Friday, January 15, 2016

Alison Collis Greene

Alison Collis Greene is Assistant Professor of History at Mississippi State University.

Her new book is No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Every three years or so around the holidays, I promise myself I’ll read some new fiction, but instead I end up going back to an old favorite. This time it’s Louise Erdrich’s The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. It is just a beautiful book in every way, and Father Damien is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. Louise Erdrich draws rich characters and complex worlds, she’s intense and hilarious and surprising, and her language feels so organically beautiful that you never see the effort that goes into some of the most perfect sentences you’ve ever read. And yet her writing is also utterly unpretentious. I’ve read all her books (Plague of Doves is my second favorite). I’d read her grocery lists. Best of all, whenever I read Erdrich, I call up my Uncle Mike, who lives back home in the North Carolina mountains and who is my preferred book-talking companion, and we retell our favorite parts back and forth, as if Nanapush and Lulu and Eli were our own family and friends. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you should just go read all Louise Erdrich’s books.

I also have a three-year-old and an eight-month-old, and so I read children’s books every day as well. One of my many current favorites—strongly influenced by my boys—is Suzy Lee’s Wave. It’s a wordless story about a little girl encountering the waves at the beach. My oldest son and I take turns narrating it to each other, although he won’t let me deviate much from his favorite version. It’s a playful book, and we’ve loved it for many months now.

There’s a theme here, I suppose. I’m an introvert, and I read a lot. I read history books, but I inhale fiction (I’d write it if I could). In some ways reading is very private. I love a beautiful sentence and an infuriatingly human character. I look forward to learning the contours of someone else’s mental landscape and the cadences of their speech. But what I love most are books that I can talk about with someone. To me, the best books allow us to inhabit shared imaginary lands in ways that change how we inhabit the real world around us.
Learn more about No Depression in Heaven at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: No Depression in Heaven.

--Marshal Zeringue