HERE IS AN ANNOUNCEMENT MADE BY NEWSOUTH BOOKS CONCERNING AN HONOR FOR HALLEY:
February 5 at 10:39am ·
Faye Gibbons never dreamed growing up in Carter’s Quarter, Georgia, that she’d be nominated for a fiction award named after one of Georgia’s most celebrated authors. Gibbons’s young adult novel, Halley, has been selected as a finalist for the Frank Yerby Awards. Best known for The Foxes of Harrow, Yerby was an African American novelist from Augusta specializing in historical fiction. Like Yerby, Faye Gibbons focuses on historical fiction, but her novels are semi-autobiographical in nature, recalling the difficulties of rural Georgia life during and following the Great Depression. The Yerby awards are given annually by the Augusta Literary Festival – ALF. Winners will be announced on Friday, March 4.
My Grandmother Junkins was a strict believer in a straight and narrow path to heaven. Immodest clothing–and that included pants, shorts, sunback dresses, swimsuits, and anything that drew attention–was sinful. So were high heels and make-up. “Powder and paint make you what you ain’t,” she frequently told me and my sister and all our girl cousins. “Makes a woman look like a floozy,” she would sometimes elaborate.
She didn’t get to do much of that preaching to me. Lipstick was the only make-up I ever wore then. I didn’t think cosmetics would help someone as ordinary as me, and I knew that I could never hold a candle to my beautiful sister or my mother. Besides, if I did improve my looks, I might start dating and even get married. After seeing my parents’ unhappy marriage close up my entire life, I had decided not to ever marry.
I pretty much kept this attitude all the way through college. Even though a couple of guys showed some interest, I stuck to my guns. After college, I decided I would date, though marriage still wasn’t in my plans. I lost a few pounds, began getting good haircuts and permanents, and bought the first flattering clothes I’d ever owned. Then I began wearing make-up and was surprised every time I saw a photo of myself how much better I looked. From that point on, Maw Junkins had plenty of opportunities to tell me “Power and paint make you what you ain’t.”
Then I fell in love with Benjamin Gibbons and had to wear cosmetics. After all, he was five years younger than me, and. at twenty-six, I’d soon be over the hill, sliding into old age. I had to look as good as I could. As it turned out, it was wasted effort–Benjamin thought I was beautiful with or without make-up. Of course, it took me a while to believe that. In my engagement photo, which I come across every now and then, every hair is in place. My skin looks flawless My eyes look full-lashed and large. I look good. However, that photo was the only one of perhaps 25 the photographer took that made me look so perfect. In the rest, I looked pretty much ordinary, which is why I didn’t buy those photos.
The years passed, and I got older. With the help of make-up, I continued looking pretty good. That is, I looked pretty good until fairly recently. I am now in my seventies, and make-up has become a potential problem. Lay it on too thick and you begin to look like a woman who used to work behind the cosmetic counter at Gayfers Department Store. From the back you saw a trim figure, nice clothes and then she turned and you gasped at the overly made-up face of a mummified woman at least a century old. Don’t get me wrong–I still wear powder and paint–but I wear less and I’ve thrown all my mascara into the trash. The most important items are powder to even out my skin tones, a little color for my cheeks, and lipstick. I hope, if Maw could see me, she wouldn’t even notice I was wearing any “paint”
When Maw died in the late sixties, I looked at her in her casket and realized for the first time that she was a beautiful woman. The morticians had arranged her hair beautifully, and they had applied just enough cosmetics to give her a little color. I suppose one of her daughters chose the dress she wore, and it was the most elegant thing I’d ever seen her wear. It was pink and flattered her oval face.
Maybe Maw was wrong. Perhaps, sometimes powder and paint make you what you really are.