THACKER MOUNTAIN RADIO HOUR: Jane Smiley and Ethel Morgan Smith

Thursday, 10/26 6 PM: THACKER MOUNTAIN RADIO HOUR: Jane Smiley and Ethel Morgan Smith

Thursday, October 26th – Thacker Mountain Radio Hour at the Powerhouse!

 Showtime: 6 pm

Learn more about the show's lineup here

Can't make it? Reserve a signed copy of The Questions That Matter Most here and a signed copy of Path to Grace here. Personalization available.


Jane Smiley for her new collection The Questions That Matter Most and her friend Ethel Morgan Smith for her new book Path to Grace.

About The Questions That Matter Most 

One of California's leading writers, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, presents her first nonfiction volume on writing since 2005's best-selling Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel.

Long acclaimed as one of America's preeminent novelists, Jane Smiley is also an unparalleled observer of the craft of writing. In The Questions That Matter Most this Pulitzer Prize-winning writer offers steady and penetrating essays on some of the aesthetic and cultural issues that mark any serious engagement with reading and writing. Beginning with a personal introduction tracing Smiley's migration from Iowa to California, the author reflects on her findings in the varied literature of the Golden State, whose writers have for decades litigated the West's contested legacies of racism, class conflict, and sexual politics through their pens.

As she considers the ambiguity of character and the weight of history, her essays provide new entry points into literature, and we lucky readers can see how Smiley draws inspiration from across the literary spectrum to invigorate her own writing. With enthusiasm and meticulous attention, Smiley dives beneath surface-level interpretations to examine the works of Marguerite de Navarre, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Franz Kafka, Halld r Laxness, and Jessica Mitford. Throughout, Smiley seeks to think harder and, in her words, with "more clarity and nuance" about the questions that matter most.

About the Author

Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, and her novel The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1987. Her novel Horse Heaven was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and her novel Some Luck was long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award. She has written for numerous magazines and newspapers, including the New Yorker, the New York Times, Harper's, and The Nation. Her most recent novel, A Dangerous Business, was published in 2022. She lives in Carmel Valley, California.


About Path to Grace

The civil rights movement is often defined narrowly, relegated to the 1950s and 1960s and populated by such colossal figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Many forget that the movement was bigger than the figures on the frontline and that it grew from intellectual and historical efforts that continue today. In Path to Grace: Reimagining the Civil Rights Movement, Ethel Morgan Smith shines light on unsung heroes of the civil rights movement, the ordinary citizens working behind the scenes to make an impact in their communities. 

Through eleven original interviews with teachers, parents hosting fundraisers for civil right workers, volunteers helping with voter registration, and more, Smith highlights the contributions these figures made to the civil rights movement. Some of these brave warriors worked at the elbows of icons while others were clearing new paths, all passing through history without wide recognition. Path to Grace introduces readers to new witnesses and largely neglected voices. Also included are interviews with such esteemed but less studied figures as writer Gloria Naylor, poet Nikki Giovanni, fashion designer Ann Lowe, and educator Constance Curry. 

This work of social change situates these narratives in both the past and present. Indeed, many of Smith's subjects, such as Emma Bruce, John Canty, Andrea Lee, Ann Lowe, and Blanche Virginia Franklin Moore, can trace their ancestry back to enslavement, which provides a direct chain of narrators and firmly plants the roots of the civil rights movement in the country's foundation. Through historical contextualization and an analysis of contemporary sociopolitical events, Path to Grace celebrates the contributions of some of the nameless individuals, generation after generation, who worked to make the United States better for all its citizens.

About the Author

Ethel Morgan Smith is author of From Whence Cometh My Help: The African American Community at Hollins College and Reflections of the Other: Being Black in Germany. Her essay "Love Means Nothing" won the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Prize. "We Ready" was a finalist for the Jeanne M. Lieby Prize and was published in the Florida Review.She has also published in the New York TimesCallaloo, and African American Review. Smith has been a Fulbright Scholar (Universität of Tübingen, Germany); Rockefeller Fellow (Bellagio, Italy); Visiting Artist (American Academy in Rome); and DuPont Fellow (Randolph Macon Women's College).


Air times:

Thursday, October 26th – 6:00 pm (CT) WUMS – University of Mississippi

Friday, November 3rd – 6 am (CT) WYXR 91.7 FM Memphis, TN.

Saturday, November 4th –3 pm (ET) University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

7 pm (CT) Mississippi Public Broadcasting

9 pm (CT) Alabama Public Radio

Sunday, November 5th -3 pm (ET) WUOT | 91.9 FM, Knoxville

2 pm (MT) KNCE 93.5 | Taos, New Mexico

The Questions That Matter Most: Reading, Writing, and the Exercise of Freedom By Jane Smiley Cover Image
ISBN: 9781597146050
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Heyday Books - June 6th, 2023

One of California's leading writers, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, presents her first nonfiction volume on writing since 2005's best-selling Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel.

"Smiley gives educators, readers, and writers much to discuss. Highly recommended." --Library Journal, starred review

Path to Grace: Reimagining the Civil Rights Movement By Ethel Morgan Smith Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496846419
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University Press of Mississippi - August 10th, 2023

Winner of the 2023 Eudora Welty Prize

Event date: 
Thursday, October 26, 2023 - 6:00pm
The Powerhouse
413 S. 14th St
Oxford, MS 38655