Blanche McCrary Boyd

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Biography

 Photo by the wonderful Rollie McKenna, back when I looked better.

Photo by the wonderful Rollie McKenna, back when I looked better.

 Always thought I’d pack my own chute. Ha!

Always thought I’d pack my own chute. Ha!

 This orchid is a hybrid and so am I.

This orchid is a hybrid and so am I.

 No comment.

No comment.

Blanche McCrary Boyd (born 1945) is an American novelist, journalist, essayist, and professor. She is the author of five novels and a collection of autobiographical journalism, THE REDNECK WAY OF KNOWLEDGE, 1981). Her newest novel, TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN RACIST (2018), completes The Blacklock Trilogy. TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN RACIST is narrated by the same character as THE REVOLUTION OF LITTLE GIRLS (1991) and TERMINAL VELOCITY (1997), although the three novels function independently. Boyd’s essays and reporting have appeared in venues such as the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Ms, Vanity Fair, and Village Voice.

Blanche McCrary Boyd grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, the source of her ‘redneck’ roots, and much of her writing radiates from her Southern background. Her works traverse the racial and political contradictions of the second half of the 20th century, intertwining personal and psychological adventures with feminist protests, lesbianism, racial conflicts, and a confrontation with the violent white supremacist subculture. 

All of Boyd’s work reveals a continual exploration of the relationship of fiction and nonfiction. Her nonfiction involves both personal revelation and reporting, and her fiction combines autobiographical elements with real-world events. To cover the Susan Smith trial, Boyd first took her mother to spend Mother’s Day at the lake where Susan was convicted of murdering her two children “to ask Momma why she didn’t drown us”, and then used this event to frame detailed reporting and an analysis of the Smith case. In TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN RACIST she combines the factual white terrorist Silent Brotherhood and the Oklahoma City Bombing with the narrator’s imagined younger brother.

Boyd’s writings are by turns hilarious, heartbreaking, and smart. She has disavowed her first two novels, NERVES (1973) and MOURNING THE DEATH OF MAGIC (1977) as “talented but not good, because I was still playing my violin about the sad songs of life.” It was while writing for the Village Voice that she discovered “my real voice.” The pieces collected in THE REDNECK WAY OF KNOWLEDGE were all first published in the Village Voice, as were the first three chapters of THE REVOLUTION OF LITTLE GIRLS.

Among the awards Boyd has received are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, a South Carolina Arts Commission Fellowship, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University. In 1991 THE REVOLUTION OF LITTLE GIRLS won both the Lambda Award and the Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction, and it was also nominated for the Southern Book Award.

Boyd is well-known as a teacher and mentor. She is the Roman S. and Tatiana Weller Professor English and Writer-in-Residence at Connecticut College, where she has been teaching creative writing for more than thirty years. Among her many students have been writers Sloane Crosley, Jazmine Hughes, Lee Eisenberg, Jessica Soffer, William Lychack, David Grann, Ann Napolitano, Jonathan Fahey, Hannah Tinti and Mehdi Okasi. Boyd directs The Daniel Klagsbrun Symposium on Writing and Moral Vision at Connecticut College, where she has interviewed and hosted readings by Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, Gloria Naylor, Art Spiegelman, Michael Cunningham, Amy Tan, Dorothy Allison as well as many others. “This event works because I invite people I actually want to talk to.”