Homer H. Hickam Jr.
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Homer H. Hickam Jr.

October Sky

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About Him

Grew Up… in Coalwood, West Virginia in the 1950s. It's a small town, but with all the men working in the dreaded coalmines, it's hardly idyllic. Homer’s family is typical — his father works in the mines, where Homer and his brother are expected to one day join him.

Living… the last days of his youth. Still in school, Homer dreads the prospect of going to the mines, but college is far too expensive for him to consider. When his brother, Jim, receives a football scholarship, the burden of fulfilling his father’s expectations rest on Homer, who knows the mines are a dead end. As Homer tells his father, “There’s nothing here for me! The town is dying! The mine is dying! Everyone knows it but you!”

Profession… student and contestant in the local science fair. When Coalwood hears about the launch of Sputnik 1 in the Soviet Union, Homer is both mystified and inspired. For a boy stuck in a stifling small town, the thought of going into space is exhilarating.

Interests… reaching for the sky. As he learns about Dr. Werner von Braun’s rocket projects with NASA, Homer begins to dream of building a rocket of his own one day. But Homer has little experience in rocketry, and all the while, the coalmines are calling his name.  

Challenge… escaping his fate. Homer is having trouble settling for his family’s expectations, but he hopes that if he wins the national science fair, he'll have both the money and the support to attend college. His father may see coal mining as the only honest way to make a living in Coalwood, but Homer has loftier dreams: “Coal mining may be your life but it’s not mine. I’m never going down there again. I wanna go into space.”

Personality… determined, optimistic, and incredibly hardworking. Homer has always hoped for a better life than his father had. While most of Coalwood’s residents don’t believe in his rocket projects, Homer and his motley crew of scientist friends tenaciously go it alone (with some help from their teacher, Miss Riley).

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