Mary Hood (b. 1946)

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Mary Hood is best known for her work as a short-story writer, although she regularly publishes reviews and essays in popular and literary magazines. Hood's first collection of stories, How Far She Went (1984), won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction (named for Georgia writer Flannery O'Connor) and the Southern Review / Louisiana State University Short Fiction Award. Two years later And Venus Is Blue (1986), Hood's second collection, won the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the Dixie Council of Authors and Journalists Author-of-the-Year Award, and the Lillian Smith Book Award (named for Georgia writer Lillian Smith and administered by the Southern Regional Council). The stories in these two collections have been chosen for twenty-two anthologies in the "best and new" categories and have been reprinted in textbooks. Hood sets her stories in her native Georgia, a terrain she knows from the southeastern coast to the northern Blue Ridge Mountains.

Early Life and Community

Mary Hood was born on September 16, 1946, in Brunswick. Her father, William Charles Hood, was an aircraft worker who hailed from New York City; her mother, Mary Adella Katherine Rogers, was a teacher of Latin and a native of Cherokee County. When Hood was two years old her family moved to Bartow County. They lived in the Methodist parsonage in the town of White, where her maternal grandfather was a Methodist minister. When their family's house was built, they moved to Douglas County, living at various times in Worth and Dougherty counties. The Hood family settled in 1976 in Cherokee County in Woodstock, a small community in the foothills of the Appalachians, north of Atlanta. Hood lived in Woodstock for thirty years before moving to Commerce, in Jackson County, where she continues to reside.


To the fiction writer in the South, place is everything. It is the literal ground, the red clay, and the dogwood trees; it is the metaphor for identity and love; and it is where one's family and community are. Mary Hood's dedication of her first book, How Far She Went, "For Little Victoria, big enough," stands as a memorial to her small rural neighborhood, now surrounded by nearly 1,000 houses built on as many acres. Seven of the nine stories in this book are set in rural north Georgia. The plight of many of the characters is that connections to home and family are shorted or severed, some irretrievably broken. Cut off from the source of life that has sustained them, they enter the modern world of isolation.


Hood's characters see the land they have lived on for generations disappear before their very eyes. The theme of isolation Hood developed in How Far She Went is expanded in her second volume of stories, And Venus Is Blue. The belief nurtured in Hood by her parents, and rendered in her fiction as truth, is that connection to the land gives spiritual sustenance. But even as Hood was writing in the 1980s Cherokee County was fast becoming an exurb of Atlanta.
Routed out by land-clearing for subdivisions and golf courses, the humans and animals in And Venus Is Blue struggle to survive their dying world. The gradual destruction of Hood's own rural neighborhood is mirrored in these stories, where new shopping centers, trailers, rental homes, and junkyards take over the countryside. But in her art Hood has preserved the old folk who were disappearing, being taxed off their land. She honors the people who worked with their hands.
Mary Hood continues to be acknowledged as one of the finest writers of fiction today. Since her novel Familiar Heat was published in 1995, she was the John and Renee Grisham Southern Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi (1996). She was also the first writer-in-residence at Berry College, in 1997-98, and at Reinhardt College (later Reinhardt University), in 2001. During the winter short term of 1999 she was visiting writer at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Kennesaw State University named Hood the Writer of the Decade in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Contemporary Literature and Writing Conference.


Further Reading
David Aiken, "Mary Hood: The Dark Side of the Moon," in Southern Writers at Century's End, ed. Jeffrey J. Folks and James A. Perkins (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997).

Joy A. Farmer, "Mary Hood and the Speed of Grace: Catching Up with Flannery O'Connor," Studies in Short Fiction 33 (winter 1996): 91-99.

Dede Yow, "Mary Hood," Dictionary of Literary Biography, ed. Patrick Meanor and Richard E. Lee, vol. 234 (Detroit: Gale, 2001).
Cite This Article
Yow, Dede. "Mary Hood (b. 1946)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 26 November 2013. Web. 12 February 2016.
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