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Modern Chat - Katy Simpson Smith

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Interview and words by Shalina Chatlani

This interview is part of a series, Modern Chat with Shalina Chatlani, produced in conjunction with the Museum’s Mapping a Modern Mississippi Initiative. Guest Contributor Shalina Chatlani is a Jackson, MS native and Junior at Georgetown University.

Katy Simpson Smith is a young author, born and raised in Jackson, MS. Having grown up down the street from iconic Mississippi writer, Eudora Welty, Smith felt a connection to Southern literature and writing from an early age. Holding a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, gaining an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and having already written three books, Smith is a testament to modern Mississippians moving forward. Her newest novel Free Men: A Novel explores many of the elements—racism, socioeconomic struggles, violence, faith—that surround a person growing up in the South. In this interview, she speaks about her ties to her home, her desire to see MS move forward, the ways she and other millennials have contributed and can continue to help the state become more modern, and what it means for her to be a young writer from Jackson. She is one among many in an exhaustive list of MS authors that have asked for a repeal of HB 1523, a religious freedom bill that would allow for discrimination of people in the LGBTQ community. The following sentiments in the letter presented by authors are echoed in the video interview as well as some of Smith’s other articles on being a writer from MS:

“Mississippi authors have written through pain, and they have written out of disappointment, but they have also written from wonder, and pride, and a fierce desire to see the politics of this state live up to its citizens. It is deeply disturbing to so many of us to see the rhetoric of hate, thinly veiled, once more poison our political discourse.”

Smith’s newest book is a compelling, fast-paced tale of murder, friendship, and class struggles that offers insight into the various types eccentric characters that make of Southern society, and it’s definitely worth a read.