At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 14, novelist Carrie Brown and her daughter, the poet Molly McCully Brown, will team up for a Thornton reading in Schewel Hall’s Sydnor Performance Hall.
Carrie Brown is the author of seven novels, including The Stargazer’s Sister, which won the People’s Choice for Fiction at the 2017 Library of Virginia Literary Awards. She has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship, and she is the Margaret Banister Writer-in-Residence at Sweet Briar College.
“We first chose Carrie Brown to come because she’s a local literary treasure,” English professor Dr. Cheryl Coleman said. “Among her many awards, she has twice received the Library of Virginia Award for fiction. This is our opportunity to celebrate an author who lives, teaches, and writes in our own community.
“Shortly after we invited Carrie, her daughter Molly McCully Brown published her first book of poetry, and I was so impressed by the collection that we asked if Molly and Carrie would be interested in a joint reading.”
Molly McCully Brown is the author of the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize winner, The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded. In August 2017, she talked with National Public Radio’s Terry Gross about the book on the weekly talk show, “Fresh Air.”
The poet, who grew up near the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded — now called Central Virginia Training Center — has cerebral palsy. During the NPR interview, she told Gross that she’s wondered whether, in an earlier time, she would have ended up at what’s locally referred to as “The Colony.”
“It is impossible to know that for sure,” she told Gross. “I can look at my life and look at my family and look at my parents and think, No, never. That never would have happened. But I also understand that if I had been born 50 years earlier, the climate was very different.”
She also told Gross that she hopes her book can speak for those who lived at the institution, where in the early 20th century forced sterilization was widely practiced in the name of eugenics.
“Molly McCully Brown’s poems bear witness to a shameful part of our history in this country: the eugenics movement as it was practiced in a local institution,” said Dr. Coleman. “These readings are one of the benefits of a liberal arts education, and we hope that students will value and take advantage of them.”
Molly McCully Brown is currently the Jeff Baskin Writers Fellow at The Oxford American magazine, where she is working on a collection of essays about disability, poetry, religion, and the American South that explores the relationship between the body and soul.
The Thornton Writing Program, named for Richard H. Thornton, a graduate from the Class of 1907, has brought successful poets, novelists, dramatists, and nonfiction writers to University of Lynchburg since 1975.