AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The Auburn University College of Liberal Arts will celebrate best-selling novelist and alumna Anne Rivers Siddons in a free, public tribute on Friday, Oct. 18, at 5 p.m. at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. Siddons has been named the inaugural Women’s Leadership Institute Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
“A Tribute to Anne Rivers Siddons” will feature a student art exhibition depicting themes from her debut novel “Heartbreak Hotel,” a performance by the Auburn University Singers, a theatrical adaptation of Siddons’ letter to The Auburn Plainsman and discussions of Siddons’ work by members of the Auburn University faculty.
The event is part of CLA Reads, the College of Liberal Arts’ semester-long, college-wide reading program. This year’s selection, Siddons’ novel “Heartbreak Hotel,” fictionalizes her days at Auburn during the tumultuous civil rights period. The novel recounts the event of her firing from The Auburn Plainsman as a columnist and gives detailed insight into the Auburn experience of the past. The book also was adapted into the film “Heart of Dixie” in 1989.
“She helps us understand the fraternity/sorority culture and the significance of relationships to those who came before us,” said Barbara Baker, executive director of the Women’s Leadership Institute. “She helps us understand a host of things like the dating culture of yesterday, race relations and all manner of social relationships. She shows us how the Auburn we know today was made from the Auburn of yesterday.”
The Women’s Leadership Institute Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an Auburn University alumna who has achieved national acclaim over a lifetime of successful and sustained contribution to culture through arts, humanities, business or politics.
Baker said Siddons was selected “because of her long and successful career as a writer, and because of her literary and artistic depictions of the South, Southern life, and particularly Auburn University.”
Siddons graduated from Auburn in 1958 with a degree in illustration and a minor in English and aspirations to be an illustrator and layout designer. Instead, she has enjoyed an illustrious career as a writer and has published 21 novels, most of which are set in Atlanta or surrounding areas.
Baker and other CLA professors are holding several lectures and open discussions about “Heartbreak Hotel” throughout the semester.
“I expect students to identify themselves, their parents, and their grandparents and come to an understanding of how our community developed – what the Auburn family was and how it became what it is,” Baker said. “Siddons herself is an outstanding role model for our students because of the national acclaim she has achieved, and it is important for them to know about the successful graduates that came before them.”
The Women’s Leadership Institute in partnership with CLA will host the tribute to Siddons at the 2013 Auburn Writers Conference.
For more information on Siddons and the CLA Reads program, go to http://auwomenlead.tumblr.com or contact Barb Baker at (334) 844-6169.
(Written by Vicky Santos.)