Award-Winning Florida Native Author To Speak On Experiences Of Growing Up In The South

Feb 7, 2022

by FSC Staff

The Lawton M. Chiles Center for Florida History Florida Lecture Series will hold its fifth event of the 2021-22 academic season as it brings a celebrated author and storyteller to the campus of Florida Southern College.

Janis Owens will speak on Feb. 10 in Branscomb Auditorium presenting a talk titled, “Doing What Comes Naturally: A Cracker Talks Stories.”

Owens is a novelist, memoirist, folklorist and premier storyteller. She is a native of Marianna, Fla., and attended the University of Florida, where she was a student of Harry Crews' Creative Writing Workshop and earned a degree in English with a minor in Southern history.

Owens is an award-winning author of several acclaimed novels: My Brother Michael, winner of the Chautauqua South Fiction Award for Best Novel, Myra Sims, The Schooling of Claybird Catts, American Ghost and Hidden in Plain Sight: A History of the Newberry Mass Lynching of 1916. In addition to her books, Owens’ essays on her life experiences living in Florida have appeared in the New York Times, Writer's Digest and many other publications.

“Janis Johnson Owens is a Florida original, but her literary scope and her commentary reaches well beyond the Sunshine State,” noted Dr. James M. Denham, Professor of History and Director of the Lawton M. Chiles Center for Florida History. “Her books and her words speak about a South that’s still with us.  We are delighted to be able to welcome her to the Florida Southern College campus.”

In the past 10 years, as Owens has traveled talking about her books, Owens would describe herself as a “Southerner of the Cracker persuasion,” which has gotten her laughs in the South and mixed reviews in other regions.

“They found the word deprecating and naïve and inevitably, someone would ask why I'd so proudly associate myself with a word that had such a loaded historic connotation,” Owens said. “To them, it was clear that Cracker equaled ignorant, racist, toothless and base. To me, it meant a whole different thing, and in time, re-educating my audience over the roots and true heritage of the word became an interesting side line.”

As a part of the Florida Lecture Series, Owens joins a group of speakers who have come to the Florida Southern campus to explore Florida lifestyles and culture. The series has covered a wide range of disciplines including history, public affairs, law, sociology, criminology, anthropology, literature, and art. The objective of the series is to bring members of the community, faculty and student body together to interact with and learn from leading authorities in their fields.

Tickets are available through the Branscomb Auditorium Box Office. Call 863.680.4296 for more information.