Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Club Exchange: Lynne Bryant

It's been awhile but Book Club Exchange, a feature on Booking Mama which highlights anything and everything book club-related, is back! Today, I am so excited to welcome author Lynne Bryant, author of CATFISH ALLEY. I read this novel a few months ago, and I thought it was fantastic. You can read my review here.

I am very grateful that Ms. Bryant took time from her busy touring schedule to write this guest post about some of the ways that CATFISH ALLEY is ideal for book clubs. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

The Satisfaction of Storytelling

Is there anything more delicious than the anticipation of sharing a good story with a friend? It is with this kind of eagerness that I look forward to sharing my debut novel Catfish Alley with you. I am a great believer in the power of storytelling to not only entertain us, but to challenge our thinking, and, every now and then, to change our lives. I have been thrilled to discover my voice as a writer and to share my Southern roots through the quiet power of the written word.

The wonderful thing about fiction, and about being a member of a book club, is the freedom to gossip about the characters in a novel without guilt! We get to try on new personas, step into the perspective of someone completely different from us, or become indignant, even enraged, at the actions of a particularly nasty character. And, in so doing, we usually learn something about ourselves. Like good friends, we feel we know both the flaws and the triumphs of the people in the stories we love. We sometimes find ourselves paradoxically weeping for the villain, or inwardly scolding the hero or heroine for his or her thoughtless decisions. And just like many of life’s ironies, a compelling story can render us helpless to stop reading until we’ve finished, while at the same time dreading the story’s end.

A story is a shared experience. Both storyteller and listener/reader can, for just a little while, step into another world and be anyone they want to be. They can each feel anything they want toward a character: hatred, anger, lust, revulsion, fear, disapproval, envy. All emotions are fair game. A good story allows us that glorious empathic release.

Catfish Alley tells a story about a storyteller. Roxanne Reeves can only complete her assigned task of creating an African American tour for her small town of Clarksville, Mississippi by listening to the stories of Grace Clark, a beloved local retired black schoolteacher. Grace’s way of helping Roxanne understand the depth of meaning of the seemingly insignificant places identified for the tour is to share with her the stories of the people who inhabited those places and lived out their joys and sorrows within their narrow confines.

From the early readers of Catfish Alley, I’m hearing that my novel can evoke strong emotions and raise questions about race, class, justice, and what it means to be authentic. I value the feedback on Catfish Alley and the stories that readers have already shared with me from their own experiences.

From a storyteller, about a storyteller, to a story reader… I offer Catfish Alley. I love getting your comments and questions about Catfish Alley, and I’ve provided a discussion guide for reading groups with the kinds of thought-provoking questions that Catfish Alley tends to raise. If you’d like to have me join your reading group or book club via telephone conference, Skype, email, or old fashioned person-to-person, if I can make it, I would love to hear from you! Thank you for sharing this story with me. You can learn more about me, and read my blog at

Lynne Bryant was born and raised in rural Mississippi, where her maternal grandparents farmed cotton and her mother is one of their fifteen children. She grew up during the era of the Civil Rights Movement and came of age during the volatile integration of Mississippi’s schools. She attended nursing school at Mississippi University for Women, and then went on to complete both a masters in nursing from Ole Miss and a PhD in nursing from the University of Colorado. She now teaches nursing full-time in Colorado, but the home of her heart will always be Mississippi.

She came to writing later in life, finally allowing herself to unleash a love of storytelling and a lifetime of struggling to understand the complex race relations in Mississippi. Her stories tackle issues most Southerners can identify with, and, like her, have struggled to understand. Her debut novel, Catfish Alley, will be released by NAL/Penguin in spring 2011.

A huge thanks to Ms. Bryant for writing this terrific guest post. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

Since I've lived in the South most of my life, I've known quite a few storytellers and I find they're always fascinating. Catfish Alley sounds wonderful to me!