I grew up in a little backwater town in southeast Texas that lets me call people like Janis Joplin, Tex Ritter, Frank Robinson, George Jones, The Big Bopper, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Jimmy Johnson, Evelyn Keyes, Mark Chesnutt, Clay Walker and Tracy Byrd hometown heroes. Admittedly, not everyone on this list has had the same impact on our national culture - and they were born, or grew up, in several different cities in Jefferson County. But I still claim them all.
I got to thinking about the list today (and there are others I could add) when I put down an ARC of Mary Karr's new memoir, Lit, because Mary is another of my hometown heroes. And, book nerd that I am, she is near the top of the list for me these days. I grew up in Backwater, Texas, a full decade ahead of Mary but much of what she has written about her childhood and her own Great Escape hit very close to home for me. I feel like I know her - and, in a way, I do.
Lit is the perfect title for part three of Mary's overall memoir because of the word's double meaning. Mary Karr is a respected poet and her previous memoirs, The Liars Club and Cherry have done quite well, I think, because of the frank way she exposes her life to the scrutiny of her readers. So, in one sense, Lit refers to Mary's literary reputation and achievements. Unfortunately, Lit has another connotation in Mary's life, a good portion of which has been spent fighting her alcoholism, a disease from which both her parents also suffered.
What Mary Karr has accomplished, and continues to accomplish, amazes me. I know where she came from and I know how hard it is to escape from that kind of place. I hope to get a moment at the Texas Book Festival on Halloween weekend to tell her just how proud I am of her.