Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hillary Jordan

Morning Edition's Lynn Neary interviewed Hillary Jordan, author of the acclaimed debut novel, Mudbound.

Part of the essay accompanying the interview:

Jordan says Mudbound was inspired by her mother's family stories of the year they spent on an isolated farm without running water or electricity. Eventually, it grew into a larger story with darker themes. But the first character she wrote about, Laura, was based on her own grandmother.

"I started out writing what I thought was going to be a short story in the voice of Laura," Jordan says, "and as the story grew, I just found myself wanting to hear from other people. As the story got larger, as it embraced these other themes, these larger themes about war and about Jim Crow, I wanted to hear from those people."

There is no omniscient narrator in this story. Instead, it is told from the perspective of six characters — black and white, male and female. Finding the voices and making them sound authentic was difficult, Jordan says.

"I had a number of well-meaning friends say things to me like, 'even Faulkner did not write about black people in the first person,'" she says. "But ultimately I just decided that it was so important to let my black characters address the ugliness of Jim Crow themselves, in their own voices."

Listen to the interview.

The Page 69 Test: Mudbound.

--Marshal Zeringue