|December 8, 2009 -
Knox County Public Library is pleased to announce the featured book in this winter's Close Read: The Tall Woman by Wilma Dykeman. Knox County is invited to read the novel, then join in the conversation with local author and poet Jeff Daniel Marion as he discusses the life and work of Wilma Dykeman on January 20 at 12 p.m. in the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street.
Dykeman was born in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1920, and lived most of her life near the French Broad River in the mountains of East Tennessee and western North Carolina. Her fiction is deeply rooted in Appalachia with the distinctive tenor of mountain dialect, but her themes are not unique to Southern life. Concerned especially with the changing roles of women and race relations, Dykeman deals with some of the most universal issues of contemporary life.
Her two most widely read works of fiction, The Tall Woman and its continuation The Far Family, both center around the lives of mountain women and challenge persisting stereotypes of Southern womanhood. Lydia McQueen, the protagonist of The Tall Woman, is especially antithetical to conventional portraits of the Southern lady. In that novel, we follow the flow of her life from the destruction of the Civil War, when her family is as divided as the nation, through her efforts to rebuild her family, establish a school, show friendship to outcasts as well as the most powerful citizens in her community.
In honor of the contributions her histories, biographies, and historical novels have made, the state of Tennessee named Dykeman State Historian in 1981. She is the recipient of numerous honorary doctoral degrees and an honorary Phi Beta Kappa. In addition, she has received a Guggenheim fellowship, a senior fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Chicago Friends of American Writers Award, the Distinguished Southern Writer Award of the Southern Festival of Books, and the North Carolina Gold Medal for Contribution to American Letters. For over twenty years, she served as a professor in the English department at the University of Tennessee, and she sat on numerous regional and national boards dealing with conservation, literature, history, and women's issues.
Wilma Dykeman Stokeman died at age 86 in 2006.
For more information, please call 215-8767 or visit www.knoxlib.org.