Dimestore A Writer's Life
Lee Smith has firmly established herself as a preeminent voice of the South, and beyond, through her award winning and critically acclaimed fiction over the past forty-five years. Now, in her very first work of nonfiction, DIMESTORE: A WRITER'S LIFE (Publication Date: March 22, 2016; $24.95), Smith looks inward to tell her own heartwarming story, from growing up in the small coal-mining town of Grundy, Virginia to becoming a writer and raising her own family in North Carolina. Frances Mayes says, "We have Eudora Welty's memoir, One Writer's Beginning, and now we have Lee Smith's brilliant DIMESTORE. These two great American writers have in common an immense gift for characterizations, a humorous sense of the absurd in daily life, and precise, evocative prose styles."
Although her parents were raising her to leave Grundy, Smith loved every aspect of her hometown—set deep in the rugged Appalachian Mountains—from the Ben Franklin dimestore her father owned and ran for many years, to the music played down by the river bank, to ice tea and gossip on the front porch, to the drive-in theater where The Stanley Brothers played before the movie began. And while her education and travels took her far from Virginia, Smith's appreciation of Appalachian culture never wavered. In telling the story of her enchanting childhood, revealing the mental illness that courses through her family tree, sharing her mother's long-cherished recipes, and introducing readers to relatives, local characters, and people who changed her life, Smith portrays a time and place that most of us will never experience, a way of life that is fast disappearing.
"I always knew I wanted to set down some thoughts and reminiscences based around these themes – about place, memory, and writing – but this project got a real kick-start recently when the entire town of Grundy was demolished as part of a flood-control project," explains Smith. "Only last August, the house I grew up in was bulldozed too." In these fifteen charming essays, Smith has written a captivating memoir that brings her hometown back to life and depicts the birth of a major literary talent.
Told with great honesty, humor, and sensitivity, DIMESTORE is a moving personal portrait and a broader meditation on embracing one's heritage that will resonate with Smith's fans, anyone interested in writing, and anyone who enjoys good storytelling. Annie Dillard says, “Here is Lee Smith at her best. DIMESTORE is personal nonfiction, where her brilliance shines. Her wide warmth blesses everything funny about life and – here especially – everything moving and deep.” I hope you will agree and decide to prominently share this remarkable memoir with your audience.
Read an excerpt from Dimestore
- recently published in Garden and Gun Magazine.
Praise for Dimestore...
“Smith delivers a memoir that shines with a bright spirit, a generous heart and an entertaining knack for celebrating absurdity. Although DIMESTORE is constructed as a series of personal essays, it presents as full a sense of a life as any traditional narrative.”
—Becky Aikman New York Times Book Review
“You know how in Lee Smith’s fiction there’s always something so fresh, crazy, and loving? In Dimestore is the essence of Lee.”
—Roy Blount Jr., author of Alphabetter Juice: or, The Joy of Text
"We have Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings, and now we have Lee Smith’s Dimestore. These two great American writers have in common an immense gift for characterization, a humorous sense of the absurd in daily life, and a precise, evocative prose style. In both their memoirs, I relish their restrained and perfectly rendered stories of their own lives. Lee Smith is, of course, a national treasure, and this subtle and moving memoir enlarges my sense of the origins of her deep, wide work. Thousands have fallen in love with every word Lee Smith writes, and Dimestore will bring them new joy."
—Frances Mayes, author of the bestselling Under the Tuscan Sun and Under Magnolia
"Here's Lee Smith at her best. Dimestore is personal nonfiction, where her brilliance shines. Her wide warmth blesses everything funny about life and--here especially--everything moving and deep."
This memoir is Smith (Fair and Tender Ladies; Oral History) at her finest. There is not one false note in the book. Born and raised in Grundy, VA, Smith understood at an early age that her parents—her father owned and ran the town’s dimestore, and her mother was considered a stranger to townfolks even though she lived there almost 50 years—were preparing her to leave the coal mining town. She was encouraged to read, discouraged from tomboyish activities, and sent to visit her relatives in Birmingham to learn how to be a lady. VERDICT This wonderful memoir—filled with tenderness, compassion, love, and humor—is highly recommended for fans of Smith’s fiction, lovers of Southern writing, and readers who are interested in the changes in small-town America.
—Pam Kingsbury, Library Journal
“Candid and unsentimental, Smith's book sheds light on her beginnings as writer while revealing her resilience and personal transformations over the course of a remarkable lifetime. A warm, poignant memoir from a reliably smooth voice.”
“In this candid, wistful, appreciative, and beguiling memoir, Smith offers a distinctive and intimate look at one writer’s beginnings.”
“In Lee Smith’s memoir, Dimestore, readers will gladly join her, finding her writing with the same lively spirit that has always informed her fiction. She never turns away from her Appalachian roots, revealing that remote region with discerning affection.”
—Elizabeth Spencer, author of Starting Over
“Lee Smith is an American master. In Dimestore, she continues to grow and shapeshift, bringing her massive fictional gifts to a memoir-in-essays that reads like a novel, with a deeply realized sense of place and character development--the central character here, a deeply winning one, is Smith herself. She has her finger on the social pulse of an America uneasily transitioning from the 20th into the 21st century. Once I began, I couldn’t put it down.”
—David Payne, author of Barefoot to Avalon
“Dimestore is the memoir fans of Lee Smith’s fiction have been waiting decades for. It’s a pitch-perfect mining of the memories, desires, and imagination fueling one of the South’s — no, one of America’s — master storytellers. Smith gives us a dappled reality where little girls spy the world from behind a one-way piece of glass, parents are ‘kindly nervous,’ and eccentric aging poets deal with wintertime rejection by shedding their clothes and rolling in the snow. Dimestore leaves you seeing the world a little bit Smith-skewed — by which I mean through a cleverer, more grounded, and ultimately more open-hearted lens.”
—Beth Macy, author of the bestselling Factory Man