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Eudora Welty

April 13, 1909, celebrates the birthday of an American legend--writer Eudora Welty.  Her parents, Christian Webb and Chestina Andrews Welty, saw that Eudora grew up in a close-knit and loving family.  From her father, she inherited a "love for all instruments that instruct and fascinate."  From her mother, she received a passion for reading and for language. 

Her mother worked as a schoolteacher in Jackson, Mississippi.  She taught her daughter to love books before she was even able to read them.  Welty said, "It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass."

As a young woman, Welty moved to New York City, but when her father contracted leukemia, she returned home to Mississippi to help her mother and spent the rest of her life in the family house in Jackson.

She attended the Mississippi College for Women, was graduated from the University of Wisconsin (1929), and studied advertising at Columbia University for a year.  But she knew she wasn't cut out for that field.  She said, "It was too much like sticking pins into people to make them buy things they didn't need or really want."  Instead, she began writing reports for the Works Progress Administration, traveling to county fairs, market days, and Fourth of July celebrations where she interviewed the locals and took their photographs.

Welty was a talented photographer who documented much of the rural poverty in Mississippi.  When she began writing short stories in the early 1930s, she thought of the fiction and the photographs as parts of the same project.  Her first book of short stories was A Curtain of Green (1941).

Writing her fiction by a window in her house, Welty could hear the music from a nearby school.  She wrote and rewrote, revising her stories by cutting them apart at the dining-room table and reassembling them with straight pins.  She won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Optimist's Daughter (1972), although most critics consider her masterpiece to be The Golden Apples (1949), a book of stories about a magical Mississippi community called Morgana.

As Reynolds Price in 1969 observed, no one in America "has yet shown stronger, richer, more useful fiction," adding that Welty's work called to mind the fiction of Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Chekhov as her "peers for breadth and depth."

Welty said, "I am a writer who came of a sheltered life.  A sheltered life can be a daring life as well.  For, all serious daring starts from within."

Eudora Welty--an American institution--passed away quietly on July 23, 2001.  She was 92.

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