On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with Arkansas Delta novelist Sanderia Faye, whose novel Mourner's Bench published by The University of Arkansas Press in 2015, recounts the experiences of Sarah Jones from the summer of 1964 to the fall of 1965. Sarah is an eight year old who has to “navigate the growing tensions of the fictional small town of Maeby, Arkansas.”
The early 1960's in Arkansas are seen through Sarah and her best friend, Malika’s eyes. They become caught up in historical Civil Rights activities like efforts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. They also encounter real life activists Carrie Dilworth, Daisy Bates, George Stith, and Attorney John Walker as they try to integrate the town.
All the while, Sarah decides it’s time to take responsibility for her own sins and chooses to sit on her church’s mourner’s bench during revival.
“Although I wanted to be honest to my craft and myself as a writer, I also wanted to be respectful to the state of Arkansas, the people who lived there, my community, my parents, my ancestors and all of the people who had input in making me who I am today,” says Faye, of her first novel.
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Support for this program was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Some music featured in the program: