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The Least One, published originally in 1967, portrays a white sharecropping family during the Great Depression and is based on Borden Deal’s experiences growing up on a small farm in northeastern Mississippi. “My own memory produced a flood of material,” said the author. “I remembered the loss of the farm, the day the sheriff had come to dispossess us; I remembered picking blackberries and selling them in town for a dime a bucket; I remembered the hope and promise of a government mule.” The story is told through the voice of a twelve-year-old, significantly called Boy Sword, and is set in a fictitious community that suggests the area of Cullman, Alabama. Deal portrays the realities of cotton-field work: planting, chopping, the laying-by time, and harvesting. He succeeds in evoking not only the crushing economic circumstances of poor Southern whites in that period but also their fierce sense of independence and self-sufficiency.
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Borden Deal (1922-1985) was a prolific writer of books about the South. In the 1940s he was a student of Hudson Strode at The University of Alabama.Sara deSaussure Davis is Associate Professor of English, The University of Alabama.
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