Flagg, Fannie: Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! (1998)

Fannie Flagg is four years younger than my mother and six years younger than my dad. As such, many of their experiences have been similar. Technological advances have followed the same tempo even though they are from different countries.

Cover photo: Elliot Erwitt/Magnum

The jump between the media world in the 1940’s, represented by Aunt Dorothy’s radio program, and the media world of the 1970’s, represented by Dena Nordstrøm’s television job, is immense yet non-existent. Gossip and social mores are often more important than politics and the “larger” issues.

Once again Fannie Flagg takes us to the lives of people living in the South of US. This time we visit Missouri and the phenomenon “passing”. Racial passing refers to a person classified as a member of one racial/social group attempting to be accepted as a member of a different racial/social group (Wikipedia).

It is one thing for me as a whiteish woman to sit here wondering at a world that makes so many of its citizens feel they need to hide their origins. To me it is an abstract exercise. For others it is not. People (probably myself included) attach shame to attributes that come with birth (whether these be physical or sociological). Imagine the fear of discovery of that “terrible/uncivilised/evil/…” quality. Sometimes these fears are founded and sometimes (fortunately) they are not.

Unravelling the mysteries of the past brings about surprises and feelings of betrayal, loss and love with the characters of Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! Fannie Flagg gives us an opportunity to face our own prejudices in a manner that brings us into the world of gossip and suspense that media is (whether it be new or old). As with Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! is “utterly irresistible” (Time). You will miss something truly wonderful if you choose not to read this novel.

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