While Mary E. Lyons was teaching eighth-grade she discovered that her classes loved stories written by women and particularly African-American writers. They especially enjoyed the folklore of Zora Neale Hurston. When Mary discovered there was no biography of Zora Neale Hurston in the school library, her first young adult book Sorrow's Kitchen: The Life and Folklore of Zora Neale Hurston, was born. Since that first book Mary E. Lyons has written several biographies set in the South. History had come alive for her. She describes being a biographer as being like a detective. But why did Mary's biographies come out of the South? There seems to be an easy answer. Mary was born in Georgia and lived in several southern states during her childhood. She remembers that as a child she read a lot more than she wrote, but when asked by one of her grade school teachers what she wanted to be when she grew up, she quickly answered an "authoress". Mary says that writing about the South is like coming home and when you read her works you can feel the setting and the souls of those she writes about in such a way that the reader wants to go out and read more. No better compliment can be given to a biographer.
The biographies that Mary writes are a delight to read because she does stay true to the rich dialect of the South and in many cases intersperses the biographies with writings by her subject, as she does in Sorrow's Kitchen and Keeping Secrets. In both these books she includes the actual words from her subjects and highlights their words with her insights into their lives and times. There were no words left behind by Harriet Powers but in Stitching Stars, Mary Lyons has been able to bring Harriet's voice to life by examining the stories Harriet left in her story quilts. A reader response to Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs is especially delightful because Harriet's life is told in the form of letters that she might have written during her enslavement and eventual escape to the North.
Lyons, Mary E. Sorrow's Kitchen: The Life and Folklore of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Scribner, 1990.
Lyons, Mary E.(editor) Raw Head, Bloody Bones: African-American Tales of the Supernatural. New York: Scribner, 1991.
Lyons, Mary E. Letters From a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs. New York: Scribner, 1992.
Lyons, Mary E. Starting Home: The Story of Horace Pippin, Painter. New York: Scribner, 1993.
Lyons, Mary E. Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers. New York: Scribner, 1993.
Lyons, Mary E. Deep Blues: Bill Traylor, Self-taught Artist. New York: Scribner, 1994.
Lyons, Mary E. Master of Mahogany: Tom Day, Free Black Cabinetmaker. New York: Scribner, 1994.
Lyons, Mary E. Painting Dreams: Minnie Evans, Visionary Artist. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
Lyons, Mary E. Keeping Secrets: The Girlhood Diaries of Seven Women Writers. New York: Holt and Co., 1995.
Lyons, Mary E. The Butter Tree: Tales of Bruh Rabbit. Illus. by Mireille Vautier. New York: Holt, 1995.
Lyons, Mary E. Catching the Fire: Philip Simmons, Blacksmith. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
Lyons, Mary E. The Poison Place: A Novel. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers,1997.
Lyons, Mary E. Talking with Tebe: Clementine Hunter, Memory Artist. Boston, MA: Hougton Mifflin, 1998.
Lyons, Mary E. Mary E. LyonsPublisher's flyer. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992.
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Created March 19, 1996, Last Reviewed and Updated March 18, 1998.