When I was in high school, I was required to read a Eudora Welty short story for a class. At the time, I only knew Eudora was a writer from Mississippi and she lived in Jackson, MS at the time. It was my first exposure to her work and I can honestly say the story, “A Worn Path” has stuck with me my entire life. The effort made by a grandmother to walk to the druggist to get medicine for her grandson has carved an indelible image in my mind. Having strong family relationships is just one of the perks of growing up in the South especially with grandparents. But then again, so is the place where you find yourself and Welty returned to the concepts of family and place throughout her career.
From Wikipedia: Eudora Alice Welty (April 13, 1909 – July 23, 2001) was an American short story writer, novelist and photographer, who wrote about the American South. Her novel The Optimist’s Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Welty received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Order of the South. She was the first living author to have her works published by the Library of America. Her house in Jackson, Mississippi, has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as a house museum. Eudora Welty was born in Jackson, Mississippi, the daughter of Christian Webb Welty (1879–1931) and Mary Chestina (Andrews) Welty (1883–1966). She grew up with younger brothers Edward Jefferson and Walter Andrews. Her mother was a schoolteacher. Welty soon developed a love of reading reinforced by her mother, who believed that “any room in our house, at any time in the day, was there to read in, or to be read to.” Her father, who worked as an insurance executive, was intrigued by gadgets and machines and inspired in Welty a love of mechanical things. She later used technology for symbolism in her stories and also became an avid photographer, like her father.
I’m pretty sure Mississippi would not have been the same without Eudora Welty, but then again, I’m also not sure Eudora Welty would have been the same without Mississippi. There’s an old saying down here that there’s just something in the water, or the air, or the humidity which creates an environment for creative expression whether in literature, music, art or character. Whatever the “something” is, Eudora harnessed it and turned it into a life-long writing career which took her from Jackson to Memphis to New York and ultimately all over the world.
Learn more about Eudora Welty’s life and her works at The Eudora Welty Foundation. The Foundation’s broad mission is to fund educational and research activities and to develop programs that will enhance Eudora Welty’s legacy and ensure that her work continues to be recognized as among the greatest in American literature.