From the Garden Club: Rural Women Writing Community

From the Garden Club: Rural Women Writing Community

From the Garden Club: Rural Women Writing Community

From the Garden Club: Rural Women Writing Community

Synopsis

Innovative and engaging, From the Garden Club explores how older women in a rural town use literacy to shape their lives and community. Deftly weaving elements of memoir with scholarly theory, Charlotte Hogg describes the lives of her grandmother and other women in her hometown of Paxton, Nebraska. The literacy practices of these women- writing news articles and memoirs, working at the library, and participating in extension clubs and the Garden Club- exemplify the complexities within rural communities often unseen or dismissed by locals and outsiders as "only" women's work.

Combining conversations with these women with their writing, Hogg describes and analyzes the ways they both embrace and challenge traditional notions of place and identity. Drawing on ethnographic research, composition theory, literacy studies, and regionalism, Hogg demonstrates how these women use literacy to evoke and sustain a sense of place and heritage for members of the community, to educate the citizens of Paxton, and to nourish themselves as learners, readers, and writers. Hogg relies as much on the older women, whom she richly portrays, as on interdisciplinary sources in considering how rural culture is created and sustained.

Excerpt

Moonflowers, fragrant night-blooming white flowers, were the first ones I remember Grandma naming as we sat in orange metal chairs near her flower garden. the bright colors that filled her backyard like a gigantic bouquet reminded me of the clothes she wore, slacks and blouses in pinks, purples, and reds.

I never had the desire to grow things. Grandma seemed to have passed it on to others: shortly before he died, Granddad began experimenting with hybrid irises, my aunt creates ornate floral designs in Brazilian embroidery, and my dad pulls seed pods every fall. It’s as if those closest to Grandma can’t help but see lilies and tulips when they close their eyes—but what I see is Grandma, bending over weeds in her backyard, stopping to reapply her 30 spf sunscreen or drink a glass of water from her beige cup. Rather than reach into the soil myself, I am content to appreciate her art, watch her talk to toads as they lunge from her path.

I think about this now because Grandma is sick and won’t be searching seed catalogs this winter; she cannot work in her garden anymore, maybe never will again. She guided her walker (one of those high-tech triangular ones) to the back window when I visited last summer and said, “It’s unmanageable.” Then, without judgment, “You probably can’t tell which are the weeds and which are the flowers, can you?”

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