Cross Creek is essentially nonfiction, although it is carefully shaped and is written with as much of an eye to literary values as any of Rawlings's fiction. All of the people and places depicted in the book are real, and Rawlings uses their real names. Rawlings is herself the central figure in the book, which consists of a series of separable episodes occurring in and near her orange grove at Cross Creek. The book jacket for the first edition accurately notes, "Here are brilliant and fascinating descriptions of the Florida scenery, the orange groves, the swamps, the scattered homesteads, and of the animals and reptiles of the region. The reader sees, and knows, Cross Creek in every season of the year . . . these are all real people, headed by the author herself." Although Cross Creek proper contains only five white families and two black families, other characters come and go, like 'Geechee, the barefoot black girl in a torn flour sack dress who just showed up one day and asked Rawlings for a job, or Marsh Turner, drunkenly but honorably settling a matter of strayed stock.
Rawlings chose to use the real names of the people in Cross Creek after some uncertainty and discussion with her editor. She was to bitterly regret the decision. Zelma Cason, one of her earliest and closest friends at the Creek, sued her for libel. Whether Zelma was moved more by true anguish (Rawlings described her, in part, as "an ageless spinster resembling an angry and...
(The entire section is 296 words.)