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Bobbie Ann Mason
I lived on the farm with my parents and grandparents. I had no playmates as a young child, and I was indulged. I helped my grandmother piece quilts, and we made pretty albums, an old-fashioned pastime. We cut poems and pictures out of magazines.
Reading can be just feeding, but smart reading takes us further. The classroom is one way to go deeper, but we can't stay in school forever.
Rock and roll is about desire, about wanting something better. I think my characters all want something better. My understanding of the rock and roll dream is that a kid in an isolated place or a small town or an underprivileged world could transcend it somehow.
With the accent, it's an internal dialogue that Southerners have with themselves. We kind of carry around that shame, that feeling of being inferior to the North. I think I did lose some of the accent for a while. Because when I was a graduate student, I was terrified at having to get up in front of a roomful of smart New York kids.
I have heard from many readers since 'The Girl in the Blue Beret' came out. The story of my airline pilot, former B-17 bomber pilot Marshall Stone, on his search to find the people who helped him during World War II has struck a chord.
I'm not very articulate. The reason I write is because I don't talk.
My father-in-law, Barney Rawlings, spent a couple of months hiding out in France in 1944, frantically memorizing a few French words to pass himself off as a Frenchman, but his ordeal had not inspired in me any action until I started taking a French class.
When I was growing up on our 53-acre dairy farm, we were obsessed with food; it was the center of our lives. We planted it, grew it, harvested it, peeled it, cooked it, served it, consumed it - endlessly, day after day, season after season.
Memory is a powerful thing for a writer.
My father had all these great names for our cows. Bossy and Daisy and Petunia and Turnip. One of my jobs was to round up the cows before milking. I'd go out back with the dog and bring them in.
Working with food was fraught with anxiety when I was a girl. Like all farmers, we were at the mercy of the weather, and we lived in fear of crop failure.
Most of the time I was in the Northeast, I lived in the country, and I think that helped me to discover my material for writing.
I grew up on the precursors to rock and roll, rhythm and blues.
I suppose the desire to go to town helped make me ambitious, and the allure of the worlds that came in over the radio also helped. But the rewards of growing up on a farm were far greater in many ways than life in town.
I grew up 150-200 miles from any city. You simply didn't have much connection with the outside world. So my dreams were always to get out. It's a familiar kind of thing, I think, for anybody in a small town.
In the 1980s, Vietnam emerged in our culture as a legitimate and compelling topic for discussion rather than something to be hidden in shame.
My father-in-law was a pilot. During World War II, he was shot down in a B-17 over Belgium. With the help of the French Resistance, he made his way through Occupied France and back to his base in England.
During the Cold War, workers proudly contributed to national defense, but the carelessness and haste in handling toxic waste created a nightmare of pollution for subsequent generations.
'In Country' is about a high school girl's quest for knowledge about her father, who died in Vietnam just before she was born.
Bruce Springsteen's world is where everybody did these terrible jobs, if they had jobs at all, and he wanted something better.
Writing about where I was from and the people I knew was not something that would have occurred to me early on, because like so many Southerners of that period - the Sixties - I rejected those things when I went north.
I grew up on popular music, and rock-and-roll expresses very deep feelings of those people who don't have a lot.
Writers want to be reread. They want to think that their words don't just flash by but deserve some reflection.
I like to play with words and the sounds of words - that's extremely important to me.
'In Country' was also made into a film, which opened the story up to a broader audience.
We had a cistern for water. My grandmother churned butter and made lye soap. She and my mother did the washing in a wash kettle outdoors, using a fire to heat the water. That's the way they did the wash until the 1950s.
In America, we all come from somewhere else, and we carry along some dream myth of home: a notion that something - our point of origin, our roots, the home country - is out there.
Mama was a natural cook. At harvest time, she would whip up a noontime dinner for the men in the field: fried chicken with milk gravy, ham, mashed potatoes, lima beans, field peas, corn, slaw, sliced tomatoes, fried apples, biscuits, and peach pie.
Writing a novel about World War II and the French Resistance was a challenge both sobering and thrilling.
I often say flippantly that the short story is... shorter; you can be done with it more easily. It's much less of a commitment of time and energy than a big project like a novel or long nonfiction book.
Since 'Huckleberry Finn,' or thereabouts, it seemed that all American literature was about the alienated hero.
Physicists must feel they are in the most exciting field in the world. Their minds must be afire.
In the country in Kentucky, people are just amazed that anybody in New York wants to read about their lives.
I read many riveting escape-and-evade accounts of airmen and of the Resistance networks organized to hide them and then send them on grueling treks across the Pyrenees to safety. But it was the people I met in France and Belgium who made the period come alive for me. They had lived it.
The small family farm is dying; people's lives are being dislocated.
I rejected the traditional notion of 'women's work,' but I never thought of my early ambitions in a feminist way, exactly. Primarily I rebelled against apathy and limited education. I was rejecting a whole way of life that I thought trapped everyone.