Growing up in Mississippi when it was violently segregated, I had two distinct families. My country family, which was my mother’s family. We visited them every Sunday on a farm in Hinds County. That family ignored Mississippi’s racist demands.
The town family was my Bigmama in her two-story, white-columned Jackson home. Bigmama always enforced racial codes. I adored her, and it’s been a long slow process of admitting the true role she played in my life. Her oldest son, my dad, died when I was three years old, killed by a train when my young family was living Out West.
Unsurprisingly, grief and the complicated dance that is family threads through my writing.
Mississippi meanders through my work too. An early essay published in Fourth Genre was about the 2001 failed attempt to change the state flag. My first long-form work was a memoir about the western days of my Mississippi family, with excerpts published in River Teeth, Alaska Quarterly Review, and North Dakota Quarterly. My bespoke novel, The Hart Women, is all about tangled Mississippi family relations.
My writing’s also funny. My PRNDI-recognized radio commentary was a funny piece about Mississippi. Both my Southern novel and cozy mystery feature oddball Mississippi heroines. The stories in my self-narrated collection that won the CIPA-EVVY Audio Book Award are sly and snarky. My Mother Mary novel, with excerpts published in Exterminating Angel Press and Connotation Press, is funny bordering on blasphemous. My work-in-process uses my almost 20 years as a Mississippi lawyer to tell a contemporary legal thriller story about reparations for Mississippi’s Civil Rights battles. The novel is obviously about a serious subject but has lots of side-eye.
In that vein, I’ve been known to appear in public in costume. See photo above. 🙂
“St. Paul admonishes us that we cannot all be a foot. I figure in the body of Christ, I’m the appendix. I have a vital function, just no one knows what it is yet.”
Ellen Morris Prewitt