One Author's Life


Miss Dreamsville: An American Novel?

August 23, 2013

Literary, Historical, Women's, and Southern Fiction: My novel, Miss Dreamsville, has been described as all of the above. I don't mind what it's called as long as people read it, yet looking at how reviewers and readers categorize fiction is intriguing. A literary novel, generally speaking, is one that tackles serious issues and attempts to shed light on the human condition. Miss Dreamsville, which includes a plotline about the KKK, certainly passes muster. Yet, there is a great deal of humor in the book as well, which confounds those who think that funny and serious can't exist side-by-side. (One reviewer, for example, said that the book was "wry and ironic, and more serious than it might at first appear.")
Then we have the category of "historical fiction." For the vast majority of readers, my novel falls into that category because it is set in 1962-63. For purists, Miss Dreamsville doesn't quite fit the bill. That's because there are a few places in the novel (as I point out in the Acknowledgments) where I did not adhere 100 percent to historical description. For example, for symbolic reasons I chose to have certain characters catch a bus northbound on a highway, even though in reality a small, downtown bus depot had been built by that time. By making that choice, I wobbled out of the strictest definition of "historical fiction."
One of the most peculiar categories, "Women's," almost makes me laugh out loud. Is it "women's" because it was written by a woman? Because the cover design speaks more to women than men? Because the story focuses on the relationships and lives of women? Must one possess two X chromosomes in order to read it? If you have a Y chromosome, do you need it translated?
Last but not least, we have the category of Southern Fiction. Since both setting and narrator of Miss Dreamsville are Southern, there's no question that it qualifies. There is another layer to my novel, however: the story is about a woman from Boston who moves with her family to a little redneck town in far-south Florida in 1962, and details her struggles to fit in. Unlike most Southern novels, it is not only about the South but the cultural divide between Northerners and Southerners. Thus, maybe the best description for Miss Dreamsville is American Fiction.