Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Five books with strong, spirited Southern ladies

Mimi Herman is the author of A Field Guide to Human Emotions and Logophilia. She codirects Writeaways writing workshops in the United States and abroad, and is a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist. Herman lives in a 1925 bungalow in Durham, North Carolina.

Her new novel is The Kudzu Queen.

At Lit Hub Herman tagged five books with strong, spirited Southern ladies. One title on the list:
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

Another member of Mattie’s family is Lily Owens, the narrator of Sue Monk Kidd’s beautiful book, The Secret Life of Bees. Lily, like Scout, is pragmatic, sometimes sassy and full of wonder. In The Secret Life of Bees, Lily runs away from an intolerable life of grief, guilt and Martha White grits to find a new home and, finally, family.

Like Lee, Kidd places her story in the uneasy racial crossroads that define the South to most of America, and America to most of the world. It is almost impossible to write a novel set in the South without trying to find an understanding of its complicated and ongoing racial history. And yet this involves risks for a writer: the dangers of stereotyping, of seeing characters and situations through the Vaseline-smeared lenses of sentimentality, and of perpetuating racism even while trying to eliminate it. If either of these books were published today, I think we’d see some changes, but I believe both Lee and Kidd did what every author has to do: They saw—and heard—their characters as clearly and carefully as they could, and were honest and thoughtful in every sentence.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue