In this work, nationally prominent fiction writers, essayists, and poets recall how their formative years in Alabama shaped them as people and as writers. The essays range in tone from the sorrowful to the playful, in class from the privileged to the poverty-stricken, in geography from the rural to the urban, and in time from the first years of the 20th century to the height of the Civil Rights era and beyond. In all the essays we see how the individual artists came to understand something central about themselves and their art from a changing Alabama landscape. Whether from the perspective of C. Eric Lincoln, beaten for his presumption as a young black man asking for pay for his labours, or of Judith Hillman Paterson, floundering in her unresolved relationship with her troubled family, these personal renderings are intensely realized visions of a writer's sense of being a writer and a human being. What emerges overall is a complex, textured portrait of men and women struggling with, and within, Alabama's economic and cultural evolution to become major voices of our time.
Jay Lamar is Associate Director of the Center for the Arts and Humanities at Auburn University and coeditor of the anthology Reading Our Lives. Jeanie Thompson is Executive Director of the Alabama Writers' Forum, a partnership of the Alabama State Council on the Arts in Montgomery, and author of four collections of poetry, including White for Harvest: New and Selected Poems.