Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jonathan Odell

Jonathan Odell is the author of the acclaimed novel The View from Delphi, which deals with the struggle for equality in pre-civil rights Mississippi, his home state. His novel The Healing (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday) explores the subversive role that story plays in the healing of an oppressed people.

From Odell's Q & A with Lois Alter Mark:

Lois Alter Mark: I loved everything about The Healing -- the story, the characters, the writing. What inspired you to write this?

Jonathan Odell: While doing research for my first novel, The View from Delphi, I kept hearing stories about how crucial the midwife was to the community. People held her memory in great reverence. When I interviewed the first black mayor of Laurel, Miss., I asked what he was proudest of, expecting him to talk about the racism he had overcome, the threats to his life, his struggle to get an education. He thought for a moment and said, "I was one of Miss Kate's babies." Miss Kate had midwifed his mother. These women were saints in their communities.

Secondly, while doing research on black midwives, I discovered that my great-grandmother was a midwife, and was responsible for the death of her daughter -- my father's mother -- through a botched abortion. My dad did not learn about this until he was in his 70's. He had been raised by his grandmother midwife, but never knew about the hand she played in his mother's death. This intrigued me. What was it like for that woman to raise the child of the woman she was responsible for killing?

LAM: You were born in Mississippi, where black people were being lynched and the soon-to-be KKK's Imperial Wizard was working as a respected businessman. When did you realize this was not okay?

JO: I sold books door-to-door in college. One of the publications was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Odell's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Healing.

--Marshal Zeringue