The Setting For The Education of Dixie Dupree
I’ve traveled through Alabama many times on our visits to the family farm in Mississippi, and each time, I fall in love all over again with the beauty of this Deep South state. I found out I lived there once, a long time ago. I had this vague recollection of my brother and I twisting our feet on a small patch of ice, a flicker of a memory, like a light switch with a wiring problem.
I asked my mother about it once, and she said, “You weren’t even two! How could you remember that? We were in Alabama.”
I said, “We were?”
“Yes, your father was working there. We lived in a small Airstream trailer in Boaz.”
She found a picture to show me, and it wasn’t one with the Airstream, but was taken at a friend’s house. Well. That came to be one of those life coincidences, because what setting had I chosen for THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE? Alabama.
Oh, I had a few good reasons. For one, I wanted to choose a location where anyone reading the story would immediately think hot, humid, and sultry weather. I wanted to invoke thoughts of dusty dirt roads, cotton fields, and picturesque rural homes.
Second, when writing a story about a family with social issues galore, topics like alcoholism, depression, and abuse comprise a major component to the narrative, putting a little distance between any associations with my own family, or even myself was top of mind. Sure, there is much throughout the book that reflects my own upbringing, and that of my own home state of North Carolina, but I didn’t want any chances of someone thinking it was even borderline memoir.
And, here’s the thing about the South. In reality, it’s really like one big long stretch of a single state. If it weren’t for the Welcome to “State Name,” you wouldn’t know you’d gone from North Carolina to South Carolina to any of the others below the Mason Dixon Line.
Throughout the South you’ll find little roadside stands along a country road selling fresh vegetables and fruits, and fields filled with rows upon rows of tobacco, corn, soybeans and cotton. Here is where folks waggle their fingers at you through their windshield as you pass them by. And, of course, we have our manner of speaking, that southern drawl. We also tend to not hurry along much. We like to sit on our porches at the end of the day, watch the world go by while sipping on a glass of sweet tea.
Anywhere you go down South, you’re bound to run into good old southern hospitality, a natural friendliness, and a neighborly attitude. I was perfectly comfortable setting my story in Alabama since there’s little, if any difference at all in our way of life. It felt right for the story, and besides, it also felt like home.
Staff Pick and Review
The Education of Dixie Dupree is a book that makes you think and feel in equal measure. Donna’s writing will grab you, and the story will linger with you well after you have finished reading it. A story of mothers and daughters, the legacy of abuse, and one 11 year-old girl with a shining spirit who must survive the unthinkable in 1969 Alabama.
The Education Of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart
has been named a November 2016 Indie Next List selection!
In 1969, Dixie Dupree is eleven years old and already an expert liar. Sometimes the lies are for her mama, Evie’s sake—to explain away a bruise brought on by her quick-as-lightning temper. And sometimes the lies are to spite Evie, who longs to leave her unhappy marriage in Perry County, Alabama, and return to her beloved New Hampshire. But for Dixie and her brother, Alabama is home, a place of pine-scented breezes and hot, languid afternoons.
Though Dixie is learning that the family she once believed was happy has deep fractures, even her vivid imagination couldn’t concoct the events about to unfold. Dixie records everything in her diary—her parents’ fights, her father’s drinking and his unexplained departure, and the arrival of Uncle Ray. Only when Dixie desperately needs help and is met with disbelief does she realize how much damage her past lies have done. But she has courage and a spirit that may yet prevail, forcing secrets into the open and allowing her to forgive and become whole again.
Narrated by her young heroine in a voice as sure and resonant as The Secret Life of Bees’ Lily or Bastard Out of Carolina’s Bone, Donna Everhart’s remarkable debut is a story about mothers and daughters, the guilt and pain that pass between generations, and the truths that are impossible to hide, especially from ourselves.
Praise For The Education Of Dixie Dupree
“With gravitas and heart…Donna Everhart does a deft job of writing about innocence lost.” – Business Insider, Insider Pick
“This is a dark, haunting book that will linger with you for days, but despite the heaviness of the book, Dixie is a witty, charismatic burst of energy and sunshine who readers will want to rescue themselves. A remarkable story of the triumph of will, and a great coming-of-age novel.” – Historical Novels Review
“[A] harrowing coming-of-age novel set in Alabama…Readers will be drawn to Dixie, who is full of spunk and grit.”– Booklist
“Everhart writes about the tension between mother and daughter with bravery and wit, unearthing the little things that can seesaw a relationship between trust and resentment. And I'm sure I won't be the only one who sees glimpses of Harper Lee's young Scout in Dixie's stubbornness and naiveté. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Education of Dixie Dupree delves into subjects too powerful to allow the book to be labeled as charming. But there is a wistful magic in seeing the world again through a child's viewpoint, even if that world is not as shiny and innocent as one would hope.” – The Amazon Book Review
“This Indie Next Pick is a difficult read at times — there’s one scene in particular that I struggled with — but I applaud the author for tackling the darkest, most heinous corner of family life: the sexual abuse of a child. The novel brims with Southern charm and introduces the captivating voice of 11-year-old Ms. Dixie Dupree. Read it for her. She has a story that begs to be heard.” – BookBub
“Everhart’s debut novel is a beautiful coming-of-age story, poignant in its content and description and written in brutally honest language. The author creates a compelling narrative that will grip readers as it leave an indelible mark on them, thanks to flawed, genuine characters and strong tensions. With a strong beginning to a powerful story and a strong-minded, spunky central character in Dixie, Everhart’s story is one to cherish.”– RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars Top Pick
“Young Dixie Dupree is an indomitable spirit in this coming-of-age novel that is a heartbreaking and honest witness to the resilience of human nature and the fighting spirit and courage residing in all of us, and for those who have lived in the underbelly of betrayal and child abuse. A triumphant debut novel which can transform a brokenness, bring forth a wholeness, The Education of Dixie Dupree would make a wonderful resource and academic book as well.” – The Huffington Post (Kim Michele Richardson)
“Please open your heart to Dixie Dupree. With unflinching honesty and a voice that rings with authenticity, she survives the unthinkable. Her story celebrates the resiliency of the human spirit and the triumph of the imagination. An important novel, beautifully written, this is a story to cherish.” --Susan Wiggs, # 1 New York Times bestselling author
“A searingly honest coming of age story with a heroine unlike any other I've met in a long time. I read this book through from start to finish in one sitting, simply unable and unwilling to put it down. Here's to another beautiful novel from Donna Everhart." --Holly Chamberlin, author of Seashell Season
“Secrets, lies, peach cobbler, grits, a hot Alabama sun, and a girl named Dixie Dupree who shows courage in the face of betrayal, strength when all falls down around her, and shining hope in the darkness. This is a story you’ll read well into the night.” --Cathy Lamb, author of The Language of Sisters
“A poignant coming of age novel as gritty as red Alabama dirt. Dixie Dupree will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.” --Colleen Faulkner, author of Julia’s Daughters
“In a powerful coming-of-age story that pitches southern charm against dark family secrets, the voice of 11-year-old Dixie Dupree captivates from the first page to the last.” --Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son