Ceil Cleveland

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Whatever Happened to Jacy Farrow?
University of North Texas Press, 1999

"What an eye-opener! Ceil Cleveland takes us on an extraordinary journey -- not just to that time and place, but straight into the heart and mind of one fascinating human being."
--Susan Isaacs

"A brilliant memoir in the tradition of Jill Ker Conway's The Road from Coorain."
--Elaine Maimon, Provost and Professor of Literature, Arizona State University

"Few of us started as Jacy Farrow in a small Texas town. This, the encouraging and entertaining story of her transformation is a moving and funny memoir. Read it!"
--Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Professor of English, Columbia University


"In modern American literature, Jacy has become an archetype: a beautiful, flirty, teasing, bitchy, blonde in a convertible. Now this Jacy wants to tell her own story...

"I'm not blonde like Cybill Shepherd. My hair is auburn with natural highlights by Roberto that I wear sort of every whichway. But hair to me is just one of those things like age, or winkles, or the crud under the refrigerator that sit there all the time. If you focus on them, they'll drive you nuts...

"The boys' world in Thalia -- the legitimate one of football, rodeos, learning to cuss, and dreaming about girls -- was the world of Texas in that era. Girls had bit parts. We could play if we learned our lines and attempted no ad lib. Some of us were cheerleaders, jumping, squealing, shaking our hips and pom-pons, the rewards of the boys on the field after the game was over. While the boys were projecting themselves onto girls, some of us girls projected ourselves into every picture show we saw. I was there -- learning to act, to walk, to dress, to speak, to attract or dismiss men. I had no other way of forecasting my future...

"Texas is tall tales country, and I'm no better than anyone else at separating truth from legend. But I did grow up in Archer City, Texas -- the real little town McMurtry fictionalized as Thalia. The picture show people changed its name to Anarene so the actors could wear the local high school football teams' black jackets with gold As on them -- that's for the AC Wildcats, or Go Cats!, as you can still see scrawled across the windows on every structure around the courthouse square on every day that leads up to Friday night lights...

"Today, downtown consists of a main street running in front of the courthouse, a post office, a couple of filling stations, and about ten small buildings. Then, the town consisted of a few little stores that leaned conspiratorially toward one another as if they too were passing on the local gossip. Besides sporting a football stadium -- football was at the core of this small town's values -- that doubled as a rodeo pen one month each summer, Archer City had a three-story, red-brick school, housing grades one through twelve. The school had a big front staircase with shiny wood banisters that someone had nailed empty spools into about every ten inches, to discourage the sliding down thereon. And there was a flag pole up which many odd items were run by local boys -- a skunk, a pair of great flapping pink drawers, and, incredibly, and upside-down pelican...

"The women in my family were great storytellers -- Mother, my grandmother Mollie, even Aunt Celie. I loved to sit with the women on the porch and listen to the stories they told. These were usually long narratives they either remembered or concocted about their relatives. The women told stories, and the men, if they happened past, refuted them: "Naw, look, that didn't happen thataway; you're making up half that stuff." Huckleberry Finn called them stretchers -- those memories that hover somewhere between fact and fiction, and the women lived to tell them. For instance, the story about Daddy's great grandpa, who shot a man point blank dead for running grandpa's horse into a sweat up near Amarillo, then ran away from the sheriff to live in South America for 25 years. He even kept a diary that none of the men had been interested enough to read! As he was dying down there, one of his sons went to see him. This was the bare bones of the story pulled out of the men. But lordy, wouldn't you know he had a whole other family down there, little brown children running around. The women made it lots more colorful...

"I sat on the porch swing listening to these tales. A lot of it was confusing. Why could boys buy something called "rubbers" over the counter in the drug store, and girls had to sneak brown-paper wrapped sanitary napkins out of the same store to preserve their dignity? Why were bodily functions something for boys to show off and something for girls to be ashamed of? Why did even women speak in whispers, "Did you hear? She's that way again" about the condition that the world had clearly decided was the only important job that women could do? I Love Lucy couldn't even say the word 'pregnant' on TV it was so shameful. But having babies and taking care of them was all that women were supposed to do, so were women just all-round shameful and disgusting? And if so, why did Mother put up with it? I couldn't put all these questions in words enough to ask her, since she had had babies, and there was no news that she'd done it like the Virgin Mary; it might hurt her feelings if I let on that I knew it was shameful. Because I didn't think my own mother was shameful. I just didn't know what to think.

"So I tried to keep my eyes closed and my mouth shut. Boys liked girls better that way. And so did fathers. But mothers were to talk to. They were the only thing that could keep a girl sane in Thalia, if you had a good one. If you didn't, you were done for. Lots of girls back in Thalia were done for before they ever started."

Selected Works

Whatever Happened to Jacy Farrow?
A girl's life in Texas in the era described fictionally from the boys' pov by Larry McMurtry in The Last Picture Show.
Suspense Novel
The Bluebook Solution
Charm Hope, student sleuth, tracks down the killer of her university president.

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