Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Looking Back on 50 Years of Tennessee Books

50 Books / HT50, Part 2: 1978-1986

The second installment in the 50 Books / HT50 project includes a poetry debut, two acclaimed novels, a collection by a major Black Arts poet, and an enduring one-act play. Two of the authors are native Tennesseans, and collectively these five writers have ties to all four of Tennessee’s major cities, as well as Trenton and Oak Ridge.

Speaking of Oak Ridge, be sure to read Jane Marcellus’ recent essay about Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City, the second title in our 50 Books discussion series. Jane will be leading a Facebook Live discussion on September 19. Stay tuned for details. If you missed Emily Choate’s essay in June on Richard Powers’ The Overstory, read it here, and check out the follow-up discussion here. You’ll find a collection of all the 50 Books/HT50 material to date here.

Abiding Appalachia: Where Mountain and Atom Meet, the debut poetry collection by Marilou Awiakta. The poet was born in Knoxville, grew up in wartime Oak Ridge, and now lives in Memphis (St. Luke’s Press, 1978)

Suttree by Cormac McCarthy, who spent his youth in Knoxville. Suttree is set in Knoxville and is often described as semi-autobiographical. (Random House, 1979)

Born of a Woman: New and Selected Poems by Etheridge Knight, who was a significant poet in the Black Arts Movement. A native of Corinth, Mississippi, Knight lived in Memphis in the years leading up to publication of this book. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1980)

Tennessee, a one-act play by Romulus Linney, who grew up in Boone, North Carolina, and Madison, Tennessee, and was a member of the Chattanooga-based Fellowship of Southern Writers. Tennessee garnered Linney an Obie Award in 1980.  (Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1980)

A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor, a Trenton, Tennessee, native who grew up in Nashville, St. Louis, and Memphis. The novel won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. (Alfred A. Knopf, 1986)

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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