How Am I to Be Heard?: Letters of Lillian Smith

Overview


This compelling volume offers the first full portrait of the life and work of writer Lillian Smith (1897-1966), the foremost southern white liberal of the mid-twentieth century. Smith devoted her life to lifting the veil of southern self-deception about race, class, gender, and sexuality. Her books, essays, and especially her letters explored the ways in which the South's attitudes and institutions perpetuated a dehumanizing experience for all its people—white and black, male and female, rich and poor. Her ...
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Overview


This compelling volume offers the first full portrait of the life and work of writer Lillian Smith (1897-1966), the foremost southern white liberal of the mid-twentieth century. Smith devoted her life to lifting the veil of southern self-deception about race, class, gender, and sexuality. Her books, essays, and especially her letters explored the ways in which the South's attitudes and institutions perpetuated a dehumanizing experience for all its people—white and black, male and female, rich and poor. Her best-known books are Strange Fruit (1944), a bestselling interracial love story that brought her international acclaim; and Killers of the Dream (1949), an autobiographical critique of southern race relations that angered many southerners, including powerful moderates. Subsequently, Smith was effectively silenced as a writer.

Rose Gladney has selected 145 of Smith's 1500 extant letters for this volume. Arranged chronologically and annotated, they present a complete picture of Smith as a committed artist and reveal the burden of her struggles as a woman, including her lesbian relationship with Paula Snelling. Gladney argues that this triple isolation—as woman, lesbian, and artist—from mainstream southern culture permitted Smith to see and to expose southern prejudices with absolute clarity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This collection reveals a great deal about Lillian Smith as person, artist, beleaguered social critic and lover.

New York Times Book Review

An invaluable collection.

Voice Literary Supplement

These letters reinforce and expand the image of Smith that emerges from a reading of her books.

Progressive

Gladney's perceptive, sensitive presentation of a woman too long ignored for her influence and acumen is exemplary.

Women's Review of Books

Makes a significant contribution to American cultural studies.

Journal of American History

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This collection of 145 letters by author and social activist Smith (1897-1966) are accompanied by informative biographical essays written by Gladney, an assistant professor of American studies at the University of Alabama. The letters reveal the strength of a single voice reflecting on a singular life. As a white woman who was outspokenly opposed to the racism that permeated the American South, where she had been raised, Smith addressed the issue prominently in her literary magazine, South Today , co-edited with her lover, Paula Snelling. After publishing Strange Fruit , a controversial novel about an interracial love affair, Smith lectured widely. Letters to Martin Luther King Jr., to Eleanor Roosevelt and to other activists testify to her involvement in the civil rights movement. Other correspondence here documents Smith's concern with the interaction between sexual and racial attitudes and the impact on children, the subject of her autobiographical work, Killers of the Dream. Illustrated . (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807845806
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 2/5/1996
  • Series: Gender and American Culture Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 406
  • Product dimensions: 0.93 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Margaret Rose Gladney is associate professor of American studies at the University of Alabama.
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