- The Weakest Link (2003) Stories
- God’s Revenge (Dec. 2000) Novella
by Tifini Epps (SHS) 1997
Annie Smith was once a Starkville High School English teacher, but she is also a rising Mississippi author. Her works of literature are primarily about growing up in the South in the turbulent times of racial discrimination before Civil Rights. Smith’s writings are fictional. They focus mainly on African-American women to whom people of all races can relate.
Born Annie Kaye Bean, Smith was born on May 10, 1960, in Chickasaw County, Mississippi. Her father abandoned her mother before Smith was born. Growing up in extreme poverty, she started writing poetry at age ten as a means of coping with difficult times. Her main goal was to get out of poverty. She felt a good education would help her reach that goal. At age seventeen, she married Wendell Smith. They lived in Columbus, Mississippi, with their two children, Erica and Cassandria, before moving to Moundville, Alabama, in 2002.
In 1982, Smith received a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi. She then worked in TV broadcasting and other various jobs for ten years. However, she continued her schooling; and in 1994, she received a degree in English and became a certified teacher of English. She began teaching English at Starkville High School in 1995. In April, 1997, Smith, along with SHS teacher and project publisher and editor Nancy Jacobs with student Chris Wade, presented this project Mississippi Writers and Musicians on the Web to the Boyer Technology Summit at the University of Southern California.
Smith’s short story Big Mamma is published in the Diletante, a publication of the Mississippi University for Women. It was chosen the number one short story in 1993. The Fading Season, another short story by Smith, has not been published. Her novella God’s Revenge was published in 2000 by Good News Publishing Ministries.
Smith’s collection of four short stories called The Weakest Link was published by PublishAmerica. It it the story of rookie teacher Natalie Greenlaw who finds herself faced with issues never discussed in her education classes. High school student Jeremy Sudduth has taken Greenlaw’s class hostage at gunpoint. The FBI agent in charge refuses to let Jeremy maintain control of the situation no matter what his snipers have to do. In the midst of the chaos and confusion in the small Southern town, the captor and his victims create a bond that will help them face their problems head-on as they prepare to defeat the weakest link in the school. This story is not only action packed, but it is also timely and comparable to events in the typical high school setting. The Weakest Link centers on a classroom of students who have become victims because the adults in their lives have made bad choices, but these are students who are determined to overcome their problems.
Smith began working at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2003.
Perseverance and hard work are the keys to Smith’s literary success. Because her writings are entertaining and unique, Smith is sure to become a successful writer in Mississippi and maybe throughout the United States. She is definitely a writer to keep an eye on.
by Kathleen Morse (SHS)
In The Weakest Link, there are four stories that deal with different times in different people’s lives. The first story is called The Weakest Link. In this story, a teacher named Natalie Greenlaw, who hasn’t lived in the Southern town very long, has already had her life changed. This year she has many students that have problems and responsibilities other than the ones usually dealt with at school. Student Jeremy Sudduth has the biggest problem, and he decides he must do something about it. He takes his dad’s gun and holds his English class hostage. As the story progresses, guns go off, a few students are released, and someone learns Jeremy’s secret. Once Miss Greenlaw and the rest of the students hear his secret, they set out on a mission to destroy the weakest link. All the students in the classroom bond together to help each other with their problems. This story is about getting through problems by understanding and sharing them with people who understand and about breaking the weakest link that causes them.
The second work is a story is called “Numb” and is about a lawyer named Ketra. For awhile her life is great; she has a perfect husband, perfect kids, and a perfect job. While on a high after winning a big case, she opens a piece of her husband’s mail and her image of her perfect life is shattered. The letters reveals a secret her husband has kept from her. The two had recently renewed their relationship with God. During this time period, her husband committed a sin and did not confide in Ketra. After confronting him, she leaves her home and checks into a hotel. She is very upset and discouraged. She calls up a handsome colleague who is attracted to her and invites him to her room. She attempts to start an affair with him, but he makes her realize that an affair is not what she really wants. She falls asleep and has a dream that helps her decide what she needs to do to get through this troubled time.
The third story is called “Big Mamma.” It is a short biography of a cherished woman in Smith’s life named Big Mamma. The story tells how Big Mamma’s strength kept her family going strong, even when an event occurred that forced them to run away. Big Momma loves God and continues to until she dies and joins her Father in heaven. She does not go to the doctor because she believes, “If God wants you, no man on Earth has the power to keep you here.” She passes on her wisdom on to her thirteen children and her grandchildren.
