A descendant of Lebanese Catholic immigrants on her father’s side and Baptist sharecroppers on her mother’s, Teresa Nicholas endured a southern upbringing with an unusual inflection . In her memoir, Buryin’ Daddy: Putting My Lebanese, Catholic, Southern Baptist Childhood to Rest, the author recalls her charmed early childhood in the late 1950s, when she and her family live with her grandparents in a graceful old bungalow in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
But when the author is five, her eccentric father—secretive, penurious, autocratic, hoarding—moves his growing family into a condemned duplex nearby. Separated from her beloved grandmother and chafing under her father’s erratic discipline, the girl longs to flee from the awful decrepit house. When she’s a teenager, she and her father find themselves on conflicting sides of the civil rights movement and their arguments grow more painful, until a scholarship to a northeastern college provides the means of her escape. She finally leaves Mississippi when she is awarded a scholarship to Swarthmore College.
The heart of the narrative picks up nearly two decades later where Nicholas has built a successful career in book publishing in New York. When her father suddenly dies, she returns for the funeral and spends a month in the hated duplex, ostensibly to help her mother adjust to life without a domineering husband. As she learns more about her father, though, she comes to understand that he was a far more complex figure than the rigid personality she thought she knew. Drawing closer to her mother, who is affected by stroke but full of blunt country talk, she sees that her mother is also far from the naïve, helpless creature she had imagined.
Through a series of surprising, poignant, and obliquely humorous discoveries, the author and her mother uncover her father’s secrets, in all their complicated humanity. Graced with a palpable sense of time and place and filled with memorable characters, Buryin’ Daddy will appeal to readers who will find both the familiar and the unexpected in its vividly textured pages.
Buryin' Daddy is now available from UPM. For news and updates visit the author's website.