Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Native Daughters Make Good

Tuesday I drove down to Jackson to visit my mother in the nursing home again. Friday will be her (81st) birthday, but I decided to go Tuesday because I wanted to meet fellow Jackson native, Kathryn Stockett, and hear her read from her newly published novel, The Help.
After visiting with Mom, I got to Lemuria Bookstore at 4 for the signing, scheduled to begin at 4:30, and I was about 20th in line. The line continued for an entire hour, but I got books signed for myself and my friend, Jan, (I was spending the night with Jan). After Kathryn signed our books, I got us seats on the 3rd row for the reading, and I’m so glad I got there early because there was standing room only. How wonderful to see the turnout for this native daughter.



When Kathryn finally made it to the reading, she was accompanied by actress Octavia Spencer, who read the part of Minny in several of the readings. Jan and I laughed at the funny parts, and teared up at the poignant and familiar themes of family and race in the town we both grew up in.

Kathryn and Octavia were both animated...














...and did a great job bringing Kathryn's colorful characters to life. It was more of a performance than a book reading.





Back at Jan’s later that night, we talked about the way it was in our own homes and lives in the 1960s in Jackson, and how important “the help” was to our families. We weren’t wealthy, neither of us, but we had a lot more than we realized at the time. Like maids that accompanied us on family vacations to do the cooking and cleaning. Lillie Bell was very significant in my life, as she worked for us full time while my mother taught school, until I was around eight or so. I'm pretty sure that I'm still alive today because of the many times Lillie Bell saved me from certain death at the hands of my brother! Kathryn talks about how she felt about the black woman who worked for her family, here.
I’m looking forward to starting The Help, but I promised myself I would the finish the two other books I’m reading first! I’ll get to it soon! Congratulations, Kathryn, and good luck with your book tour!

Another “native daughter” making good right now is 21-year-old Alexis Grace, who is amongst the 36 finalists in the 8th season of American Idol. …. She’s from Midtown Memphis—graduated from Overton High School in 2005. What an amazing voice coming from such a tiny girl! She looks like a young Dolly Parton, and she’s got a two-year-old daughter, and her fiancĂ© is serving in Iraq right now. What’s not to love?



So I taped last night’s show (since I was out of town) and watched it this afternoon when I got back to Memphis, and then watched the results on tonight’s show. CONGRATULATIONS, Alexis! She made it to the top 12! Check later for news about another Memphian, Lil Rounds, who also made it to the top 36. I think she will be competing in the 3rd group of 12, week after next. Yeah, it’s fun to see native daughters make good—from both of my “home towns! Click on the video below to see more of Alexis Grace.

video

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