The author who today is probably best known for her novel The Awakening initially established her literary reputation with short stories about life in rural Louisiana during the late nineteenth century. Born Katherine O'Flaherty in St. Louis, Missouri, she later married Oscar Chopin, a Creole cotton trader and commission merchant, and lived in and around New Orleans for more than a decade until her husband's death. During these years, while raising six children on a Southern plantation, Chopin became acquainted with Creoles, Cajuns, and newly freed blacks. After her husband's death she returned to St. Louis and began writing, drawing from her recent experience in Louisiana to create her fiction.
The stories collected in Bayou Folk present remarkably vivid snapshots of daily life in a now vanished world. Many of them highlight the relations between blacks and whites in a society where the rules of engagement still reflected the entrenched patterns of slavery some two decades after the Civil War. As she was ahead of her time regarding women's rights in The Awakening, where she depicted a woman unafraid to throw off traditional restraints, Chopin was also farsighted about race relations in Bayou Folk. Perhaps the story "Desiree's Baby" about the birth of a mixed-race baby to two "white" parents best expresses the uneasy relationship between blacks and whites in the old South, and the moral outrage of its strict codes against miscegenation.
Chopin's gifts for capturing the dialects of the region and for telling a compelling story in memorable vignettes provide the reader with a richly rewarding experience.
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About the Author
One of the first books to truthfully write about women’s lives, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is considered a quintessential work of Southern literature and a bold foray into early feminism. Aside from The Awakening, Chopin has written numerous short stories, many exploring Cajun, Creole, and Southern identities.
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