Passion and Prejudice

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Playwright, novelist, college teacher, and heiress to part of the family fortunes, Sallie Bingham, the third of the five Bingham children, recounts that from the beginning she seemed destined to play the part of the rebel in a Bingham tribe brought up under the stricture that “the family businesses held no roles for women.”

In an attempt to understand the tensions she felt in a privileged, male-dominated Southern family, the author first investigates the power plays and scandals of her ancestors, a group of “determined men, locked in battle with their relatives or with the limitations of life in the rural South.” Bingham then tells of her own confused growth into womanhood, her developing sense of isolation from other family members, and her frustrations as a woman who was expected to remain silent. Sallie Bingham, in this history of fierce family struggles, says resolutely, “I chose to speak.”

Finally pressured along with the other Bingham women to resign their board of directors’ positions on the newspapers, Bingham refused, setting in motion the much-publicized family feud, fueled by charges and counter-charges, which eventually led to her father’s decision to sell the Bingham communications holdings.

Bingham emerges from these pages a sensitive, intelligent, questioning woman--a lone family voice raised against a Southern tradition that spawned the “Bingham kings,” and relegated women of the family to supporting roles. Sallie Bingham refuses to play that part.