Almost 80 years after the publication of Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling novel “Gone With The Wind,” the character we all know as Mammy, is finally getting her own back story – in book form… at least for now.
Simon & Schuster imprint Atria, will publish “Ruth’s Journey: The Story of Mammy from Gone with the Wind,” a fictional telling of the life of one of the original novel’s central characters – Mammy, who otherwise remains nameless. The book will hit bookstores (off- and online starting tomorrow, October 14).
Donald McCaig, the award-winning author of the Civil War-set “Jacob’s Ladder,” and who was also chosen by the Margaret Mitchell estate to write “Rhett Butler’s People,” the authorized sequel to “Gone With the Wind,” is the author of “Ruth’s Journey.”
This prequel, which is also authorized by Mitchell’s estate, will track Scarlett O’Hara’s no-nonsense servant’s life from her birthplace – the French colony of Saint-Domingue, now known as Haiti – to Savannah, GA. in the early 19th century.
“Mammy is one of the truly powerful figures in the book and movie and, oddly enough, one of the figures nobody tends to think much about,” says McCaig in a press statement. “When people say what is Gone With the Wind about, they say it’s a love story between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. But Mammy is almost a third party.”
He adds: “I was interested in how an African-American slave could play such a tremendously important part in a well-to-do white family. I wondered where she came from, had she ever been in love, had she had a child.
The new 416-page novel will reportedly tackle, head on, criticisms Margaret Mitchell faced over her novel, including romanticizing antebellum life, as well as the one-dimensional depictions of the black characters in her original novel, starting, of course, with Mammy, who was immortalized on film in 1939 by Hattie McDaniel, in a performance that saw her become the first black actor/actress to win an Academy Award.
The first two-thirds of “Ruth’s Journey” will be written in the 3rd person, and the last third in Ruth’s own tongue, which author McCaig says “was tremendously risky. But I think it’s the best part of the book.”
Of course, with McCaig being a 70-something-year-old white man, his quest to “give Mammy a voice” and tell her story has been, and will continue to be met with concern and criticism for what should be obvious reasons.
I wasn’t planning on buying the book, but I just might, if only out of curiosity and also to be able to defend any positions I take on the novel, with proper support. And also because, as the title of this post suggests, with tomorrow’s publication of this prequel, the question that immediately comes to mind, is whether a film adaptation will also follow – especially as movies set during the particular era during which the novel takes place, are seemingly in favor right now.
An announcement of one certainly wouldn’t surprise me.