Wednesday, November 12, 2008
TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A SOUTHERN GIRL
TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A SOUTHERN GIRL is the title of a new upcoming collection of southern stories about growing up in the South from your's truly cause people like Denise Hildreth and Kathy Patrick and hundreds of other readers keep asking for me to write down some of the stories that I tell when I'm on the road and talkin' and tellin' and laughing about what it means to be from the deep, down, dirty South.
So here's the story on that. Here's my confession #1.
I am a bonifide fried chicken eating, swamp walking, truth talking – Southern Girl.
It has taken me most of my life to arrive at this conclusion. Oh, I know it seems simple enough. Born in the south. Raised in the south. But it’s not. I was born a writer. And writers are often on the outside of their tribe looking in. It’s what we’re made for, reflection and composition – ultimate preservation. Spies of the human condition. We are measuring life at an early age, we are memorizing the nooks and crannies of speech and cadence, subtle changes in the weather outside the window and inside the human heart. We are the great witnesses to the eternal turn of time.
Okay – enough of the philosophizing :) and back to why I’m confessing.
Not everyone takes me for a southern girl. Not even my own family. They see me as something foreign. An exotic, wasabi-eating Starbucks junkie. Don't worry I tell them, I’m just one of you. But they have their rightful suspicions. For one – I’m most often mistaken for a New Yorker. Why? But it happens more frequently than I can count. Even in New York as people stop me to ask directions. It’s not the sound of my voice. But it may be the way that I tend to dress in blacks and greys. Solid dark colors that won’t cause me to stand out in any way. Might be the way that I stand, arms often folded across my chest, watching things around me. Or the fact that sometimes when I’m speaking my cadence doesn’t come out very twangy and for this I must blame my broadcast teachers at a very young college age who tried their best to erase the speech they found unfavorable. To make me more generic, acceptable for jobs in all parts of America. Or it might be that I sure nuff don't smile enough. Never. I been looking serious since I was four.
But the things I wrote when hanging out in the theatre world were always about people trying hopelessly to escape where they were, who they were – to no avail. Now I realize years later, I was writing about me. I thought I belonged elsewhere. Now, I see that every novel and word I’ve written is infused with the blood of my people, words lying on paper as if they have been carved from their bones.
There ain't no escaping it honey. I can eat all the tabbouleh I want - next thing you know I'm craving cornbread and figs. Dark woods and crickets. Cane poles and people fishing at a pace that says, we'll just sit right out here and fish till we get a catch or Jesus comes back. Makes no never mind to us either way.
So, I"m gonna write a love letter to my people and to the place I come from. But in the meantime - just crack open any page of a novel of mine and you'll find the scent of the south rising from it's pages. You'll find that love letter has been in progress for a very long time.
And if I could find my thingy that connect my camera to my laptop I'd upload the very pictures of my back woods swampy creek Tara that is the very setting for a little place called Echo, Florida that rolls out on May 19th with the publication of my latest baby - SAINTS IN LIMBO. (You can preorder your copy now from just about anywhere and get one for your momma too. )
In the meantime, this New York looking woman ain't nothing but a walkin' talkin' Southern Girl. Yep, that's me. American by Birth and Southern by the Grace of God and that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
RIVER JORDAN is a southerner with a global perspective. Primarily, she’s a storyteller of the southern variety and has been cast most frequently in the company of Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee. Her most recent novel, Saints in Limbo will be released by Random House/Waterbrook May 19, 2009.
Ms. Jordan teaches and speaks on ‘The Passion of Story’ around the country and produces and hosts the radio program, BACKSTORY, on WRFN, 98.9 FM, Nashville Saturday’s 4-6 CST, www.radiofreenashville.org. Jordan and her husband live in Nashville, TN. You may visit the author at www.riverjordan.us