Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Mudbound

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Mudbound

by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2008, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2009, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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Beyond the Book

Print Review

Mudbound won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for Fiction, a prize fully-funded by author Barbara Kingsolver, awarded to previously unpublished first novels that address issues of social justice. The prize, awarded in even-numbered years, consists of a $25,000 cash payment to the author of the winning manuscript, and guaranteed publication by a major publisher. The Bellwether Prize is the only major North American endowment or prize for the arts that specifically seeks to support literature of social responsibility.

Mudbound is Hillary Jordan's first novel. After nearly 15 years working full-time as an advertising copywriter, she left to pursue her own writing, working on Mudbound for seven years. Inspired by stories of her grandparents' farm in Arkansas, the seeds of the novel emerged when Jordan was in graduate school. Assigned to write a few pages in the voice of a family member, she began to write about the farm in her grandmother's voice. As Jordan recounts in the interview you'll find at BookBrowse:

"It was a primitive place, an unpainted shotgun shack with no electricity, no running water and no telephone. They named it "Mudbound" because whenever it rained, the roads would flood and they'd be stranded for days.

Though they'd only lived there for a year, my mother, aunt and grandmother spoke of Mudbound often, laughing and shaking their heads by turns, depending on whether the story in question was funny or horrifying. Often they were both, as Southern stories tend to be. I loved listening to them, even the ones I'd heard dozens of times before. They were a peephole into a strange and marvelous world; a world full of contradictions, of terrible beauty...

To my mother and aunt, their year on the farm was a grand adventure; and indeed, that was how all their stories portrayed it. It was not until much later that I realized what an ordeal that year must have been for her - a city-bred woman with two young children - and that, in fact, these were stories of survival." More ...

Article by Lucia Silva

This article was originally published in March 2008, and has been updated for the March 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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