The last story is an autobiographical account called “An Easy Delivery.” It is about the birth of a baby girl to the author of The baby’s determination to make its way into the world ignores the pain it is causing its mother. The nurse does not believe Mrs. Smith when she says that the baby is coming. It is not too long before the baby is born, but it only weighs six pounds. The story outlines the joys and trials of childbirth.
I would recommend this book to anyone going through a troubled time. There is humor, love, danger, and excitement. Like food tastes different on different taste buds, the stories touch the heart in different places. This book is probably more suited for a mature teenager or an adult. Younger readers would not understand the deeper and darker emotions that come alive in the artist’s words. These short stories will lift you up in no time. I enjoyed reading this book. It makes me wonder what it would be like to go through the situations described in this book. Some of them I would like to experience because the situations helped the characters gain knowledge and grow stronger because of them.
A Review of God’s Revenge
by Tifini Epps (SHS)
The novel God’s Revenge by Annie Smith is based on the life of a young woman growing up and learning to overcome racial discrimination and violence in Mississippi. The main character in the novel experiences hardships, but in the end everything works out for the best.
The main character Dorothy Green is continually faced with obstacles. Dorothy comes from a big family that is wallowing in poverty. To complicate the matter, she has a daughter named Earline. Dorothy’s father is a man who lets challenges defeat him, and he becomes an alcoholic and wife- beater. On the other hand, her mother is wise, strong, but yet gentle. Her sister Jackie has three children whom she neglects. In contrast, Dorothy is a responsible woman whose main goal is to overcome the devastating poverty in which they all live. However, Dorothy faces internal conflicts about love and especially about men because of her past with Earline’s father.
The novel takes place in Ethelsville, Mississippi, during the early 1960’s. The novel begins in the Greens’ home as Dorothy’s parents are having an altercation. When Dorothy attempts to defend her mother, Mr. Green kicks them out. Her mom always said, ” God will get his revenge on those who mistreat others.” These words prove to be important later on in the story. Eventually her mother dies, Jackie abandons her children, and Dorothy is faced with taking care of the children alone. In addition to these problems, she falls in love with the forbidden–a white man. Because of this Romeo/Juliet-type love, Dorothy is the victim of racial discrimination and violence. In the end, however, everything works out well. She realizes the significance of her mother’s words.
God’s Revenge is written in first person point of view from Dorothy’s perspective. Annie Smith sets a mood that is compassionate and sympathetic. The plot is uplifting because no matter how hard things get, the character manages to overcome her problems and do the “right” thing. Smith wrote this novel to not only educate and to entertain but also to inform the reader of some of life’s great lessons. The Mississippi setting is important because this is where blatant discrimination was strongly expressed and Smith, a Mississippian who grew up in the sixties and seventies, faced it first hand.
The title of this novel is somewhat misleading because it doesn’t mean revenge as we think of it- getting even. I think it means as long as we do God’s bidding, he watches over and protects us. But, as we begin to stray, we lose his protection and blessings. And that loss, because of our own doing, becomes our punishment.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this book very much. It relates to all people and all ages. Annie Smith now stands out in my mind not only as an awesome English teacher, but also a great writer. She is a rising American author whom we can be proud to say comes from Mississippi.
by Tifini Epps (SHS)
1. When did you become interested in writing literature?
When I was little, we were poor. We weren’t allowed to talk to adults about our feelings. At an early age, I found ways of expressing my feelings by means of drawing, sketching, singing, and especially writing. By sixth grade, I had written a collection of poems which later burned up in a fire at our house.
2. Do you write fiction or nonfiction?
I mostly write fiction, but from time to time I write nonfictional pieces. Poetry comes easily to me as well.
3. Are you working on any new works of literature presently?
I am currently debating whether or not to revise God’s Revenge, a short novel I wrote years ago. There are always ideas in my head. I just need to sit down and type them out.
4. Was it difficult writing your novel considering that you have a family and you teach?
When I wrote the novel, I was pregnant with my first child. Then writing was both relaxing and entertaining during a difficult pregnancy. Since I started teaching, I haven’t had much time to write.
5. How long did it take you to write your novel?
It only took a couple of weeks, but sometimes I would write all night long and then go to work.
Reprinted by permission.
My three cousins and I sat on the floor of the run-down, three room shack with our ears glued to the door. We could hear talk coming from the next room. We knew something was horribly wrong. My grandmother was not her usual cheerful self, and we knew to stay out of the way.
Now we could hear her voice. “Lord, Lester, how do you always manage to get us into trouble?” Big Mamma asked.
From bits and pieces of the conversation, my oldest cousin came to the conclusion that our grandfather had been accused of “messing with” Mr. Shorty’s wife, who was a white woman.
