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I was privileged to serve on the faculty at the University of North Carolina as Kenan Eminent Professor of English and Comparative Literature. In that time, I published scholarly books and articles, novels, and a memoir. Throughout my career, my teaching and writing have focused on issues of social justice in the American South.


1967, B.A., English, University of Tennessee

1983, Ph.D., English, University of Tennessee


Beautiful Dreamers: A Novel. Spartanburg, S.C.: Hub City Press, 2024.

The Accidentals: A Novel. William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2019. Mississippi Institute of Arts

and Letters Award for Fiction; first chapter Finalist, Faulkner-Wisdom Novel-in-process

Award, 2019.

Promise: A Novel. William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2018. Shortlisted, Willie Morris Award in

Southern Literature; Indie Next Pick; SIBA Okra Pick; Barnes and Noble Top Book of the Month Selection.

Remembering Medgar Evers: Writing the Long Civil Rights Movement. Athens: University of

Georgia Press, 2013. (Lamar Memorial Lecture Series: Mercer University).

The Queen of Palmyra: A Novel .  New York: Harper Perennial/HarperCollins, 2010.

Finalist, John Gardner Fiction Book Award; Finalist, Julia Peterkin Prize (excerpt); Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Book; Examiner Book of the Week; Oxford American Pick; Women’s National Book Association Great Group Reads Selection. Optioned for film.

Reviewed in Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Cape Town Times (South Africa), Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer, Publishers Weekly, South Mississippi Sun Herald, World Literature Forum, Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger, New Orleans Times-Picayune, IndieBound, Booklist, Charleston (WV) Observer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oxford American, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Examiner, Roanoke Times, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Greensboro News & Record.

Wishing for Snow: A Memoir. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004 (hardcover); Reprint: New York: HarperCollins/ Harper Perennial, 2011 (paperback).

Excerpts: The Women’s Review of Books and Southern Mothers: Fact and Fictions in Southern Women’s Writing.


Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Fiction, 2020.

“Target Practice,” Finalist, Faulkner/Wisdom Competition in Novel-in-Progress, 2019.

“Pheasant Hunting,” Finalist for Narrative Magazine Short Short Fiction Prize, Winter 2020.

“The Day the First Man Walked on the Moon,” Honorable Mention, GlimmerTrain Short Story Prize, 2013.

Faculty Research Scholar, UNC Women’s Center, Spring 2012.

Visiting Writer, 2010-2011 Distinguished Writers Series, Poetry Center, Paterson, NJ.

Fellow, UNC Institute for Arts & Humanities, Fall 2009.