Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Encounter with a Future Killer

I knew nothing about this person I once called a friend

Perhaps the trauma of that evening a few months later, when Clarksville became a footnote in the grisly story, is when it began to set in. An obsession that would become full-blown OCD started to grow as I struggled to understand what happened.

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Go Tell It in the Valley

Wrestling with God and a three-letter word

I cannot recall now whether it was by some serendipitous search or opportune recommendation, but Go Tell It on the Mountain was soon in my hands. I had never read James Baldwin, but judging by the forlorn Black boy on the cover, I knew that the book was for and about me. The opening lines confirmed my thoughts: “Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father.” I was there, in Cleveland, and in seminary, to answer just that call — or threat. For when the saints marked you as a preacher, you could run, but you could never really hide.

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Suffrage: Giving Voice

A grandmother’s legacy

“I’ve never voted,” she said. The grandmother I adored. The grandmother whose oak-like presence sheltered and grounded my turbulent childhood. During a visit decades ago, we must’ve been talking about an election, the TV news on. I remember feeling stunned, then embarrassed, and even a little ashamed at her complacency.

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Falling Back in Love with October

On losing the joy of autumn and finding it again

In Alabama, October was the first month that you could trust cooler weather was coming to stay. Occasionally, I could even wear a sweater in the morning, and although it was wrapped around my waist by afternoon, the heat was not overbearing. Finally, at night, I could snuggle under a sheet and fall asleep. To make a good thing even better, the month began with my father’s birthday and ended with Halloween. There was nothing bad about October in my eyes.

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What the Water Took

A love that is buried in one generation may be resurrected in another

Charlie and Maude began their marriage on a homestead perched near the banks of the Cumberland River. The first child came within the year of their marriage. Eight more followed. Whooping cough claimed one of the babies, and the river’s frequent flooding eventually claimed the house.

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What We’ll Miss and What We’ll Share

The meaning of the Southern Festival of Books in a season of loss

We often conceive of loss only as a falling away, but it is also a binding. Think of the groups whose only purpose is to bring together people who have lost the same thing.

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