My Ántonia was enthusiastically received in 1918 when it was first published. It was considered a masterpiece and placed Cather in the forefront of novelists. Today, it is considered her first masterpiece. Cather was praised for bringing the American West to life and making it personally interesting. It brought place forward almost as if it were one of the characters, while at the same time playing upon the universality of the emotions, which in turn promoted regional American literature as a valid part of mainstream literature.:vii
"As Cather intended, there is no plot in the usual sense of the word. Instead, each book contains thematic contrasts." The novel was a departure from the focus on wealthy families in American literature; "it was a radical aesthetic move for Cather to feature lower-class, immigrant 'hired girls.'"
Cather also makes a number of comments concerning her views on women's rights, and there are many disguised sexual metaphors in the text.:xv
My Ántonia is a selection of The Big Read, the community-wide reading program of The National Endowment for the Arts. For the communities and books in the program since 2007, see History of the program since 2007.