Dr. Trudier Harris
I just finished reading—for the second time—Suzan-Lori Parks’s Getting Mother’s Body (2003). Parks is known primarily as a playwright, having won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Topdog/Underdog. However, she ventures into the novel form for this narrative. In somewhat of a reversal of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Billie Beede, the central character in this multiply narrated novel, travels with an assortment of companions from Texas to New Mexico to dig up her deceased mother’s body in the hope of finding a diamond ring and a pearl necklace that were reputedly buried with her. The fifteen-year-old Billie hopes to get money from the jewelry to pay for an abortion, because she discovers that the man with whom she has so freely had sex is already married with several children. The narrative is reminiscent of Faulkner’s Snopeses as well as the dirt-poor characters portrayed in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I completed a paper on the novel for the College Language Association Convention, which was held in Dallas, Texas the second week in April. The novel fits into the convention’s theme of “Expanding Frontiers” as I examine Parks’s transition from drama to fiction and the relative success—or not—of such a move.
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