Zoom Tomorrow to Meet John and Mary Margaret

There are several ways to explore the past. In John and Mary Margaret, Susan Cushman choses to see Mississippi’s 1960s racial turbulence of Mississippi through the eyes of an unlikely interracial couple at Ole Miss. Watching history through the eyes of young love, plus the mature reflection of a second chance, gives us an intimate look at those difficult times. A warm, intimate look, which is hard to achieve, and a delight to read.

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Those who have read Susan’s work will recognize John and Mary Margaret from her short story collection, Friends of the Library. Their stories take place in Oxford and Jackson, Mississippi and in Memphis. I grew up in Jackson and recently left my heart in Memphis where we lived for twenty years. Of course the story captured my attention. I enjoy reading books set in places I’m familiar with, and it’s doubly enjoyable when the time period is one I’m interested in. John and Mary Margaret was a delightful lens through which to view Memphis through the years and long-ago Jackson.

Susan Cushman is a master at weaving real-life events and characters with fictional stories. Here, we see the historical events at Ole Miss and Mary Margaret’s growing awareness of racial issues in Jackson. This is counterbalanced by the very different life John led during that time in Memphis as he pursued his dream of being a lawyer. I have read and read about the South’s civil rights era, but I learned a new thing or two.

As an added bonus, author Eduroa Welty plays a key role in Mary Margaret’s development. Ms Welty lived down the street from me in Jackson on Pinehurst Street. One of my first favorite authors, she wrote a story about the Jackson murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. You’ll be surprised at the way she interacts with Mary Margaret.

If you like the frisson of connecting with place, events, and a near-universal struggle to live our lives in the times we have been given, you’ll truly enjoy John and Mary Margaret. 

To join Susan’s virtual book launch at Novel bookstore in Memphis tomorrow night at 6pm, click here.

Comments (2)

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      I know, right? They are very different approaches, but they both explore the impact racism had/has on our lives. (and I’m trying to make Kevin more interesting!)

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