ABR speaker draws from Deep South experiences for writing

March 7, 2011 at 7:01 p.m.
Updated March 6, 2011 at 9:07 p.m.

Beverly Lowry

Beverly Lowry

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.



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