New Release Spotlight! Susan Cushman’s John and Mary Margaret Tackles Interracial Relationships from the 60’s On

About the Book

We first meet Susan Cushman’s characters, John and Mary Margaret, in her short story collection, Friends of the Library. In her second novel and seventh book, Cushman fleshes out their stories, covering over fifty years of their lives in Mississippi and Memphis against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and continuing through current-day events.

John and Mary Margaret is an insider’s look into the White-privilege bubble of a young girl growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, and participating in sorority life on the Ole Miss campus in the late 1960s. But it’s also a candid portrayal of a young Black boy from Memphis who follows his dream to study law at the predominately White university. What happens when their shared love for literature blossoms into an ill-fated romance? Set squarely in the center of decades of historical events in Mississippi and Memphis, here their story brings those events to life.

My Take

I was introduced to Susan Cushman when she became an AlzAuthor, adding her memoir Tangles & Plaques to the AlzAuthors.com collection of books about Alzheimer’s and dementia written from personal experience. I recently interviewed her for our podcast, Untangling Alzheimer’s and Dementia. She recently published a novel, John and Mary Margaret, also with a dementia theme, but a story about interracial relationships from the 1960’s on to the present.

The main characters in this story are students at Ole Miss who fall for each other freshman year but face prejudice and violence when they openly display their affection. They choose to end their relationship, but over the course of five decades, new loves, marriages, and dementia they reunite in a world that has changed.

This is an ambitious, well researched book. The author brings her own personal experience as a southern woman confronting racial disparities to the storyline. It is sensitive and well written. The dementia themes are realistic and add an interesting dimension to the love story.

Recommended for readers who enjoy women’s fiction with serious social themes.

About the Author

Susan Cushman is author of four books: JOHN AND MARY MARGARET (novel), FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY (short stories), CHERRY BOMB (a novel) and TANGLES AND PLAQUES: A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER FACE ALZHEIMER’s (a memoir). She is editor of three anthologies: SOUTHERN WRITERS ON WRITING, A SECOND BLOOMING: BECOMING THE WOMEN WE ARE MEANT TO BE, and THE PULPWOOD QUEENS CELEBRATE 20 YEARS!

Susan was co-director of the 2013 and 2010 Oxford (Mississippi) Creative Nonfiction Conferences. She was director of the 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction Workshop. She was a panelist at the 2017 and 2018 Mississippi Book Festival, the 2017 Decatur Book Festival, the 2012, 2017 and 2018 Southern Festival of Books, the 2013, 2018, and 2019 Louisiana Book Festival, a speaker at the 2018 Mississippi Writers Guild Conference, the 2018 Alabama Writers Conclave Conference, the 2019 Southern Literary Festival, the 2019 Middle Tennessee State University Writers Conference, and the 2020 AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Professionals) Conference.

A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Susan lives in Memphis.

Her website is http://www.susancushman.com.

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