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Imitation of Life

This post is in response to those readers of Unrefined, Sugar who asked to hear more about the segregated South of the 1950s. “Put that magazine down, honey!” my mother whispered. “It’s for colored people.” The year was 1948 and we were in the L&N Depot in Knoxville, Tennessee, waiting for a train to Chattanooga. When Mother stopped at the newsstand, I picked up what I thought was a copy of Life magazine. I hadn’t yet learned to read and had instead reached for Ebony which, with its red and white title, was easily mistaken for Life. This is my first memory of the so-called “separate but equal” society of racial segregation. Since I couldn’t read, I could just as easily have ignored signs proclaiming White Only and Colored Only and attempted to use the wrong...

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Refining “Sugar”

A while back, I took career inventory. I realized that of my 31 novels (22 published), all but eight were set in the South. I’ve written historical and contemporary fiction, mystery, adventure, time travel, and nonfiction travel. The missing category, and one I’ve always wanted to explore, was Southern humor. The most appealing aspect of the genre is that it requires no research. All I had to do to write Unrefined, Sugar was to conjure my colorful  ‘50s Tennessee childhood. The South has always claimed a hefty dose of eccentrics, storytellers and picaresque characters. I don’t know if we actually count more nut cases than other regions or just have more folks writing about them. My favorite theory comes from the late Florence King in her seminal and dazzling...

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