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Category: Mississippi

Chatting with Strangers

Chatting with Strangers

I spent the past week traveling through my home state of Mississippi. I read from my latest novel at bookstores in Oxford, Greenwood, and Jackson, before heading to New Orleans for the Tennessee Williams Festival. My mother and my husband stuck with me through Mississippi, but I am on my own in New Orleans. I don’t mind traveling alone. When you explore a city on your own, you can do it any way you please. And it’s a good way…

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Age is No Excuse for Hatred

Age is No Excuse for Hatred

In the same week that our president was spewing some of his worst racist comments, Edgar Ray Killen drew his last breath at the state penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi. Killen is the notorious klansman behind the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He was not convicted for the brutal crimes until more than 40 years after the fact, and even then he was only declared guilty of manslaughter. He spent about a dozen years in jail…

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When Hell Freezes Over

When Hell Freezes Over

It’s snowing in Mississippi today. Tomorrow a sitting president will visit the state. These rare events seem portentous in their confluence, or maybe I’m too willing to assign meaning where none exists. The president’s decision to attend the opening of the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi, is causing consternation and division among the organizers. Rep. John Lewis, the Civil Rights hero slated to give the keynote at the event, says he will not attend now. Ditto for Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi’s only…

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We Read, Joyce Carol Oates. We Read.

We Read, Joyce Carol Oates. We Read.

Give anyone enough time and they will break your heart. I am a southerner. I live in Denver now, but I spent the first 21 years of my life in Mississippi. I first read Joyce Carol Oates’s short story, “How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again” as part of an English class in the Jackson, Mississippi public school system. I knew I wanted to read more and over the years,…

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Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Does anyone have an IQ test at the ready? I ask, because apparently challenging someone to an IQ duel is now a thing that is happening in the highest levels of our government. Lord, help us. I have no desire to watch elected officials on either side of the aisle brag about their intelligence. No matter how smart you think you are, it’s hard to look like anything but an ass when you are basically screaming: I’m smarter than you…

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Banned Books I Have Loved

Banned Books I Have Loved

It’s Banned Books Week and organizations from the American Booksellers Association to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (who knew?) are commemorating our right to read without censorship. When we think of banned books, we often think of books forbidden by the government ala the plot of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451,  but that isn’t really how books are banned in America today. Our books tend to be banned one school district or library at a time. And it’s often aimed at…

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Mama Knows Best? Not Always

Mama Knows Best? Not Always

This weekend my home state held its annual Mississippi Book Festival. I didn’t go. It’s a long way from Denver to Jackson, but my mother gave me a full report. She told me Ellen Gilchrist was super funny and charming at the morning session. No surprise. She told me about young adult author Angie Thomas and the road to publication for her debut The Hate U Give. I can’t wait to read it. And she told me about the powerful…

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For Freedom, Just Add Water

For Freedom, Just Add Water

My husband is a whiz at fast-forwarding through television commercials. I am not so quick to the button. When he travels, as he’s doing now, I see a lot of random advertisements while I’m watching Jeopardy! or the news. There is an ad running now that is both relentlessly terrifying and ridiculous. It’s an ad for something called Wise Food Storage. It opens with an extreme closeup of a man staring into the camera and declaring: You may not be…

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Welcome to the Real World, Ivanka

Welcome to the Real World, Ivanka

Ivanka Trump is surprised to discover the world is cruel. During an interview this weekend she said she’d encountered an unexpected “level of viciousness” since moving to Washington, D.C. Ivanka has lived too long in a cozy cocoon of wealth and power and privilege. Now she is emerging, not as a butterfly but as a common moth. She’s drawn to the light of fame and adulation, but she cannot take the heat of actual scrutiny and disapproval. It’s odd. She ought to be comfortable with viciousness. She grew up with…

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Who Do I Think I Am? Let Me Tell You

Who Do I Think I Am? Let Me Tell You

Last week I wrote a blog post about hypocrisy. It struck a nerve. Most of my posts get fewer than 100 views. When a post edges up over 200 views, I celebrate. In the first few days, “You Said This Was What You Wanted” registered nearly 40,000 views. My website crashed and crashed again. The last time I looked, the number of views had topped 87,000. I’m gobsmacked. This is what you hope for when you send your writing out into the…

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