Donna Everhart with ‘The Education of Dixie Dupree’ at Off Square Books

Posted on Feb 21 2017 - 8:01am by Sarah Smith

Donna Everhart, USA Today and IndieBound bestselling author of “The Education of Dixie Dupree,” will be holding a signing at 5 p.m. at Off Square Books.

Donna Everhart

Donna Everhart. Photo by Sarah Smith

“The Education of Dixie Dupree” is a dark and vibrant tale of an 11-year-old named Dixie and the tragedies she and her dysfunctional family endure. The novel has its fair share of aphotic moments, from a mother who is depressed and has a bad habit of taking it out on Dixie, to a father with a drinking problem who vanishes on a business trip. The book is set in 1969 in a small town in Alabama, and is told from the perspective of Dixie, who keeps a very detailed diary. 

Everhart said she likes writing books about conflict, and the stories have deeper issues. As this story progresses little touches of darkness reveal themselves. Everhart said Southern gothic is all about those hints of darkness.

Everhart, who grew up in North Carolina,  curates a beautiful and gloomy novel with its heart set in the South.

“I’m just passionate about all things Southern,” she said. “Our culture, the way we talk.”

Everhart’s passion both for Southern culture and stories are closely intertwined and exposed in “The Education of Dixie Dupree,” including references to Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Everhart said as a child first reading “To Kill a Mockingbird,” she thought the novel’s protagonist Scout was the “coolest” character.

“I love strong female characters,” Everhart said. “The ones who will not bend. They’ve got backbone, that’s what I like.” 

“The Education of Dixie Dupree” features an undoubtedly witty strong female lead. Everhart said she put just a little bit of herself into Dixie, to create a more authentic character. 

“I know what [Dixie] is going to say. I know how she’s going to act.” Everhart said.

Dixie’s life is attention grabbing and at points unexpected. Everhart said despite the tragedies happening in her story, she believes it’s a story overall about hope.

Everhart said her reason for writing “The Education of Dixie Dupree” came from the desire to create a story that makes readers feel something. The novel is meant to be a story that grabs readers right where they are, and shake them. It’s a story that should leaves readers changed.

To Everhart, reading is all about feeling something.

“That when you read a certain book, and Stephen King’s books did this for me too, you know where they just made me get on the edge, and I mean, I would be drawn up,” she said. “You know, like I was living through those things that these people were living through. Especially “Cujo.” It was so scary. But I wanted to do that. I wanted somebody to read something that I had written that would make them feel that kind of emotion. And that was really what it was about for me.” 

Everhart definitely manages her mission. “The Education of Dixie Dupree” is certainly not the easiest story to read, due to the darker, tragic subject matter, but nevertheless, it is a rewarding read. The novel manages to hold one’s attention, sometimes in a slightly masochistic manner. Everhart does a beautiful job of creating vivacious characters that feel completely real, almost like someone you’ve met before. It brings on feelings of childhood nostalgia, while reminding that childhood is a time of a trials for many.

Everhart hopes this book will encourage those who have suffered situations similarly to those Dixie must deal with.

After creating such a beautiful character, with a complex and well-written world, she says that her advice for writers hoping to achieve this is to write what they love.

“You’ve gotta write about what you love,” she said. “Young writers need to know what they like.”