Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Susan Greg Gilmore

Today’s post by author Susan Gregg Gilmore | @SusanGilmore

We’ve got a copy of THE FUNERAL DRESS up for grabs today. Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win.

Susan Gregg Gilmore

Susan Gregg Gilmore

Update: we’re thrilled to announce that the winner of this book is Michelle W. Thanks to all who entered! And don’t forget to check back soon. We have lots of great giveaways lined up for the rest of this year.

The Funeral Dress is about two women who worked side by side in a shirt factory.   Their story is rooted in the stories of others.

Marea Barker was a lapel maker at Spartan Industries in Dunlap, Tennessee, for nearly 30 years.   Everyday, five days a week, eight hours a day, Marea sewed lapels at the town’s shirt factory.   She did not attach them to a dress or a blouse.   That was a job for someone else to do.

More than a year ago now, Marea and I sat in her living room, amidst her quilting, and talked about her work at the shirt factory.   Marea’s husband was a farmer, and she admitted that working at the factory was a welcome opportunity.   “It got me off this farm. I was tired of cooking for the hired hands,” she said and stared out the window.

Factory2Interestingly, Marea never spoke of boredom or monotony, even when I pressed her about it.   Finally, I hushed.   I realized that for Marea working at the factory was about friendship.   It was about community.

Marea was only one of the seamstresses I interviewed for this book.   I talked to a bottom hemmer and collar maker.   Some spoke of much needed income and raising children on their own.   Some spoke of lunching at the local diner or watching a woman stitch her own finger.   No matter how their stories varied, these women were all part of one Southern town’s economic and cultural history.

Factory1Marea died three months after we spoke.   But this week we will celebrate the release of The Funeral Dress right there in the original shirt factory in the heart of Dunlap.   We will have some fun, for sure, and we will honor the women and men who once worked at Spartan Industries.   But most importantly, the Sequatchie County Friends of the Library will   launch an oral history program so that stories like Marea’s are not lost.

* * *

The Funeral DressEmmalee Bullard and her new baby are on their own. Or so she thinks, until Leona Lane, the older seamstress who sat by her side at the local shirt factory where both women worked as collar makers, insists Emmalee come and live with her.   Just as Emmalee prepares to escape her hardscrabble life in Red Chert Holler, Leona dies tragically.   Grief-stricken, Emmalee decides she’ll make Leona’s burying dress, but there are plenty of people who don’t think the unmarried Emmalee should design a dress for a Christian woman – or care for a child on her own. But with every stitch, Emmalee struggles to do what is right for her daughter and to honor Leona the best way she can, finding unlikely support among an indomitable group of seamstresses and the town’s funeral director. In a moving tale exploring Southern spirit and camaraderie among working women, a young mother will compel a town to become a community.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

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74 Responses to Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Susan Greg Gilmore

  1. Janet R September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This book sounds like a “must-read” and I’d love to win a copy! I love to read about women’s stories and friendships!

  2. Denise K. B. September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    There was a hat factory in my Missouri hometown, and a 6 pm horn that sounded to indicate quitting time. I knew one of the women who worked there. She had the greatest looking legs forever, but it came from hours of daily turning sewing wheel pedals.

  3. Jayne Dudley September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like a wonderful story that I would love to read.
    Thanks

  4. Elisabeth September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks for the giveaway! I love historical fiction, so this book will be read one way or another!

  5. Evelyn September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    this is definitely on my “to read” list.

  6. Ann Bresnan September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds good!

  7. Wanda September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Would love to read this story. Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. Robin September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I am anxiously awaiting this novel! Enjoyed her other books.

  9. Marie September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I just love books set in the South! I’m very much looking forward to The Funeral Dress.

  10. Janie Dempsey Watts September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I really could not put this book down. Why? I was so empathetic with Emmalee’s struggles, which were many. A compelling story!

  11. Paula September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a beautiful story. Thanks for the chance to win!

  12. tomi l. wiley September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I have the sample on my Kindle but would love to win a copy, not only because I am a fan of this lovely lady and her work, but because of the Tennessee connection! Thanks for the chance!

  13. Gayle Gardner Lin September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I will read this book whether or not I win a copy.

  14. Jeana K. September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I am adding The Funeral Dress to my Must Read list. I love that it takes place in my home state of TN.
    Thank you for the chance to win.

  15. Alison Law September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I saw Susan Gregg Gilmore speak at the SIBA trade show this past weekend and had a chance to meet her. We have Chattanooga in common, so we had plenty to talk about, but Susan is just lovely. I immediately picked up my copy of The Funeral Dress. Anyone who wins this book should get ready for a great read!

  16. Jolina Petersheim September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I would love to win a copy of this beautiful book. Congrats, Susan! SO happy for you! Xo

  17. Katherine Jones September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    What is it about the South that so inspires books about women and friendship? One of the reasons I love Southern lit. I like the sound of this book too.

