by Colin Dayan
Colin Dayan meditates on the connection between her family history and her relationship with animals in this lyrical memoir about her upbringing in the South. Unraveling memories alongside family documents and photographs, Animal Quintet takes a raw look at racial tensions and relations in a region struggling to change. A disquieting picture of a childhood is accessed through accounts of the non-human, ranging from famed Southern war horses led by Civil War generals and doomed Spanish fighting bulls to the misunderstood possum hunted by generations of Southerners.
Animal Quintet is uniquely capable of transporting one’s imagination across time and place, mirroring the natural behavior of remembrances with its feelings of dislocation and non-linear movement. Regional folk songs about old gray mares and possums hiding in trees intermingle with stories and confidences shared by the household’s African-American nanny, enclosing the reader in a chorus composed of otherwise lost voices. Simultaneously longing for the past — while keeping it at arm’s length — Dayan achieves a haunting, nostalgic quality rare to memoirs focused on ancestral and personal identity.
About The Author
Colin (Joan) Dayan is the Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Haiti, History, and the Gods, The Story of Cruel and Unusual, The Law is a White Dog, and With Dogs at the Edge of Life. Her memoirs of growing up in Georgia have been published in The Yale Review, Southwest Review, Arizona Quarterly, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Boston Review. In 2012 she was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.