Area author mirrors historic similarities in new book
Published 9:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Pam Avery, an area native who recently published her first fiction novel, bore witness to some of the most significant shifts in modern American history from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, particularly how it shaped the communities like the one she grew up in.
She witnessed rage, fear but also triumph as the country either accepted or denied these changes and watched how it paved the way for continued action today.
Avery deciphers a similar tone in her first fiction novel, “The Tanner Side of Town” in which a small North Georgia mountain town — not unlike many small, rural towns of the south in the early 20th century — was uprooted at the very mention of change. Avery introduced her new book to the public at a special question and answer session at LaGrange’s Pretty Good Books bookstore this past weekend.
In “The Tanner Side of Town,” a proposed iron ore mine threatens the agrarian livelihood of every landowner who lives in the fictional town, including the titular Tanner family. Combined with the possible destruction of the town’s rich, fertile land lies political and racial tensions that were prominent at this time.
“When you go through a crisis, you learn a lot about yourself and other people,” Avery said. “[The book’s] just about life. People ask me how did I think this story up. I lived the past 71 years.”
Her publisher Randy Dameron further described it as a story of redemption and of retribution.
“[The books] is a reflection of the culture ad way of life through time and the characters within that snapshot of southern culture and history,” Dameron said. “In the south of the 1950s and 1960s, you still had pockets of people who didn’t buy into the hate and the discrimination, but it is a reflection of what the general culture was like but how people worked through those issues.”
Avery specifies her book is not necessarily an autobiography, it does mirror some of the experiences she witnessed as a child of the 1950s and 1960s.
“I was very aware of what the culture and people were like, what cruelty and the discrimination were without really meaning to,” Avery recalled. “We were on the cusp of some of the most momentous changes [ever]. [My] generation of parents got so freaked out because they saw everything they held near and dear being questioned, and at times, done away with.”
Avery currently lives in her grandfather’s former home on the border of Troup County and Harris County. The 1968 LaGrange High School graduate can still recall the culture shock she felt when she ventured from what was then a smaller LaGrange to Athens where she attended the University of Georgia.
“I was ready [for change],” Avery said. “Being at UGA from 1968 to 1972 was just phenomenal. I was ready to soar.”
One of “Tanner Side of Town’s” main characters, Lucy Tanner, shares this excitement and apprehension for change. The book’s inner description said, “She read in the paper yesterday that the United States had officially entered a war in Southeast Asia. A Catholic was running for president, and a new drug was on the market — the birth control pill. Change was coming, and she wanted to be a part of it — not a bystander.”
UGA was one of the few schools of her era that was progressive for women, Avery said, and she was able to obtain her degree in journalism, specifically in marketing communications, as well as a minor in business. Despite these accomplishments, Avery was still in a society where women could not do things such as start a line of credit or own their own car.
“When I graduated, you as a woman could not get a job doing anything but secretarial work or a teacher,” she said. “I was hired by a bank. They were seen as some of the more progressive corporations in the states, but it took a year for them to agree to put me and several other women on the management committee, and that’s because we banged on the door every day.”
Following this change, the expectations and role of women began to change across the country. Avery recalled within women around her were soon able to go into business for themselves.
“That timespan there was the turning point for me as an individual,” she said.
These changes were only the stepping stone for Avery. Another shift in the form of the Vietnam War, which she recalled brought forth another wave of tension.
This new tension is set to be a backdrop in the impending sequel to “The Tanner Side of Town.” The book’s original and new characters are already at the forefront of Avery’s mind, she said, but is currently on hold as the political season continues. Avery is the mother of Charlie Bailey, a democratic candidate for Lt. Governor of Georgia. Avery is assisting with his campaign.