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Author Archive: "Laird Hunt"

Deep Roots, Rich Dirt

There is a passage in Jean Toomer's marvelous hybrid novel Cane that describes a woman, sitting in a theater in a northern city, whose roots, likely unbeknownst to her, sink deep through the floor and travel south. The image is fraught, of course, because the woman being described is African American and Toomer, who was also African American, was writing in a context of deep social injustice during Jim Crow when the wounds of slavery were still fresh. Still, there is beauty, too, in the evocation (as indeed there is throughout all of Toomer's work) — the pungent, sticky, nostalgia-laced beauty of heat-hazed vistas, blood-red moons, and cane fields blowing sweet and sharp-edged in the wind. Toomer's root-trailing woman is a suitably complex reminder, then, of how what we think lies behind us remains ever present and ever impactful, whether we know it or not, want it or not. Put otherwise, and to borrow from Toomer's contemporary William Faulkner, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

I was raised in significant part on a central Indiana farm out of whose fields in the early years ...


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