ABR speaker draws from Deep South experiences for writing

Beverly Lowry
  • Excerpt from "Crossed Over: A Murder, A Memoir" by Beverly Lowry. The story of Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas in more than a century for her role in the 1983 pickax murder of two people. ...

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  • Excerpt from "Crossed Over: A Murder, A Memoir" by Beverly Lowry. The story of Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas in more than a century for her role in the 1983 pickax murder of two people.

    The hardest thing about telling a story - fiction, nonfiction, for that matter even a joke - is figuring out where to start. In the beginning was . what?

    "Endings are elusive, middles are nowhere to be found, but worst of all is to begin, to begin, to begin." Donald Barthelme wrote that.

    So where does this one get going - with the murders? Karla Faye Tucker was twenty-three at the time, and wired. Texas law requires that the crime first be spelled out on its own, blow by blow, minus mitigating, aggravating, and/or contributing factors. Guilt or innocence must be determined first without reference to sociology, psychology, drugs, and IQ; or to reason, motivation, understanding. Texas law - any law - has its reasons, and certainly when a crime is committed, responsibility must be assigned and accounted for, not just understood. But for a writer used to studying motivations, character, family background, blood ties, social history, such legal requirements make for a tough assignment. Does the nightmare begin with sleep itself or with reasons for the dream? In Karla's case, the windup is long and slow, the culmination of events achingly inevitable (you can see the punch line coming long, long before it arrives), the wrap-up blunt and merciless, two people dead, two others waiting to be.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION The final writer for the Spring Reading Series will be Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, who brings his specialty in life and literature of the Southwest to Victoria on April 21. Hinojosa-Smith was the first Chicano author to receive the prestigious Premio Casa de las Americas award. He has devoted most of his career as a writer to his 15-volume "Klail City Death Trip" series.

    Authors who are part of the Reading Series attend roundtable discussions with UHV faculty and students, make classroom visits to area schools, give lectures open to the community, and go to receptions hosted by Friends of ABR patrons while they are in Victoria.

    ABR is a nonprofit, internationally distributed literary journal that is published six times a year. It began in 1977, moved to UHV in 2007 and has a circulation of about 8,000. The journal specializes in reviews of works published by small presses.

    For more information about the reading series, call ABR Managing Editor Charles Alcorn at 361-570-4100 or go to www.americanbookreview.org.

    IF YOU GO WHAT: University of Houston-Victoria American Book Review reading series.

    WHO: Beverly Lowry, author and former president of the Texas Institute of Letters

    WHEN: Noon Thursday

    WHERE: Alcorn Auditorium of UHV University West, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

    ADMISSION: Free to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

A writer whose career has taken her through fiction, journalism, essays and creative nonfiction will be the next speaker in the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Spring Reading Series.

Beverly Lowry, author and former president of the Texas Institute of Letters, will speak at noon Thursday in the Alcorn Auditorium of UHV University West, 3007 W. Ben Wilson St.

Lowry's background drew her to writing about the underdogs and heroes of American society, even casting a light on the human side of those who have committed atrocities.

"I grew up in the Delta, and the Delta thought of itself as the literary heart of Mississippi," Lowry said. "We were encouraged, I should say we white people were encouraged, to become writers and honor the literature that had been written before. I took a part of that place with me, as we all take something from wherever is our first place."

Part of what Lowry took was empathy for the black Southerner. Three of her novels are set in a fictional place similar to her hometown of Greenville, Miss.

She also wrote award-winning nonfiction and pieced together the life of the heroic Harriet Tubman, from her childhood as a slave to her Underground Railroad years.

"It seemed a natural step for me, writing about African-Americans, because in Greenville, I was a minority in a town that was 60 percent black," she said. "I was always aware of the black experience, and I always wanted to understand it and understand what it was that caused a society, a culture to be so implacably divided."

Lowry, winner of numerous prestigious literary awards, said she was honored with accolades about her book and few chided her as a white woman writing about a black heroine.

"Harriet Tubman was such an icon that she transcends racial boundaries. She is a true American hero," Lowry said.

Less of a hero, but no less intriguing, is Karla Faye Tucker featured in Lowry's book "Crossed Over: A Murder, A Memoir." Tucker was the first woman in Texas executed in more than a century for her part in the 1983 pickaxe deaths of two people near Houston. Lowry said the book was therapeutic for her as she dealt with the hit-and-run death of her 18-year-old son.