During the past 5 years or so, I’ve read quite a few books by Southern women writers. My time at Hollins University (MA in Children’s Literature along with Megan!) helped pique my interest in this sub-category of fiction, particularly in the works of Lee Smith, also a graduate of Hollins. I’ve read almost all of Smith’s work and have enjoyed it. Other authors I’ve read include Gail Godwin, Fannie Flagg, Barbara Kingsolver, and Sena Jeter Naslund. I’ve begun to see some trends in these women’s works, including some things to note before you “jump in” to Southern women’s fiction. This will serve as a brief introduction to these authors’ work as a whole; I will follow up with short reviews of the different authors and their works in the weeks to come.
First, these novels and short stories tend to showcase the protagonist(s) relationships and conflicts with family (including siblings, parents, children, and spouses), tradition and culture, and the land. Second, Southern authors showcase the rich tradition, especially present in the Appalachias, of storytelling. Third, these works are almost always intergenerational; that is, several generations are involved in the story. Fourth, the works focus on personal struggles; these are frequently somewhat depressing in nature which is why I have to take a break every now and then! These struggles include everything from family tension, racial issues, identity crises, and the like.
Stay tuned! I’ll look at one author at a time.