Eudora Welty, who died in 2001, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of short stories and novels about the American South. As a child in Mississippi she developed a love for reading, spurred on by her mother who is quoted as saying that, “any room in our house, at any time in the day, was there to read in, or to be read to.”
After receiving a degree in English literature from the University of Wisconsin, she studied advertising at Columbia University but had difficulty finding a job. Returning to Mississippi in what was then the height of the Great Depression, she was hired as a photographer by the federal Works Progress Administration. Her photographs captured the plight of the rural poor in Mississippi during the Depression and became the basis for many of her short stories.
Welty published her first short story in 1936. Her novel, The Optimist’s Daughter published in 1972, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and her 1983 book, One Writer’s Beginnings, was the first book published by Harvard University to appear on the New York Times Bestseller List.
My favorite short story of Welty’s is Why I Live at the P.O., a somewhat comical story of a woman known only as “Sister” who has become estranged from her family and lives at the post office where she works. It was first published in 1941 in the Atlantic Monthly magazine and later that year was re-published in Welty’s first collection of short stories, A Curtain of Green. I have fond memories of helping my younger sister study Why I Live at the P.O. as a class assignment when she was in high school.
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