Anne Rivers Siddons (1936-2019)

Though all of her twenty books are set in Georgia or concern southerners living elsewhere, Anne Rivers Siddons was best known for books about Atlanta and its environs. Two novels, Homeplace (1987) and Nora, Nora (2000), take place in a fictionalized version of Fairburn, her hometown, in Fulton County. She was also the author of two books of nonfiction, Go Straight on Peachtree (1978), a McDonald City Guide to Atlanta, and John Chancellor Makes Me Cry (1975), a series of essays patterned around the changing seasons in Atlanta. Her novel Downtown (1994) recreates her early career as a writer and editor for Atlanta magazine, and her most commercially successful book, Peachtree Road (1989), portrays modern Atlanta's white elite on the eve of the civil rights era.
Siddons was born Sybil Anne Rivers on January 9, 1936, in Atlanta and reared in Fairburn. She was the daughter of Marvin Rivers, a lawyer, and Katherine, a secretary at Campbell High School. Her education at Auburn University from 1954 to 1958, where she earned a bachelor's degree, became the inspiration for her first novel, Heartbreak Hotel (1976), which subsequently became the film Heart of Dixie in 1989. At Auburn she worked as a writer for the college newspaper. An editorial she wrote favoring integration was recognized nationally but criticized by the school administration, and a second, similar editorial led to her dismissal from the newspaper. After college Siddons worked as a writer and editor at Atlanta magazine with its founder, Jim Townsend. In 1966 she married author and advertising executive Heyward Siddons. She had four stepsons: Lee, Kemble, Rick, and David.
Siddons's other books include a horror story set in Atlanta, The House Next Door (1978), which Stephen King compared to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Fox's Earth (1981), among her best books, is the story of several generations of Georgia women. King's Oak (1991) moves beyond Atlanta to the more traditional rural South and reflects a concern for the environment, evident in each of her books. In Outer Banks (1991), Colony (1992), Hill Towns (1993), Fault Lines (1995), Up Island (1997), Low Country (1998), Off Season (2008), and Burnt Mountain (2010) Siddons portrays southern characters, usually Georgians, but she places them in other parts of the South and the world. Her 2000 novel Nora, Nora returns to scenes from her earlier works set near Atlanta. A few of her more recent books, Islands (2004), Sweetwater Creek (2005), and The Girls of August (2014), take place in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
In 2007 Siddons was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. She died of lung cancer on September 11, 2019, at her home in Charleston, South Carolina.
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Further Reading
Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series, vol. 81 (Detroit: Gale, 1999), s.v. "Anne Rivers Siddons."

Contemporary Southern Writers, ed. Roger Matuz (Detroit: St. James Press, 1999), s.v. "Anne Rivers Siddons."

William Walsh, "Anne Rivers Siddons," Speak, So I Shall Know Thee: Interviews with Southern Writers (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1990).
Cite This Article
York, Lamar. "Anne Rivers Siddons (1936-2019)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 15 September 2019. Web. 17 September 2019.
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