achievement.” Critic Mark Van Doren says that “Marguerite Young’s eloquence has no parallel among the novelists of our time.” Writer Anna Balakian calls Young “one of the most innovative novelists of our time . . . to this part of the century what Gertrude Stein may have been to the beginning, but so much more human, more poetic, visionary.”

Kurt Vonnegut said that Young is “unquestionably a genius.” Truman Capote said “she was the one who taught us all.” Because she taught the student—Paul Griffith—who became the teacher of Flannery O’Connor, O’Connor referred to her as her “dearest grand mere.”

—Susan Neville, Demia Butler Chair of English
Butler University
Adapted from, “Where the Landscape Moved Like Waves: An Interview with Marguerite Young” in Sailing the Inland Sea

In the pages of her books she’s seen Indiana as the dream it is—the wonderfully strange, phantasmagoric people and places—and raised them to the level of myth. A whale in a boxcar, a small town full of people with ear trumpets (all of them deaf from malaria), hollyhocks in Indianapolis that came originally from Shakespeare’s garden—she saw them, called them back into being. She’s one of those writers who made Indiana possible as a subject matter, the finest prose stylist ever to come from this state. Her language is, from paragraph to paragraph, knock-your-socks-off stunning.

—Susan Neville, Demia Butler Chair of English
Butler University
Adapted from, “Where the Landscape Moved Like Waves: An Interview with Marguerite Young” in Sailing the Inland Sea

Young wasn’t embraced here. And Muck Rock dealt with a lot of backlash here too. So I thought it made sense to bring them together with this mural. Here, it takes more time for some people to appreciate a woman who goes after what she wants. Even though Muck Rock is an out-of-town artist, she was a great fit for the Marguerite mural. They’re both outsiders. This town can use more of their kind of confidence. And then maybe we’ll become more comfortable with people—especially women—who love themselves and believe in themselves. Honoring Young with this mural is a small step in that direction. She deserves it.

—Shauta Marsh, Cofounder/Director of Programs and Exhibitions
Big Car Collaborative
Tube Factory Artspace

Alan Helms grew up on the near-south side of Indianapolis in the 1940s and 1950s. After graduating from Manual High School, he moved to Manhattan and became a fixture in the gay social scene, befriending the likes of Leonard Bernstein and Noel Coward. He recounts his experiences in his 1995 memoir Young Man from the Provinces: A Gay Life before Stonewall. Helms is professor emeritus of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  

Marguerite Young was born in Indianapolis and studied at Indiana University and Butler University. She later earned an MA in Elizabethan and Jacobean literature at the University of Chicago. She taught at Indianapolis’s Shortridge High School and the University of Iowa before moving to New York City in 1943. Young is best known for her massive novel Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. 


Indianapolis is a place that inspires creativity. This is one of a dozen original pieces of visual and performing art created by Hoosier artists inspired by Bookmark Indy authors.

Kyle Herrington

Night Scene (After Alan Helms)
Mixed media and collage on Canvas | Kyle’s Instagram

Night Scene touches upon the duality of author Alan Helms’s upbringing in Indiana and subsequent life in 1950s New York City. Set in the darkness of an invented nightscape, artist Kyle Herrington’s painting mixes the iconography of New York City streets with the suburban visual hallmarks of the Cruft Street neighborhood in Indianapolis. This juxtaposition of Middle America’s sensibilities with “Big City ambitions echoes not only Helms’s personal story but also the journeys and narratives experienced by countless midwestern LGBT+ youth, both past and present. 


The Marguerite Young mural is located on the rear exterior of the Tube Factory Artspace:

1125 Cruft Street
Indianapolis, IN 46203


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Bookmark Indy Lunch and Learn: Indianapolis Drag History

June 16, 2021 | 12: 00 p.m. | Virtual

Bookmark Indy author Alan Helms grew up in Indianapolis during the 1940s and 1950s, and although his introduction to gay life primarily came after he left for New York City, LGBTQ+ people were living, working and building a community in his hometown. Stephen Lane will help us learn more about the LGBTQ+ community in Indianapolis during Helms’s time with a presentation of his graduate research on the long history of drag in Indianapolis, especially along Indiana Avenue. In addition to jazz musicians, from 1933 through the 1970s drag queens also graced the stages of the clubs that once populated Indiana Avenue, including the Madam Walker Theater.

Tune in here.

Partner: Stephen Lane

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