cotton tenants

This week:

Cotton Tenants by James Agee with photographs by Walker Evans

9781612192123 // $24.95

This is the rediscovered original magazine piece Agee wrote that was later transformed into Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. It is probably impossible to overstate the esteem we—and readers at large—hold for Agee, and for this work in particular. 

Cotton Tenants is the story of three families of desperate but proud farmers in the South in the great depression. They struggle under an endless mountain of debt. They postpone or forego medical treatment they can’t afford. They are victims of a mindless, cruel system that steals their labor, their lives, and in return gives them not happiness but only—and rarely—an unthinking stillness, a biding of time. 

Thank god we’ve come so far since then.

Find it in you library or local indie bookseller now.

Three years ago she was out of her head for a long time. That was when Ida Ruth was a baby. Once she tried to kill Ida Ruth with a chunk of stovewood. She is better now and thinks it must be the powders, that is to say, the yeast. For the past year and a half she has been taking Brewer’s Yeast stirred up in molasses, milk, and water. She still has nervous spells though and they are bad. She can feel them coming on like something terrifying sneaking up behind her and then all of a sudden she sees black and yellow lights busting all around and after that she doesn’t know anything for a while.

James Agee on ailments among tenant farmers from his rediscovered manuscript Cotton Tenants.

Read more in an excerpt on Slate.