Monday, June 11, 2007

A life in Mississippi...

Ok - I just got finished reading THE best book. But before I get into all that, let me just say I am BEYOND PISSED at how the Sopranos ended. I was waiiiiting for Tony to get whacked. And all that tension build up right there at the end -- that strange man coming in, Meadow having trouble parking and running in the restaurant and then...nothing. I mean nothing. I thought the TV messed up. Oh, well - I guess I should have expected something sly from those guys. Anyway -- book. Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums. I don't even know where to start except that the author was just nominated for the prestious Quill Award for Literature and his work is every bit worth it. In a nutshell, it is the memoirs of child growing up gay in a small town in Mississippi during the late 50s and early 60s. I wont go too much in detail regarding the events that took place in the author's life as not to spoil the discovery.

What is simply amazing and breathtaking is the Sessum's command of language. This book reads almost lyrically. Coming from the south, I can fully appreciate the nuances of Sessum's writing as he not only examines his environment but himself as well. "The first freak I ever recognized...was my own reflection in a Mississippi mirror." Sessum's must come to terms with his homosexuality in a world where anything different was to be destroyed. His beloved mother instilled in him a love of language and literature that children today just cannot appreciate. As a small and sensitive child, his escapes from the world consisted of getting lost in the writings of the great Katherine Anne Porter. His mother told him "Always read. Never stop reading." (One thing I can thank the author for is that he made me go straight to the library and pick up a copy of Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider).

Sissy is not just your average coming of age tale. On a larger scale, it is a judicious commentary of the era of the author's childhood as dictated by both events and locale. He examines the first hand the effects of racism and the Kennedy assassination as they shape him and his views of the world. There is a sadness to the author's childhood, but it is not sadness that you take with you. You understand hope and survival.

When the author becomes older finally leaves Forest, MS for life in Jackson, MS, he finds himself embraced by a literary circle and becomes friends with Eudora Welty. His anecdotes of the time spent with one of the greatest American writer's of the twentieth century alone would be reason enough to read this memoir. But it is the humanity that shines forth that makes it unforgettable. He writes with a sincerity and poignancy that is rarely found in literature today. This is one of those books that you don't want to put down but about halfway through, you realize that you should slow down because you don't want it to end. I read that Sessum's is working on a novel for his next work. I honestly don't know how any subsequent writings can stir the soul like this one. In more ways than one Mississippi Sissy puts me in mind of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. For me, they will sit side by side on my bookshelf. Harper Lee only wrote one book in her lifetime. After producing a work of such greatness, simply, what else can be said? Although I look forward to anything this brilliant author produces, I will be surprised if anything surpasses this heartfelt life story. Kevin Sessum's proves far and away he is more of a man than many.


Anonymous said...


Pink Elephant said...

I've considered picking up that book myself--being southern as well. Perhaps now I will


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