More than 75 years ago, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gone With the Wind introduced Mammy — a daring enslaved house servant — to the world.
The sharp-tongued and loving African-American character, created by author Margaret Mitchell, also played a larger role outside the book's pages, having laid the ground for the first Black Academy Award winner, Hattie McDaniel, as well as a heavily criticized stereotype. Despite her tremendous impact on American culture, not much else is known about the nameless character.
Writer Donald McCaig intends to remedy that with his upcoming book, Ruth's Journey, a fictional prequel to Gone With the Wind centered solely on Mammy, one of the novel's three central characters.
“Scarlett and Rhett are familiars, but when it comes to the third, we don’t know where she was born, if she was ever married, if she ever had children,” McCaig told The New York Times.
“Indeed, we don’t even know her name.”
Acquired by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, the prequel not only provides Mammy with a name, but also an in-depth backstory. Readers will journey along with Ruth from her birthplace of the French colony of Santi-Dominique (present-day Haiti) to Savannah, Georgia. New plot twists will surface, including an early marriage.
Peter Borland, the editorial director of Atria, told The New York Times that McCaig's new book will also directly address the long-standing criticisms of Mammy and the novel's other African-American characters' having one-dimensional natures.
“It was Donald’s idea, instead of doing another sequel, to go backwards,” said Borland.
“He felt that Mammy was such a fascinating and crucial character to the book. He wanted to flesh out a story of her own.”
Ruth's Journey is set for release in October 2014.
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(Photo: MGM Pictures)