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A Literary Guide to Washington, DC

Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston
Kim Roberts

BUY Cloth · 240 pp. · 4.5 × 8 · ISBN 9780813941165 · $50.00 · May 2018
BUY Paper · 240 pp. · 4.5 × 8 · ISBN 9780813941172 · $27.95 · May 2018
BUY Ebook · 240 pp. · ISBN 9780813941189 · $27.95 · May 2018

The site of a thriving literary tradition, Washington, DC, has been the home to many of our nation’s most acclaimed writers. From the city’s founding to the beginnings of modernism, literary luminaries including Walt Whitman, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Henry Adams, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston have lived and worked at their craft in our nation’s capital.

In A Literary Guide to Washington, DC, Kim Roberts offers a guide to the city’s rich literary history. Part walking tour, part anthology, A Literary Guide to Washington, DC is organized into five sections, each corresponding to a particularly vibrant period in Washington’s literary community. Starting with the city’s earliest years, Roberts examines writers such as Hasty-Pudding poet Joel Barlow and "Star-Spangled Banner" lyricist Francis Scott Key before moving on to the Civil War and Reconstruction and touching on the lives of authors such as Charlotte Forten Grimké and James Weldon Johnson. She wraps up her tour with World War I and the Jazz Age, which brought to the city some writers at the forefront of modernism, including the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sinclair Lewis. The book’s stimulating tours cover downtown, the LeDroit Park and Shaw neighborhoods, Lafayette Square, and the historic U Street district, bringing the history of the city to life in surprising ways.

Written for tourists, literary enthusiasts, amateur historians, and armchair travelers, A Literary Guide to Washington, DC offers a cultural tour of our nation's capital through a literary lens.


Our nation’s capital isn’t usually viewed as a literary town. The well-read may know that Walt Whitman worked in Washington during the Civil War or that historian Henry Adams resided next to Lafayette Park, but that’s probably it. Yet Kim Roberts’s A Literary Guide to Washington, D.C.  reminds us that Ambrose 'Bitter' Bierce spent 14 years in the city and that Sinclair Lewis published Main Street when he was living near Dupont Circle. What's more, by focusing on the years before 1930, Roberts underscores the District of Columbia’s  central importance to so many African-American writers, including Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar,  Langston Hughes,  Jean Toomer and  Zora Neale Hurston. Conveniently pocket-sized and packed with anecdotes, maps and suggested walking tours, A Literary Guide to Washington, D.C. will inspire  readers to go wandering in the footsteps of some of America’s greatest poets, novelists and essayists.

Michael Dirda, Washington Post columnist

The perfect accompaniment for a literature-inspired vacation in the U.S. capital. The compact size, clearly labeled maps, and succinct, informative text make this a handy guide to slip into your suitcase.

Library Journal

Sized to carry along on a walk, the guide provides information about the famous literary lights of Washington as well as its lesser-known writers.... With profiles of nearly two dozen writers, maps showing various sites associated with them and samples of their work, A Literary Guide to Washington, DC is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in books, local history and, most of all, the diverse and talented authors who have called DC home.

Hill Rag Magazine

[P]oet and historian Kim Roberts’ informative A Literary Guide to Washington, DC, while not a specifically LGBTQ title, does feature queer literary luminaries such as Walt Whitman (and his lover Peter Doyle), Langston Hughes, Angelina Weld Grimké, and Richard Bruce Nugent. The inclusion of five literary walking tours (and maps) is an added bonus.

Bay Area Reporter

"[A]s much a literary sampler as it is a walking-tour guidebook. Kim Roberts’ latest leads readers through the literary — and literal — landscape of the nation’s capital and reveals the city’s rich history in letters.... Roberts’ literary guide is definitely one to pick up for those interested in Washington history, American literature between 1800 and 1930, African-American literature or even generally in the interplay between artists, their landscapes and their moments in history."

The DC Line

Kim Roberts wrote the book on D.C.’s authors. She had to, because she felt the district hasn’t gotten its due as a literary city.... So she started offering walking tours that include stops like 'Newspaper Row' on 14th Street, and eventually decided to turn her extensive knowledge into a cultural tour of a book.

Washington Post Express

National Geographic Traveler placed Washington at No. 8 in its Top 10 list of the world’s most literary cities. Kim Roberts, a D.C.-based freelance historian and writer, aims to help the everyday resident uncover some of the literati in our midst through this walking tour and anthology.

Metro Weekly

Kim Roberts, is a literary historian, which shows in the broad array of authors she mentions in this handy and engaging book full of photos and quotations. Walt Whitman and Henry Adams are here, of course, but also old writers who may be new to many readers, starting with the poet Joel Barlow (1754-1812). Roberts’s walking directions are easy to follow, but her tales of writers in the capital are so engaging that readers may feel they don’t even need to leave the house.

Washington Post

[Roberts'] research cumulated in this pocket-sized guidebook to the city, a collection of spotlights on historic places related to D.C.’s cultural scene, accompanied by short biographies of writers connected to Washington and four walking tours readers can follow. The book represents an impressive cross-section of writers from a variety of historical periods, ethnicities, and backgrounds. While people don’t typically associate D.C. with an impressive literary heritage, Roberts reveals that there’s more to the city’s cultural past than first meets the eye.

Rebecca Gale · National Trust for Historic Preservation

District resident Kim Roberts, a poet and literary historian, has compiled this unique guide that can expand your mind as you exercise your body. Follow four walking tours to the residences and places of interest in the lives and times of D.C.’s greatest writers, their spouses and social acquaintances.

The Beacon

Roberts is an award-winning poet, editor, and literary historian who’s lived in D.C. for 35 years.... A Literary Guide to Washington, DC [is] a pocket-sized guidebook featuring four literary-themed walking tours and profiles on significant authors with ties to the city... Roberts has expert knowledge of the former residences of literary figures in D.C.

Washington City Paper

A Literary Guide to Washington, DC shines a light on the work of American writers who lived and wrote in the nation’s capital between 1800 and 1930. Roberts’s book proves beyond a doubt that Washington has a proud literary legacy to celebrate and cherish.

Washington History

A Literary Guide to Washington, DC shines a light on the work of American writers who lived and wrote in the nation’s capital between 1800 and 1930.... [Roberts] combines author profiles, photographs, excerpts from written work, and neighborhood walking tours to present the diverse voices of poets, novelists, historians, essayists, and diarists— the prominent and lesser known—who found inspiration here. One of the most rewarding results of delving into the book is discovering unsung writers who made an impact.

Washington History

About the Author(s): 

Kim Roberts is a freelance literary historian, writer, and editor living in Washington, DC.

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