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Original Essays | September 9, 2013 5 comments
Editor's note: Chris Bolton is not only a former Powell's employee, he was also once the primary writer for this blog. So we are particularly proud... Continue »
Lise FunderburgDescribe your latest project.
Pig Candy is a hybrid of biography/memoir that has as its central themes life, death, and barbecue. Originally, I set out to see my father through a clear lens, to see him as a man apart from just being my parent, to see him in a larger context (American history writ small), and so I enlisted all of my experience as a journalist as I approached the subject of him and his past. I wanted to know why he'd been such a wanderer in his youth, what it meant to have worked in industries that have long since disappeared, and why his 50 years in Philadelphia had created none of the attachment he still felt for his rural hometown in Georgia, a place that had been so incessantly oppressive for him as a black child in the '20s and '30s.
Four years into this seven-year undertaking, my father's doctor handed him a death sentence aggressively metastasized prostate cancer. And so while the core themes of the book endured, a final theme was added on: what does it look like to watch one's parent live in the face of death... and live aggressively, at that?
The summer after my junior year at Reed College, I was a cocktail waitress at the Frontier Saloon in Ketchikan, Alaska. Never mind that my intention had been to can salmon (they weren't running), and that I wasn't very good at keeping the orders or money straight, and that the bloody and drunken fights that happened almost every night often started with me and my tray of beers in the middle the most significant aspect of the job was the outfit, a petroleum-based halter-top mini-dress, with saloon girl ruffles along the hem. I wore it with black stockings (to cover up my unshaven legs) and Dr. Scholl's old lady sandals. I was not, it goes without saying, the leader in tip accruement.
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
1. California onion dip
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
Name the best television series of all time, and explain why it's the best.
Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
Who are your favorite characters in history? Have any of them influenced your writing?
Do you read blogs? What are some of your favorites?
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
In Pig Candy, my topics of inquiry were vast and varied: fathers and daughters, family farming, peach growing, Jim Crow, North-South relations, regionalism, food, hospice care, and the depression, to name a few. Here are some of the books that helped me:
Lay This Body Down: The 1921 Murders of Eleven Plantation Slaves by Gregory A. Freeman
Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm by David Mas Masumoto
The Night Boat by George W. Hilton
Seeking to Be Christian in Race Relations by Benjamin E. Mays
Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America by Laura Wexler
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Lise Funderburg is the author of Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home. A graduate of Reed College and Columbia Journalism School, Funderburg teaches creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, John Howard.