Pondering of the Past: Harper Lee, A Southern Literary Legacy

Harper Lee, A Southern Voice that Opened Eyes and Hearts Across America

A Southern Classic that Exposed a Broken Culture Caught in its Past

Nelle Harper Lee (1926 – 2016), simply Harper Lee to millions across America, a Southern voice for decades based on her first book, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Her other book though written in the 1950s, Go Set a Watchman, did not see the light of day until 2015 and was published as a sequel to her Pulitzer Prize classic. 

Harper Lee wrote what she knew best, the Deep South of the 1930s from a child’s point of view. Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama provided her with ample opportunities to portray the irrationality of adult attitudes in the racist culture that permeated the South.

A footnote worth mentioning: the character in her novel named Dill was based upon her real childhood friend, Truman Capote. What were the odds that little old Monroeville, Alabama would rear up both Truman Capote and Harper Lee? Today, Monroeville, Alabama entertains thousands of visitors who flock into town to get a glimpse at the old courthouse and homes that Harper Lee wrote about in To Kill a Mockingbird. Might I suggest you might want to visit the link below to learn more-http://www.southernliterarytrail.org/monroeville.html

What’s Coming in 2023…

Shiloh Mystery Series, Fifth Anniversary of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories & Testament, An Unexpected Return. Watch for updated new book covers in 2023 and a flurry of personal appearances to promote the anniversary of all three Shiloh novels, including Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. Expanded distribution and availability of the printed and e-book editions coming.

July 2023, The Last Laird of Sapelo (Koehler Books) is coming. A historical novel that explains why at the end of the Civil War virtually all the freed Geechee slaves risked their lives and found their way back to the only homes and land they ever knew. And, why for the rest of the tumultuous Nineteenth Century the Spalding family became the only permanent white residents on Sapelo Island. A unique and near-forgotten legacy linked the post-war Geechee community and the Spaldings until the last Spalding passed away and the Geechee descendants fell victim the wishes and whims of the rich and famous in the first half of the 20th Century.

Watch for more about The Last Laird of Sapelo in the coming months…

Sapelo Island

Southern Voices from the Past: Zora Neale Hurston

(Read all the way down and catch a recent interview of T. M. Brown by Canvas Rebel Magazine.)

Zora Neale Hurston, an Undeniable Southern Voice

1891-1960, Zora Neale Hurston 

Zora Neale Hurston, a Notable Southern Voice from the Past

Zora Neale Hurston became an influential African-American voice for Southern literature in the 1930s. She portrayed racial struggles in the early 20th Century South. Of her four novels and numerous published short stories, plays, and essays, her 1937 book Their Eyes Were Watching God brought her the most notoriety.

Born in Alabama, her family relocated to Eatonville, Florida in 1894. While attending Barnard College in New York, Zora became a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance and befriended Langston Hughes. She returned to North Florida and wrote her novels about the African-American experience, folklore, and her personal struggles as an African-American woman. She would be instrumental as an instructor at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida and later at North Carolina College for Negroes, now North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina.

Posthumous Notoriety, Continued Recognition

Zora Neale Hurston’s works continued mostly unrecognized until Alice Walker in 1975 published “In Search of Zora Neale Thurston” in Ms. Magazine. Two of her works published posthumously were Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001) and Barracoon (2018).

Posthumously Published by Harper Collins, 2018.

A little extra for those curious about T. M. Brown, Southern Author & President of Hometown Novel Writers Association, Inc.

Below is the recent interview by Canvas Reel Magazine. It provides a broad picture of Mike as an published author and founder of Hometown Novel Writers Association in Newnan, GA. There’s much to look forward to in 2023.

Upcoming appearances, Saturday, October 15th, Arts on the Creek Book Festival, Johns Creek, Georgia, 10 AM.

Southern Voices from the Past – Flannery O’Connor

Fiercely loyal to her native South and abiding faith, Flannery O’Connor held little patience for those who saw her depiction of the South as a caricature and who felt she could not possibly share or take seriously the religious preoccupations of her characters. But neither her critics nor the lingering health struggles over the last fifteen years of her life – a time of great suffering – could prevent her from preserving the integrity of a body of work that, however lacking in bulk, places her securely in the first rank of American fiction writers of the twentieth century.

