Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Looking Back on 50 Years of Tennessee Books

50 Books / HT50, Part 5: 1998-2001

The arrival of the 21st century was, to put it mildly, a fraught time. The Y2K problem created tremendous, sometimes life-changing anxiety before the new millennium even commenced. The much-anticipated calamity was mostly a dud, but the 2000 presidential election was contentious enough to stir everybody up again, culminating in a SCOTUS decision that remains controversial to this day. And of course, the tragedy of September 11, 2001, changed the country and the world in ways we still struggle to comprehend.

In the midst of such upheaval, life and lesser events flowed on. Here in Tennessee, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened in a grand new facility in May 2001, and the Grizzlies announced their move to Memphis in July of that year. That same month, the state made national news with a rowdy and destructive anti-tax protest at the Capitol. The big story on the Tennessee book scene in 2001 also garnered national attention: The publication of Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone, a critical retelling of Margaret Mitchell’s iconic Confederate romance Gone with the Wind, was blocked when Mitchell’s estate sued for copyright infringement. Ultimately, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit supported Randall and her publisher in their assertion that the new novel was a parody and thus protected under the fair use doctrine. 

Randall’s novel is joined by two others from Nashville-based writers in this 50 Books installment, along with a story of the Jim Crow era by an award-winning children’s author and a family memoir set in rural West Tennessee. Learn more about the 50 Books / HT50 project here, and go here to see all the project posts to date.

The Jew Store by Stella Suberman recalls the experience of Suberman’s parents as shopkeepers in 1920s Union City (called “Concordia” in the book). The story was adapted as a stage musical in 2017. (Algonquin Books, 1998)

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley, who grew up in North Carolina and is a longtime member of the Vanderbilt University faculty. He was elected to the Fellowship of Southern Writers in 2010.  (Little, Brown and Company, 2000)

Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack, an award-winning children’s author who was born in Smyrna and graduated from Tennessee State University. Goin’ Someplace Special is set in Nashville. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001)

Bel Canto by Nashvillian Ann Patchett. The novel, Patchett’s fourth book, received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Orange Prize for Fiction.  (HarperCollins, 2001)

The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall, a Detroit native who pursued a successful songwriting career in Nashville before turning to prose. She has been Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University since 2006. The Wind Done Gone was her first published novel. (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)




Looking Back on 50 Years of Tennessee Books

Humanities Tennessee is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Founded in 1973, we continue to develop ways to connect, learn, and grow as a community.

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