A Lillian Smith Reader

Edited by Margaret Rose Gladney and Lisa Hodgens

A body of work from one of the South’s most influential writers


“The American people now confront a variety of difficult problems, many of which were thought to have been ‘solved’ decades ago: discrimination based on race, sexual identity, and economic or social status; seemingly unending, escalating wars and ‘rumors of war’; and episodes of unspeakable human brutality not only in the United States but throughout the world. Lillian Smith thought and wrote, often eloquently, about such problems. As this book demonstrates, much of what she had to say, beginning as early as the 1930s, is relevant to our contemporary problems. It also shows, however, that she was not just ‘a Southerner confronting the South’ but, equally, an American speaking to all of the American people about their past, present, and, no doubt, future problems.”
—Anne C. Loveland, author of Lillian Smith: A Southerner Confronting the South

A Lillian Smith Reader offers the first comprehensive compilation of Smith’s large and diverse body of writing, including excerpts from her fiction along with selections that cover the full range of her gifts as a creative writer of nonfiction and social commentary. . . . This is a needed resource.”
—Will Brantley, editor of the fiftieth-anniversary edition of Lillian Smith’s Now Is the Time

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As a writer and forward-thinking social critic, Lillian Smith (1897–1966) was an astute chronicler of the twentieth-century American South and an early proponent of the civil rights movement. From her home on Old Screamer Mountain overlooking Clayton, Georgia, Smith wrote and spoke openly against racism, segregation, and Jim Crow laws long before the 1950s civil rights era.

Bringing together short stories, lectures, essays, op-ed pieces, interviews, and excerpts from her longer fiction and nonfiction, A Lillian Smith Reader offers the first comprehensive collection of her work and a compelling introduction to one of the South’s most important writers.

A conservatory-trained music teacher who left the profession to assume charge of her family’s girls’ camp in Rabun County, Georgia, Smith began her literary career writing for a journal that she coedited with her lifelong companion, Paula Snelling, successively titled Pseudopodia (1936), the North Georgia Review (1937–41), and South Today (1942–45). Known today for her controversial, best-selling novel, Strange Fruit (1944); her collection of autobiographical essays, Killers of the Dream (1949); and her lyrical documentary, Now Is the Time (1955), Smith was acclaimed and derided in equal measure as a southern white liberal who critiqued her culture’s economic, political, and religious institutions as dehumanizing for all: white and black, male and female, rich and poor. She was also a frequent and eloquent contributor to periodicals such as the Saturday Review, LIFE, the New Republic, the Nation, and the New York Times.

The influence of Smith’s oeuvre extends far beyond these publications. Her legacy rests on her sense of social justice, her articulation of racial and social inequities, and her challenges to the status quo. In their totality, her works propose a vision of justice and human understanding that we have yet to achieve.

Published in association with Piedmont College and the Estate of Lillian Smith

Page count: 360 pp.
16 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Margaret Rose Gladney is professor emerita of American Studies at the University of Alabama. She is the editor of How Am I to Be Heard? Letters of Lillian Smith.

Lisa Hodgens is a poet and professor of English at Piedmont College.