Bobbie Ann Mason was born in Mayfield, Kentucky, on May 1, 1940. Her parents, Wilburn A. and Christianna Lee Mason, operated a small dairy farm, and Mason’s writing frequently reflects this rural heritage. Mason did farm chores but also explored popular culture. In 1954, she became the national president of the Hilltoppers fan club and attended concerts by this musical group throughout the South and Midwest. As editor and chief author of Hilltopper Topics, the fan club newsletter, Mason also displayed an early interest in writing.
After graduating from Mayfield High School, Mason attended the University of Kentucky, where she studied English and wrote for the school newspaper. During the summers she also worked as a reporter for her hometown newspaper, the Mayfield Messenger. Mason earned a B.A. degree in 1962 and was soon employed by Ideal Publishing Company in New York City as a writer for fan magazines. In moving from rural Kentucky to a big city and taking on the job of interviewing famous actors and musicians, Mason described herself as a victim of culture shock.
In 1963, Mason left New York City to enter graduate school at the State University of New York at Binghamton, and in 1966, she received an M.A. in English. Later that year she entered a Ph.D. program at the University of Connecticut. There she met Roger Rawlings, whom she married on April 12,1969.
Mason received her Ph.D. in 1972 and began teaching at Mansfield State College in Pennsylvania. Mason’s doctoral dissertation focused on Vladimir Nabokov, an author whose works are very different from Mason’s but whose intricate style she greatly admires. Her first book, Nabokov’s Garden: A Guide to “Ada” (1974), is a scholarly work based on her dissertation. In 1975, she published a strikingly different scholarly book, The Girl Sleuth, in which Mason examines the self-reliant heroines of her favorite childhood books—Nancy Drew and other young...
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Bobbie Ann Mason’s fiction documents an era of change in the rural South. Her slice of this world—the fictional town of Hopewell, Kentucky, where many of her works are set—displays the conflict between old values that are often supportive and new modes of behavior that may be both liberating and disturbing. To anchor these conflicts in their contemporary setting and to reinforce her themes, Mason uses numerous references to popular culture.
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Bobbie Ann Mason was born in rural Kentucky, and her southern background appears to have been a major force in shaping her fiction. She attended a country school through the eighth grade and then attended Mayfield High School. Her descriptions of country schools in “State Champions” certainly ring true, and apparently her novel Spence + Lila (1988) fictionalizes a part of her parents’ experience. Another aspect of her high school life echoes in her fiction: her love of rock and roll.
Mason majored in English at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where she wrote for the university paper, The Kernel. While in college, she also wrote the summer society column for the Mayfield...
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