Biography introduces Mississippi’s treasure to new readers

"A Daring Life: A Biography of Eudora Welty" By Carolyn J. Brown

There have been many words written by and about Eudora Welty. “A Daring Life” by Carolyn Brown is a moving testimony to a great American writer. Welty’s reach was far beyond Mississippi although the state, its people, culture and history formed her and were the backdrop for her work.

Welty observed and wrote about a large part of the 20th century. In the early years she was greatly influenced by her parents and teachers in Jackson. She observed the Great Depression and traveled the state working for the federal WPA. Her writing career was interrupted by World War II but later resumed and remained steadfast, showing courage during the turbulent Civil Rights era.

She won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, the National Book Award and was the first living writer to be published in the Library of America series. Her national popularity soared after she delivered a series of lectures to standing-room only crowds at Harvard University. Those lectures were later published as One Writer’s Beginnings, a bestselling book.

The author and publishers are to be commended on the excellent cover photo of Welty, which is the image of an intensely interested and interesting young woman. Many of us are accustomed to seeing images of her as a white-haired elderly lady. This cover photo shows her full of strength and promise.

I feel privileged to have heard her read from her works on several occasions. One night I encountered her at a small restaurant owned by a cousin of mine. It was deep in the country of Lawrence County, but Welty and some of her friends enjoyed dining there. I was awed and embarrassed when my cousin insisted on taking me to the writer’s table, but Welty was full of warmth and graciousness.

In this book, Brown intends to introduce readers of all ages to a writer whose short stories and novels will endure for all time. Welty was — and is — a Mississippi treasure but her tales of people being people are for everyone everywhere.

Brown is a former teacher at Millsaps College and the University of North Carolina–Greensboro. She lives in Jackson and is a writer, editor and independent scholar.

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