  18. KATIE September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks for sharing

  19. Marianne Dwyer September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This book looks wonderful.

  20. Debra Hearne September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Would love to read this book!

  21. Brooke September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Thank you for the book suggestion and opportunity. Brooke

  22. Susan C. September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I just finished this book and I could not put it down. I got my copy from the library but would love to own one for my personal library. This hit home with me because my best friend’s mother used to work in a similar factory (now defunct) in Sharon, TN making pajamas. It was grueling, as they too, worked by the piece…but literally, the entire town’s women worked there. I have reviewed The Funeral Dress on Goodreads. I think this is Susan’s best work to date.

  23. Katie September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like a great book! I’ve read lovely things about it.

  24. Victoria T. September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I do not have a copy yet and really want one. Can’t wait to read it. 🙂

  25. Britney Adams September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    What a beautiful story Susan has shared! How wonderful that an oral history program is being launched so stories like this are not lost! I look forward to reading THE FUNERAL DRESS and thank you for the opportunity to win a copy!

  26. Billie September 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Love those Southern tales…

  27. shannon brown September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I want to win this book!!! Sounds wonderful!

  28. Annee C September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Would love to win!

  29. Susan G. September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    What a great story! I love to read the history behind the story, the ‘background’ of the book. I can’t wait to read this book!

  30. Ann Ellison September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Definitely one I would love to read. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  31. Deby Coley September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Cotton, mills, and the workers are a part of my families past and present. I cannot wait to read this novel!
    Pick me!
    Deby Coley

  32. Jennifer Huelsebusch September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Sounds great!!!

  33. karenk September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    thanks for the chance to read this novel 😉

  34. Sally September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I would love to win a copy of this book–it sounds great!

  35. Judie McDonald September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Interesting interview and sounds like an interesting book.

  36. Suzy September 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I very much want to read The Funeral Dress. I have a friend who read it and said it was an absolute wonderful book.

  37. Carol September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I loved the interview with the author about her interviewing the seamstresses. The library starting an oral history project so these women’s stories are not lost is awesome.
    Would really enjoy reading the book.

  38. Susan S September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Looks like another great book!

  39. Cindy Eddins September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I would love to read this book! Thank you for the opportunity!

  40. Chris September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a wonderful story line. Would very much appreciate winning the give-away to enhance our church library.

  41. Lynn T September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This book sounds so very interesting. I love books that take place in the south. I pray I win the give-away!!

  42. Paulette September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Being a seamstress myself, you have caught my attention. I would love to read this book!

  43. Wendi September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I will put this on my must read list.

  44. Barb from CNY September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Another great find! Thanks for the chance to win it!

  45. JanefromSC September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds awesome! Cannot wait to read! Hoping I win!

  46. Janet September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I think I often forget what it must have been like or is like in a different demographic. I look forward to reading the honest pictures this book will paint for me and so many others. Makes me realize I live in just a very small part of the world.

  47. michelle h September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    sounds like my favorite type of brain candy!

  48. Annette Bower September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like something I MUST read. I would love to win a copy!

  49. Nita September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Went to store to find this one yesterday but didn’t find it but enjoyed a piece of pumpkin cheese cake 🙂 It’s on my reading list.

  50. Marnie September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a unique story line. I’ll put it on my Goodreads list.

  51. Cynthia Quiroga September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    What a wonderful storyline.

  52. Teresa September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    My grandmother was a seamstress so I can’t wait to read this book!

  53. Elaine K September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I can’t always figure out class or race distinctions but find the topic fascinating to read and learn more about.

  54. Kim September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Definitely on the ever growing must read list! Thanks for the chance to win!

  55. Kristi September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Would love to win this book!

  56. Linda Kish September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like a very interesting story. One that I would love to read.

  57. Cathie Martin September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Looking forward to reading this! Would love to win.

  58. Summer Grinstead September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Looks like a great read!

  59. Liz Rider September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like a very interesting story.

  60. Janet Paul September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Would love to read this book.

  61. Rhonda Souza September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Would love to read this book!

  62. Terri dunnewin September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a great read!

  63. Janet M September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This has an intriguing storyline and a theme that is worth exploring.

  64. Susan G. September 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Thank you for sharing all the ‘good’ books with us! Love this web site! 🙂

  65. Sue September 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Sounds very interesting and I would love to
    read this book!

  66. Laura September 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I look forward to reading the book!!

  67. Sabrina September 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Sounds like a good book. Would love to win a copy!

  68. Paula Caurro September 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Sounds like a good story.

  69. Ramona Wright September 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    My paternal grandmother worked in a shirt factory for many years. I would love or read this book!

  70. Peggy Savage September 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Looking forward to reading this book. My great aunt also worked in a shirt factory in the south.

  71. Martha September 25, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a wonderful story. Would love to read it!

  72. Lina September 25, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    It sounds like an excellent story and I think it is great that she interviewed so many from an older generation to write it.

  73. Lori P September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds very moving. I love stories about sewing and the friendships that result.

  74. Michelle W. September 29, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I love this author!! Have read all her books and can hardly wait to read this one!

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