Southern authors present readings

  • Monday, May 12, 2014

Tamara Reynolds

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Two South Carolina authors, John Warley and Cassandra King, both have newly published books both of which concern customs and mores indigenous to the South; however, each book presents these subjects as viewed through decidedly different lenses.

Both authors will read sections from their books in an event sponsored by the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts in the sanctuary of the Circular Congregational Church to be held from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, May 22. Following the readings, a reception and book signing will be held in Keller Hall next to the church. A suggested donation for the event is $5.

Warley’s book, “A Southern Girl,” not only explores the commonly held South of Broad traditions, but it also delves into the cultures of Korea and Vietnam. Largely, it emphasizes the power and effect of acceptance and inclusion, especially regarding the lives of the very young.

On the lighter side, King’s “Same Sweet Girls’ Guide to Life” is a slight, nonfiction work, that uses aspects of her earlier novel, “Same Sweet Girls,” as a jumping-off point. “Same Sweet Girls’ Guide to Life” is based on a commencement address King delivered at her alma mater, the University of Montevallo in Alabama, formerly Alabama College.

As King refers to ages-old mantras drilled into the skulls of millions of young Southern girls by their elders, the main one is to always “be sweet.” Therefore, she is said to employ a satirical twist on the word “sweet,” and concludes by providing seven suggestions to Southern women to help ward off the adverse effects of such advice.

Although I haven’t read the book, I can imagine that King likely will dispense valuable ways to combat any ill effects that were caused by being repeatedly advised to: Never tout one’s own achievements because proper Southern girls should be modest in every way, standing aside so that men can do the bragging; to always avoid disagreeing with a male’s opinion, especially when in public; and, most of all, always greet the world with a big, sweet smile.

With a title reflecting an ironic bent, John Warley’s “A Southern Girl” is a work of fiction.

However, in an interview, Warley explains that it is based partly on a true experience, which inspired him to examine the extreme importance of inclusion and acceptance, especially upon the young.

Set in the 1970s, the story reflects the consequences faced by a socially elite Charleston couple, the parents of two sons, when they decide to adopt a little girl who happens to be a Korean orphan.

The book’s protagonist, simply called Coleman, who possesses what is traditionally known as a “South of Broad” heritage, is persuaded by his more liberal wife, Elizabeth, to make this bold move. However, as things progress, he realizes he could be risking his successful business and even have his entire way of life threatened. The book’s settings include not only Charleston, but also Korea and Virginia, as the cultures of various places are explored.

Dottie Ashley, winner of the 2003 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for her coverage of the arts, is former arts editor and reviewer for the The STATE newspaper in Columbia, and for many years a feature writer and arts columnist for the Post and Courier. She is currently the arts columnist for the Charleston Mercury and a freelance writer.

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