Early Years

Mary Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925 –  the only child of Edward O’Connor, Jr., and Regina (Cline) O’Connor. Both her parents’ families had emigrated from Ireland to Georgia in the nineteenth century. The O’Connors were also Catholics in a Protestant-dominated South, and Flannery’s education came from a series of parochial schools.

In 1938, her father’s real estate business had suffered during the Depression; he began working as a real estate appraiser for the Federal Housing Authority, which required the family to relocate to Atlanta. O’Connor and her mother chose to live in Milledgeville. Her father struggled with lupus, which ultimately consumed his life in 1941.

From 1938 to 1945, O’Connor received her primary education in Milledgeville. While in high school she wrote and drew cartoons for the school newspaper. At Georgia State College for Women, also in Milledgeville, she earned a bachelors of arts in English and Sociology. And more significantly, she dropped her first name and wrote under the name of Flannery O’Connor.

From 1945 to 1948, she did postgraduate work at the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she undertook a formal course of reading that introduced her to the work of modern writers such as Joyce, Kafka, and her fellow Southerner William Faulkner. After several unsuccessful efforts to get published, her fiction began to be accepted both by popular magazines such as Mademoiselle and journals such as The Sewanee Review. She also won the Rinehart-Iowa Fiction Award for her novel in progress, earning her an award of $750 and a contract with Rinehart and Company to publish the book upon its satisfactory (to them) completion.

Literary Career

During 1948 and 1949, O’Connor worked on her book at an artists’ colony near Saratoga Springs, New York. She boarded at the home of noted poet Robert Fitzgerald and his family in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Friction developed with Rinehart when O’Connor refused to revise her book according to the publisher’s editorial suggestions and they characterized her as uncooperative. She obtained her contractural release and signed a contract with Harcourt, Brace, 1951.

She began to suffer pains in her arms and shoulder joints and developed a high fever on her train trip to Georgia for Christmas. She was hospitalized on her arrival and like her father was diagnosed with lupus. She never again would she be completely healthy, but through therapy and a strict diet recovered sufficiently to complete her novel- titled Wise Blood, published in 1952In contrast to her experience with Rinehart, she was quite responsive to editorial insight and advice–and would remain so throughout her life.

Though O’Connor remained a devout Catholic, her stories usually focused upon mainstream Southern whites who professed the Protestant faith of fundamentalist and often highly idiosyncratic tendencies.

She continued to write and to publish short stories, including “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” which first appeared in 1953 in a paperback anthology called The Avon Book of Modern Writing, and two years later became the title piece of A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. This collection was praised by reviewers, and it sold unexpectedly well for a book of short fiction.

Despite continuing health problems, O’Connor continued living and working with her mother on their family farm. Her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, published in 1960 to mixed reviews.

Last Years

O’Connor saw her reputation consolidated in the early 1960s with several essays on her fiction in the Summer 1962 issue of the Sewanee Review and the publication in 1963 of her three books in a one-volume paperback edition called Three by Flannery O’Connor.

At the end of 1963, she suffered a pre-Christmas fainting spell that led to the diagnosis of a fibroid tumor, which was surgically removed in February 1964. Fearing the worst, she devoted her remaining strength to finish the last two of the nine stories planned for her forthcoming collection, Everything That Rises Must Converge. The book appeared in 1965 but as a posthumous publication. O’Connor died on August 3, 1964, at the age of thirty-nine.

In the carefully crafted prose of the two novels and nineteen short stories that she deemed worthy of book publication, she created a gallery of fantastic-seeming but deeply felt and sympathetic characters, in whose stories the humorous often gives way with sickening swiftness to the horrible, and whose lives, however twisted and tortured they may become, remain steadfast searches for the healing power of grace. 

Although many writers in this century have sought to catch the flavor of what critics customarily term “Southern gothic,” O’Connor is unsurpassed in the mingling of violence and beauty, of the glorious and grotesque, that is her particular mood and theme.

T. M. Brown, Southern Author