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Memoir Review    

 
 
The Remembered Gate: Memoirs by Alabama Writers
Edited by Jay Lamar and Jeanie Thompson
A Deep South Book
University of Alabama Press, 2002
ISBN: 0-8173-1123-8

 

 
 

The Remembered Gate is an incredible gift to Alabamians. The editors have wisely selected a cross section of fiction writers, poets, and essayists with national reputations to explore the themes of artistic self-discovery and regional awareness. 

Nineteen authors from the state were asked, "How did growing up in Alabama or spending formative years in the state, shape you as a writer?" Their answers were provocative, heart-wrenching, and intensely personal. In each of the entrees, these essays reveal an enduring sense of place. 

Dr. C. Eric Lincoln and Albert Murray's essays serve as the anthology's bookends. As a child, Lincoln was beaten for his presumption that he deserved to be paid for his work, yet a few months before his death he would write, "I shall always be sentimental about Alabama. It used to be my home."  Murray, O'Connor Professor of Literature at Colgate who co-founded, with Winton Marsalis, the Jazz Center at Lincoln Program, wanted to create literature of interest to "the world at large." His essay, "Regional Particulars and Universal Implications," points out, "The condition of man is always a matter of the specific texture of existence in a given place, time, and circumstance." 

The Remembered Gate succeeds because the authors chose understanding Alabama's cultural history instead of defending it. Issues of class, race, and poverty are addressed within the context of shifts in the state's population from an rural based economy to a more urban economy. 

Readers will find much to love in this eclectic collection. Fannie Flagg's "The Truth the Heart Knows" is a love song to the people of the state while Mary Ward Brown's "Swing Low: A Memoir" is the story of a long-lasting friendship between a white woman and black man during the years before the Civil Rights Movement. Patricia Foster, Nanci Kincaid, and Phyllis Alesia Perry delve into Alabama's complicated racial history with poignancy and humor. Other contributors include: James Haskins, Andrew Glaze, Helen Norris, Wayne Greenhaw, Robert Inman, Andrew Hudgins, Rodney Jones, William Cobb, Frye Gaillard, Sena Jeter Naslund, Charles Gaines, and Judith Hillman Paterson. Each of the writers has risen to the occasion. 

Jay Lamar and Jeanie Thompson are to be congratulated for their efforts on behalf of the literary arts in the state of Alabama. The Remembered Gate, which was made possible by grants from the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation and the Alabama Corporate Foundation for Children, is an enormous bequest to Alabama's children, past and present. 

Jay Lamar is the Associate Director of the Auburn Center for the Humanities at Auburn University and coeditor of the anthology Reading Our Lives. 

Jeanie Thompson is the Executive Director of the Alabama Writers' Forum and the author of four collections of poetry, most recently White for Harvest: New and Selected Poems. She teaches in the MFA program at Spalding University.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews
 

2002 Southern Scribe Reviews, All Rights Reserved