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Even Mississippi, Even Mississippi, 081735042X, 0-8173-5042-X, 978-0-8173-5042-0, 9780817350420,

Even Mississippi
by Melany Neilson

Quality Paper
2003. 216 pp.
978-0-8173-5042-0
Price:  $29.95 s

 

Even Mississippi is a well-crafted and engaging account that is not only good reading but also a penetrating commentary on several social, political, and historical themes. This is the story of Robert Clark’s two unsuccessful campaigns for a Congressional seat, in 1982 and 1984, and is written by the young woman who served as the only white staff member during the first campaign and one of a few whites during the second. Using the campaign as a starting point, the author takes us on a journey into the Mississippi Delta, where the progress of the last two decades has eluded America’s truly forgotten poor, where blacks like Clark move from cotton rows to politics as they work toward a new way of life.
            Describing the isolation of a small town, Neilson recounts how the acculturation process worked in Mississippi and how it effectively molded blacks and whites. Even Mississippi is the story of a girl, a family, struggling with two powerful worlds, one dying and the other in the process of birth. Ole Miss, manners, and morals aside, there is something here that measure the heartbeat of what we once called “the South.” There are the genteel people and the plain folk, juke joints and Garden clubs, continuity and change, love and hate the good times and the bad. But it is Ed Tye, the author’s father, who is the personification of the struggle with the past that eventually loses out to the forces of change. Both black and white readers will appreciate his dilemma, his sense of loyalty, and his attachment to his family.

 


 

Melany Neilson is a freelance writer from Lexington, Mississippi. Jack Brass is a Professor in the Department of Journalism at the University of Mississippi.

 

“It’s really a pleasure and a cause for exhilaration to make this acquaintance with Neilson’s work. I read Even Mississippi with liking and admiration. Neilson writes well and clearly, straightforwardly, and with the ability to convey a place, a scene – a scene with people – and a time, in history as well as on the calendar. . . a sensitive, careful work.” – Eudora Welty, Jackson, Mississippi

 

“Melany Neilson’s Even Mississippi is a remarkable document of neo-Southern politics. But more than that, it is a strong and evocative narrative, written in a clean, flexible prose, of a young white woman coming of age in Mississippi. I highly recommend it.” – Willie Morris, University, Mississippi

 

“How far have we come in the Deep South and how far do we still have to go? Read Even Mississippi, and you emerge with a far stronger sense of the answer. A personal testament of painful choices and courageous involvement, it is also a remarkable upclose examination of a time of stunning change by a young white Mississipian who lived through it. Melany Neilson has captured the smell and flavor as well as the facts of an era, and something else as well: She has reminded us that all great moments in history are in fact the composite result of thousands of hard individual decisions.” – Hodding Carter III

 

“First rate. A compelling tale of change, courage, and discovery in the American South. Melany Neilson is a writer to watch.” – Larry L. King

 

“I heartily endorse this book by Melany Neilson. . . . a very unusual effort at a time of great social and political upheaval in the South, as well as in the nation.” – Margaret Walker Alexander

 

“This is an excellent autobiographical account of a young white Mississippi female’s evolving awareness of race relations from a unique perspective – as an insider involved with the campaigns of a black man for one of the state’s Congressional seats. But it is much more than that. It is the story of a protected Mississippi Belle belatedly encountering the real world of class and prejudice.” – Edward N. Akin, Mississippi College

 


1990 Mississippi Library Association Author Award for Non-Fiction, sponsored by Mississippi Library Association
1989 Lillian Smith Book Award, sponsored by Southern Regional Council
1989 Myers Center Outstanding Book Award, sponsored by Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North American

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