JXN: A Book Lover’s Paradise
One of our beloved hometown heroes, famed writer Eudora Welty, spent her life calling Jackson home.
The Jackson she knew and loved consisted of familiarity—neighbors, family.
While what seemed a sleepy town was her home, it has long been a springboard for some of the greatest literary giants of all time—a fact she perhaps proved for us. “A sheltered life can be a daring life as well,” Welty famously said. “For all serious daring starts from within.”
In the footsteps of Welty, many have followed suit from their home in Jackson, daring to write. Daring to create. Exploring our city and state gives you a firsthand look at the inspiration behind the work of writers like Welty, Richard Wright, Richard Ford, Kathryn Stockett, Kiese Laymon and Angie Thomas.
Our literary heritage is celebrated and enshrined around each and every corner.
Eudora Welty’s home and gardens, locate ed in the historic Belhaven neighborhood, is where the Pulitzer Prize winner lived and wrote for 76 years. In 1925, when she was 16 years old, her parents completed the home, and the writer remained there until her death in 2001 at the age of 92. The Eudora Welty home is one of the nation’s most intact literary house museums. The home and gardens are open for tours. Visit eudoraweltyhouse.com for more details.
At The Smith-Robertson Museum and Cultural Center in the Farish Street Historic District, you can dive into the history of the African American experience in the Deep South while walking the halls writer Richard Wright walked as a schoolboy.
Visit Jackson State University, where the renowned author Margaret Walker spent a 30-year teaching career. In her foreword to her beloved novel Jubilee, Walker thanked Jackson State College for permitting her to take leave to write her novel. It was here that she established an institute to preserve and interpret black history and culture. Today, the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center at JSU preserves African American history through archival records and “living memories.”
In 1975, John Evans opened Lemuria Books, a local shop chock full of signed first editions, hardbacks, paperback and children’s books. Lemuria has stood the test of time and the rise of big-box and online bookstores. The knowledgeable staff revel in sharing their love of reading and you can often catch authors on tour or browsing the collections themselves.
“Here, we are booksellers, not just clerks,” says Evans. Lemuria is the perfect spot to get lost in a real book. “I’ve been in business for 45 years and during that time, some of the greatest writers have lived in Jackson,” says Evans, referencing Eudora Welty, Willie Morris, Margaret Walker Alexander, Ellen Douglas, Angie Thomas and more. “The support of these writers and others has played a huge part in the success of Lemuria. It really all comes down to teamwork among readers, writers and booksellers.”
There’s no greater spot to verify that the written word is anything but dead than the Mississippi Book Festival. Thousands of literary lovers flock to the grounds of the Mississippi Capitol each August for Mississippi’s beloved literary lawn party. Hundreds of visiting authors, panel discussions, signings and booksellers create a bookworm’s paradise.
“The Mississippi Book Festival is hosted in the capital city because it celebrates Mississippi authors past and present and we want all Mississippians to feel that it is their festival,” says Executive Director Holly Lange. “The state capitol and surrounding venues provide the perfect archItectural backdrop to promote one of the best contributions our state has made to the world–unparalleled literary greatness.”
The 2020 Mississippi Book Festival was canceled due to COVID-19. The 2021 event is already scheduled for Saturday, August 21.
This article was originally published in our 2020 Jackson Tour Guide. Request your physical copy here.