a ‘Southern observant’ Storyteller
The art of
For as long as the South has existed, the art – or gift – of storytelling has been passed from generation to generation, and seems to be a part of the cultural DNA. From the Tidewater region along the Chesapeake Bay to the Mississippi Delta of the Mid-South, great stories and great story tellers are part of a long and varied lineage.
Given birth as folk lore, and nurtured by every man, woman and child who greets the whole world as “ya’ll”, these stories were passed along over the centuries. They became the engaging plots of great novels, because of their character building morals many were shared with children all over the world (ain’t it so, Brer Rabbit), they became the screenplays for great movies, and they become the inspiration behind soulful music that can be heard in every blues bar and juke joint in the South.
I am honored to be a part of that tradition
I write stories about the South because it’s what I know. To borrow from the Book of Isaiah, it is the quarry from which I was hewn. When I lived in the midst of the poverty, racism, and violence, I never thought I would write about country churches and cotton fields. And yet, that life is the core – the BIOS – of who I was, who I am, and the stories I tell.
I wrap my tales around actual settings, but the stories, the people, their conflicts and their resolutions are fictional. I write about that part of the world I grew up in, as it was in the mid-Twentieth Century, because I believe it’s important for the Mid-South Delta culture to be remembered and for many of us, valued.
Cotton is king
In 1858, South Carolina Senator James Hammond stood on the Senate floor and boldly declared, “You dare not make war upon cotton! No power on earth dares make war upon it. Cotton is king.” That ill-advised declaration predated the Civil War and gave the South the false confidence that it could succeed from the Union.
Those three words continued to define the South and hold dominion over the people of the Delta for over a century. We were whatever “King Cotton” said we could be. It continued to hold that dominion until education, technology and time began to liberate us.
When the rest of America was engaged in a race with the Soviet Union to conquer space, when technology was driving the economy of much of America, families in this part of the Delta were still living in dilapidated three- and four-room shacks that had no running water and no indoor plumbing. These folks were still chopping and picking cotton by hand, and were still trying to pull survival out of the mud of desperation.
Extreme poverty among whites and blacks – alike – and the brutal racism passed down through our history hindered the economic and social development of that area.
“Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from whence you were hewn.” Isaiah 51:1