I’d say that 1965 was a very good year for the Pulitzer prize in literature. It was awarded to Shirley Ann Grau for The Keepers of the House, a morally complex novel about racism, family, and gender set in the deep south.
Abigail Howland is the seventh generation heir to the Howland family estate in rural Alabama. Her great-great-great-great grandfather established the farm in 1815, and by the time Abigail inherits from her grandfather, William, the Howlands are deeply respected members of the state and county, not in the least because they own most of it.
William’s story is fascinating — his wife dies and he lives alone until he meets a young black woman, Margaret, who becomes his housekeeper and also bears him five children. Everybody in the town/county seem to know about his children, but as has been done for generations, they turn a blind eye to his “woods colts.” The children, who are so light-skinned they can pass for white, are sent off to boarding schools at puberty, never to return. The eldest, Robert, is the same age as William’s white granddaughter, Abigail. Continue reading