Why did Kidd choose to set her novel about Lily Owens in 1964, during Civil rights movement?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In an interview that is included at the end of the Penguin edition of The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd explains that she grew up in the rural South and was a teenager herself in 1964.  She explains the turmoil of the times and says, referring to 1964,  "I was never the same after the summer" (4).  She says that she was only able to "digest" (4) the events and the turmoil by writing a book set in that time and place. 

Beyond this explanation, we cannot imagine a way in which we could have a plot like this one, unless it were set in this time and place.  Today, Rosaleen would have no difficulty voting and some social services agency would have been likely to take Lily away from her father.  Or her mother would have sought the help of therapy and medication and Lily would not have  lost her.  One hundred years earlier, Rosaleen would have been a slave, and Lily would never have met the Boatwright sisters at all, unless they were slaves, too. 

Some stories must take place in a certain setting, or they would not exist at all. 

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The Secret Life of Bees

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