Palm Sunday, subtitled An Autobiographical Collage (1981), is a collection of essays, letters, speeches, reviews, and fiction by Kurt Vonnegut, perhaps the best-known Indianapolis author of the mid-to-late 20th  century. Throughout the book, especially in the chapter titled “Roots,” he explores his family’s history in Indianapolis.

Portrait of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., n.d. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The “Roots” chapter features excerpts from attorney John Rauch’s manuscript, “An Account of the Ancestry of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., by an Ancient Friend of His Family,” which examines the lives of such Vonnegut ancestors as great-grandfather Clemens Vonnegut Sr, who established the Vonnegut Hardware Company, and grandfather Bernard Vonnegut of the architectural firm Vonnegut & Bohn, which designed such Indianapolis landmarks as the John Herron Art Museum, the Athenaeum, and the L. S. Ayres and Company, and the Fletcher Trust buildings.

Along with the Vonnegut family genealogy, the book includes a letter from Vonnegut to a school committee in North Dakota where his books were burned; a chapter titled “Embarrassment” detailing his Indianapolis relatives’ lack of enthusiasm for his fiction; and a musical comedy version of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story.

Revised February 2021

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