At J-Day this year, I had the amazing pleasure of meeting and listening to a reading by Mary Ward Brown. I had previous read her second book of short stories and was really interested in getting to meet her (and possibly buying her two other books - which I did.) I loved this lady before I met her and listening to her read and speak about her writing and life sealed the deal.
Mary Ward Brown has published two books of short stories and one memoir. Tongues of Flame, Is Wasn't All Dancing and Fanning the Spark (the memoir). She has an amazing way of crafting sentences and weaving amazing thought provoking stories about life, race relations and the black belt.
Plus, she's a Judson girl. That makes this 93 year old lady my sister. And as weird as it sounds, I love her. I'd like to put her in my pocket and carry her around or even better bring some pecan pie to her house and enjoy a chat for as long as she'd have me.
After reading her story "Amryllis"My favorite story from Tongues of Flame is probably the first one: "New Dresses" It's about an aged Mother-in-Law and her young Daughter-in-Law. They have a strained distant relationship, but the DIL volunteers to drive the MIL (who is dying of cancer and needs a new dress(es) because she's lost so much weight) dress shopping. While there, the DIL sneaks away to a more stylish shop to look for a new fancy dress for herself for an upcoming dance. Both women make a purchase and on the way home the DIL is surprised is find the MIL picked a very fancy dress even though what she needs are every day dresses. (I think MIL bought the dress to be buried in)
My favorite story in It Wasn't All Dancing is "The House Asa Bulit." It's very much a "the grass is not always greener" story.
I loved MWB's memoir too, but I'm not going to lie, I wish she'd written much more about her time at The Judson. I love how raw and honest it is. And also so conversational. I could almost hear her saying the words as I read them.
I'll admit, I'm wasn't a fan of short stories in middle school, high school or even college. To the point that I only really liked "The Lady or the Tiger," "Gift of the Magi," and "A Rose for Emily" before I started reading Mary Ward Brown. Short Stories always left me wanting more. I always felt there was more story to tell. More of the characters to get to know. But the way she so painstakingly chooses words and lays out her stories, I always feel satisfied when her stories are over.
She signed Fanning the Spark "For Christy, a Judson sister. My Best, Mary Ward Brown 4/2/11" She asked if I was a student or an alum. I told her she just made my day by asking if I was a student because I'm 30 years old!