Motherland: Stories and Poems from Louisiana
by Lynn Hoggard

Lamar University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-991-10741-4.
Reviewed by Diane Stanton
Posted on 03/20/2015

Nonfiction: Memoir

In Motherland: Stories and Poems from Louisiana, author Lynn Haggard introduces the reader to a taste for growing up in South Louisiana in the forties, fifties, and sixties. Noting that she has changed the names of characters and places, she tells the story is told from the point of view of Cassie LaPlace, the pseudonym for the author herself.

The slender volume is divided into three parts, addressing her youth and young adulthood, and offering a tribute to her parents. There is a chronology to these sections and each is characterized by a different tone and slightly different voice, becoming more serious as the narrator, Cassie, matures.

The first section, "The Source," is composed of short humorous tales with a few poems interwoven and relate Cassie's experiences in her early years. Cassie is portrayed as a spunky, independent child. Hoggard's colorful descriptions of Cassie's child-like problem solving are just plain fun to read. One of the more vivid ones, that brings a chuckle as I write this, involves Cassie's mother's insistence that she use the potty after breakfast before she plays. She is not to get up until she eliminates, and Cassie solves this by scooting around, "sliding the pot and herself smoothly along...she could go virtually an inchworm." She relates stories about being a Methodist growing up in a Catholic culture, being stoned for her differences, and eating favorite meals, such as squirrel stew.

The second section, "Eros," begins on a more serious note. In a first-person essay, Cassie "Speaks Out From Beyond Left Field," where she addresses the feelings of being different and feeling left out. The remainder of this section is composed of short, narrative poems addressing change.

The last section, "The Storm's Eye," addresses Cassie's parents, their lives and their achievements, especially her mother's role in the integration of South Louisiana's public schools. There is an attitude here of respect and praise for the stand taken by Cassie's mother, Martha LaPlace. This tone carries through the poems in this section, so that it feels almost like a tribute or eulogy to Cassie's parents, interrupted only by the story, "The Burning Man," which address a death witnessed by Cassie while she was in high school.

From the beginning of this memoir, author Lynn Howard carries the reader through the "journey from childhood to adulthood." This was her intent as stated in the introduction to this book, and this is the journey she has been able to share with the reader. This is a delightful book, one the reader is able to befriend and remember fondly.

Lynn Hoggard has published dozens of poems and four books, including three translations form the French. She grew up in the rural South and spent three years in France as a teacher and Ph.D. candidate in comparative literature. She has taught English, French and Humanities at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls Texas where she lives with her husband, poet and novelist, James Hoggard. Visit her website.

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