To Find My Own Peace

Grace King in Her Journals, 1886-1910

Title Details

Pages: 278

Illustrations: 14 b&w photos

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 02/02/2004

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2565-1

List Price: $48.95

To Find My Own Peace

Grace King in Her Journals, 1886-1910

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews

These previously unpublished private writings expand our understanding of Grace King (1852–1932) as a writer and as a nineteenth-century, middle-class, white southern woman. A prolific New Orleans author who transcended the local-color genre of her day, King has long been admired for her versatility in many written forms, her depictions of both black and white women in a variety of settings and situations, and her insights into the intricate social structure of her native city.

Over a span of forty-six years, King produced four histories, three novels and two novellas, three collections of stories, two biographies, an autobiography, a play, and numerous articles and sketches. At age thirty-four she began a journal "to find my own peace in my own life." As Melissa Walker Heidari notes, King's journals offer "what is so lacking in her published autobiography: humor, irony, and a more candid assessment of herself and others. The Grace King of the autobiography is an interesting subject, but Grace King in her journals is alive and compelling." King's journals became a sourcebook for writing ideas, an outlet for opinions on current issues that she felt uncomfortable discussing publicly, and a record of her experiences at home and on her travels in the northern United States and Europe. She also used her journals as a form of therapy for her grief over the loss of loved ones and for her regrets, both personal and professional.

This volume comprises King's journals of 1886–1901, 1904, and 1907–1910. Heidari's introduction puts King's life and work in the context of recent scholarship in women's life narratives and discusses what the journals reveal about such topics as the lives of unmarried women in the nineteenth-century South, the ways Victorian families dealt with diseases like alcoholism and depression, and the challenges facing women writers of the period.

With the publication of these revealing journals, Heidari makes an extraordinary contribution not only to our understanding of Grace King but to the complex position of southern women writers, especially after the Civil War. These diaries give dimension and hue to the rich substance at which King's fiction and public persona have so tantalizingly hinted and which have fueled recent critical interest in her work. Thanks to Heidari, our thinking about King and other nineteenth-century southern women writers is in for some refreshing adjustments.

—Barbara C. Ewell, Professor of English, Loyola University New Orleans

Melissa Walker Heidari’s edition of Grace King’s journals should be welcomed as a great gift to all who know King’s work—and as a stunning discovery to those who do not. Heidari offers ample information on King’s background, ambitions, loyalties, and talent, but never overwhelms King’s own words. The journals present abundant fresh information on King’s life, opinions, and feelings, bringing to life a new dimension of this gifted and still inadequately appreciated writer.

—Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, author of Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South

To Find My Own Peace reveals much about the complexities of gender, race, class, and region in post-Reconstruction New Orleans. Heidari succeeds marvelously in reaching her two-fold goal: contributing to the scholarship on King and providing insight into the culture of the New South. . . . As with King’s novels, short stories, and other writings, these journals, and Heidari’s editing of them, are invaluable for a better understanding of the turn-of-the-century South, with all its rich complexity.

H-Net Book Review (H-SAWH)

This collection is immensely enriched by the meticulous editing of Melissa Heidari. Detailed endnotes provide important contextual and historical background. The introduction blend biography with literary history and places the journals within the context of turn-of-the-century life narratives of American women. Our understanding of Grace King and her time will be greatly enriched by this edition.

Journal of Southern History

Effective as a primary document and as an addition to the historical literature . . . To Find My Own Peace is informative, insightful, and eminently readable. Heidari has made a valuable literary and historical source available to scholars and a general audience. Her remarkable efforts to resurrect the life and literature of Grace King effectively illustrate the centrality of journal writing to our understanding of the past.

Southern Historian

About the Author/Editor

MELISSA WALKER HEIDARI is an associate professor of English at Columbia College.