Mary Fran Schickedantz will lead a discussion of Lee Smith’s “DimeStore”
Dimestore A Writer’s Life
Lee Smith has firmly established herself as a preeminent voice of the South, and beyond, through her award winning and critically acclaimed fiction over the past forty-five years. Now, in her very first work of nonfiction, DIMESTORE: A WRITER’S LIFE (Publication Date: March 22, 2016; $24.95), Smith looks inward to tell her own heartwarming story, from growing up in the small coal-mining town of Grundy, Virginia to becoming a writer and raising her own family in North Carolina. Frances Mayes says, “We have Eudora Welty’s memoir, One Writer’s Beginning, and now we have Lee Smith’s brilliant DIMESTORE. These two great American writers have in common an immense gift for characterizations, a humorous sense of the absurd in daily life, and precise, evocative prose styles.”
Although her parents were raising her to leave Grundy, Smith loved every aspect of her hometown—set deep in the rugged Appalachian Mountains—from the Ben Franklin dimestore her father owned and ran for many years, to the music played down by the river bank, to ice tea and gossip on the front porch, to the drive-in theater where The Stanley Brothers played before the movie began. And while her education and travels took her far from Virginia, Smith’s appreciation of Appalachian culture never wavered. In telling the story of her enchanting childhood, revealing the mental illness that courses through her family tree, sharing her mother’s long-cherished recipes, and introducing readers to relatives, local characters, and people who changed her life, Smith portrays a time and place that most of us will never experience, a way of life that is fast disappearing.
“I always knew I wanted to set down some thoughts and reminiscences based around these themes – about place, memory, and writing – but this project got a real kick-start recently when the entire town of Grundy was demolished as part of a flood-control project,” explains Smith. “Only last August, the house I grew up in was bulldozed too.” In these fifteen charming essays, Smith has written a captivating memoir that brings her hometown back to life and depicts the birth of a major literary talent.
Told with great honesty, humor, and sensitivity, DIMESTORE is a moving personal portrait and a broader meditation on embracing one’s heritage that will resonate with Smith’s fans, anyone interested in writing, and anyone who enjoys good storytelling. Annie Dillard says, “Here is Lee Smith at her best. DIMESTORE is personal nonfiction, where her brilliance shines. Her wide warmth blesses everything funny about life and – here especially – everything moving and deep.” I hope you will agree and decide to prominently share this remarkable memoir with your audience.