CHAPEL HILL IN PLAIN SIGHT: NOTES FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS  By Daphne Athas

CHAPEL HILL IN PLAIN SIGHT: NOTES FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS By Daphne Athas

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  • Softcover
  • Publisher: Eno Publishers
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • ISBN: 9780982077139

Through the Depression, World War II, McCarthyism, and other 20th-century milestones, Daphne Athas experienced life in the legendary Southern college town of Chapel Hill. The town was conventional and idiosyncratic, both caught up in racial and class prejudice and ahead of its time. None of this liminal world, nor the effects on it of larger political and cultural forces, escapes Athas's keen writer's eye.

Her personal life is woven through these essays. She writes of her friendships, her youthful adventures, her political revelations, her development as a writer. She retraces her early years in North Carolina, where she was considered an oddity. Hailing from a once-rich family that relocated from Brahmin Boston to a poor neighborhood on the edge of Chapel Hill after losing its fortune in the Depression, she was smart, sophisticated, well educated, and poor. That perspective from the other side of town sharpened her powers of observation, making her work penetrating and full of a sense of discovery.

Athas writes about her friendships and experiences with many well-known writers, among them Richard Wright, Paul Green, Betty Smith, and Max Steele. She tells of the political persecutions of Ab Abernathy (Chapel Hill bookseller) and Junius Scales (the scion of a wealthy family) during the McCarthy era. She reveals the true stories behind Chapel Hill's haunted Gimghoul Castle and the murder of a 72-year-old coed. Her essays bring back to life a town making its way through a radically changing world.