Subject line from the Abilene Reporter News, Story from TEXAS READS
TEXAS READS: SOMETHING OF A SOLUTION TO TEXAS TO LITERARY MYSTERY
By Glenn Dromgoole
The Texas literary mystery “Whatever Happened to Gertrude Beasley?” has been solved. Sort of.
Edna Gertrude Beasley — who graduated from Simmons College in Abilene in 1914, taught school in West Texas and Chicago, and traveled the world as a journalist — wrote a provocative autobiography published in Paris in 1925, “My First Thirty Years.”
The graphic language and content of the book resulted in it being banned in England despite a positive review by one of America’s best-known critics, H. L. Mencken, who called it “the first genuinely realistic picture of the Southern poor white trash.”
“Thirty years ago,” the book began, “I lay in the womb of a woman, conceived in a sexual act of rape, being carried during the prenatal period by an unwilling and rebellious mother, finally bursting from the womb only to be tormented in a family whose members I despised or pitied ”
She went on to tell how one of her first memories was her 16-year-old brother pressing down on top of her trying to rape her when she was 4, among other gruesome, explicit and lurid details.
In early 1928, at age 35, Gertrude Beasley vanished, as far as anyone knew. No one had been able to trace her whereabouts since.
Many have tried, including novelist Larry McMurtry, Texas literature authority Don Graham and author Bert Almon, all of whom have written about Beasley over the years. Actress Veronica Russell performed a 90-minute one-woman off-Broadway show in New York four years ago based on Beasley’s book.
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