The door slammed open, and Big Mamma came in to tell us that we had to leave right away. She told us to grab our shoes and nothing else.
We left that cold November night with the clothes on our backs and worn out shoes on our feet. My mother and aunt cried as we walked along the gravel road in near pitch darkness. My grandfather walked with his head hung down and said over and over that he never touched the woman. But Big Mamma sang! She sang church songs. I remember they weren’t sad, “you’re nothing but sinners songs,” but songs that said hope was just a prayer away. She only stopped to tell the children funny stories or to assure us that everything would be fine.
We finally arrived at my great grandmother’s house where we spent the night. The next day, we left to find another place to live. My family feared that some of the men would attempt to hang my grandfather. But my grandfather stayed close to home. And we survived the crisis physically unharmed.
For the next several months, Big Mamma held the family together. Although she was a small woman, she had broad shoulders and strong muscles from working in the fields. Her emotional strength seemed to match her strong body rather than her small frame. It was that strength that her thirteen adult children and about two hundred other relatives relied on during difficulties.
She was born in 1909 in Calhoun City, a rural Mississippi town. Clara Benson was her given name. She was born into poverty but to parents who taught her well and assured her that one day life would be better. She attended school for only four years and had to drop out to help on the family farm. She had two sisters and one brother, but as hard as they worked, there never seemed to be enough time to get all the work done. So, she decided that she would someday have a large family so the children could stay in school and still have time to get the work done.
Their closest neighbors lived fifteen miles away, and the nearest church was even farther. At least once a week, she would hold a church service, and her father would read a few verses from the Bible. Both her father and mother could barely read, but they had memorized several scriptures. After the reading, the rest of the family would sing. The family church was one of the traditions she passed on to her children.
As she grew, her mother taught her the role of women. She advised her to be a good mother, and especially a good wife. In those days, being a good mother and wife meant serving and obeying your husband, while teaching your children the value of hard work. But most importantly, children were taught to respect and “mind” adults whether they were relatives or not.
It was a simple life, but the pleasures were prolonged and appreciated. At age 14, Big Mamma married Lester Glass. He was a small man but quite a hell-raiser. People say he was born with a bottle of whiskey in his mouth and a tongue just as potent. Despite his drinking, Big Mamma “stood by her man” and managed to rear seven daughters and six sons.
The years went by quickly and so did most of the familiar ways. However, Big Mamma found it hard to accept such rapid changes. A key change was moving off the farm and into governmental housing within the city limits. There, we had neighbors living a few feet away from us. For the first time in our lives, we had both hot and cold running water. While most of us embraced the change, Big Mamma had a hard time accepting the fact that we no longer had to haul water and sweat in the fields from sun up to sun down. Oftentimes, she’d complain about the water not tasting as good as well water. On occasion, instead of using the hot water faucet, she’d heat up water on the stove to add to her bath.
“God never meant for life to be so easy,” she’d say.
Some say it was her unwillingness to accept change that killed her.
Meanwhile, everyone in our new neighborhood was calling her Big Mamma. Although she set strict rules for the visiting neighborhood children, she’d always cook special treats for them. She said most of the mothers had no idea where they were, and so she made sure they ate.
I remember the week before she died. She had been complaining more than ever about missing life on the farm. Instead of getting up at 5 a.m. as usual, she stayed in her room most of the day. The neighborhood kids came by each day to visit her, but she’d only smile and tell them to go home and hug their mothers.
One night, about fifty family members, including her thirteen children, came over to plead with her to see a doctor. However, she was her usual stubborn self.
“If God wants you, no man on earth has the power to keep you here,” she said.
A few days later she died of what doctors say was a heart attack. The whole neighborhood mourned her loss. There was nowhere I could go that didn’t remind me of some wise saying Big Mamma had taught me. I searched for the meaning of life, and what I would do without her. The neighborhood children gathered together, and we held one of her traditional church services. One of the older kids put into words what we all needed to hear when she said, “God puts special people on earth to help us. When their jobs are done, he takes them home and rewards them.”
The world and its changes had surely outgrown Big Mamma. But I knew she felt right at home in heaven.
- Read about Smith’s newest publication The Weakest Link.
- Annie Smith, along with SHS teacher Nancy Jacobs and student Chris Wade, presented the project Mississippi Writers and Musicians on the Web to the Boyer Technology Summit at the University of Southern California in April, 1997
- Smith, Annie. Big Mamma. The Dilettanti. Columbus, MS: Mississippi University for Women, 1993-94. 8-9.
- Smith, Annie. Personal interview. April, 1997.
- Smith, Annie. The Weakest Link. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2003.