Confront the Facts on Flannery O’Connor

Author: Paul Elie

August 12, 2020

Writing for Commonweal, Paul Elie argues that if we are going to look to Flannery O’Connor’s work to help us understand matters of race, we’ve got to understand the work itself, including her objectionable remarks of May 1964. To diminish their sting is to diminish the reality of racism in our society. To promote the person who wrote them as “the perfect writer for our moment” is to fail to take either the remarks or the moment seriously. Elie declares that the reluctance to face them squarely has become a stumbling block that keeps us from approaching O’Connor with the seriousness that a great writer deserves. He concludes that Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s hostile response to his New Yorker essay "How Racist Was Flannery O'Connor?" suggests that the stumbling block is still in place, and that those remarks will be sidestepped for another generation by the very people who are in a position to confront them directly.

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