Aug 26, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Georgia author Lauretta Hannon joins a lineup that ranges from an acoustic guitar set to a Jimmy Buffett tribute band at the Brenau University Amphitheater Friday, May 28, for the preview party to open the second Brenau University barbecue cooking championship.

Gates open for the preview party a 5 p.m. with the program set to begin at 6 p.m. There is a $10 admission charge for adults, but children are admitted free. Patrons can also buy ribs and other barbecue specialties served up by Yazoo’s Delta Q, winners of the 2009 national barbecue cooking championship sponsored by the Memphis Barbecue Network.

The preview party celebrates the public opening of Brenau’s second Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned championship on Saturday, May 29. Proceeds from both events will benefits scholarships for North Georgia students at the 132-year-old private institution.

Other performers at the preview party Fridays are singer Kimberly Clark and the Sons of Sailors, the Buffett tribute band.

Hannon, a frequent guest on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” program, is the author of “The Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life,” which was recently chosen as one of the “25 Books All Georgians Should Read,” a prestigious list compiled by the Georgia Center for the Book. Hannon also will sign copies of her book during the preview party.

One reviewer called her book “a hilarious, poignant and occasionally horrifying memoir of growing up in the Land of the Single-Wides.” In both her book and yarn-spinning, the middle Georgia native easily jumps between descriptions of dealing with a stuffy New England-bred paternal aunt and a mother who kept a sing on her refrigerator door that said “If it has tires or testicles, it’s gonna give you trouble.”

Hannon confesses that she prefers jazz and classical music and has never read “Gone with the Wind,” preferring instead less southern fare like the works of William Butler Yeats and Leo Tolstoy. But she argues she can still claim “cracker” royalty, because it is not something that can be narrowly defined.

“I agree that’s not what most people think of when they think of crackers,” said Hannon, who will talk about her life between the musical sets. “They have an image of someone who listens to country music and, if they read, it’s somebody like Erskine Caldwell. Yes, I listen to classical music, but I also have a Hank Williams button that I wear.”

“A cracker queen is different from a Southern belle. A cracker queen tries at all times to be real. She’s a straight shooter. A Southern belle tries to manipulate through fake flattery and other maneuvers.”

Despite Hannon’s affection for classical music and literature, she does have other qualifications of a cracker queen. In her memoir, which is available in paperback this month, she describes growing up in Warner Robins in a dysfunctional family. She tells stories of alcoholism, crazy aunts, a criminal uncle, a half-sibling who ran a head shop, an unorthodox mother and a woman who keeps a Baby Jesus from a Nativity scene chained in her yard.

“There’s an endless supply of material,” said Hannon, “but if I run out of stories, all I have to do is call my mother.”

For more information, go to www.Brenau.edu/bbq/

Originally published on 5/17/10