Born in Dublin, GA; daughter of a cotton ginning/fertilizer manufacturing business owner; married Thomas Oliver (deceased); children: three. Education: Attended Randolph-Macon Woman's College; University of Alabama, B.Mus.; attended Juilliard School of Music.
Home—Montgomery, GA. E-mail—[email protected]
Author and journalist.
First place for short fiction, Deep South Writers' Competition, for "The Ritual"; two first-place production awards for stage plays in regional competitions; Goodbye to the Buttermilk Sky was a Quality Paperback Book Club selection; John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction, 2007, for Devotion: A Novel Based on the Life of Winnie Davis, Daughter of the Confederacy.
Strings (play), produced in Montgomery, AL, 1986.
Many Winters, Many Moons (play), produced in Birmingham, AL, 1989.
Seventeen Times as High as the Moon (short stories), Black Belt Press (Montgomery, AL), 1993.
Goodbye to the Buttermilk Sky (novel), Black Belt Press (Montgomery, AL), 1994.
Music of Falling Water (novel), J.F. Blair (Winston-Salem, NC), 2001.
Devotion: A Novel Based on the Life of Winnie Davis, Daughter of the Confederacy, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2006.
Goodbye to the Buttermilk Sky has been translated into German.
Contributor to Belles' Letters: Contemporary Fiction by Alabama Women, edited by Joe Taylor and Tina N. Jones, Livingston University Press, 1999. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Bronte Street, Jefferson Review, Southern Humanities Review, Chattahoochee Review, Wind, Amaryllis, and Ascent.
Julia Oliver grew up in Sylacauga, Alabama, where her ancestors had been pioneer settlers. Also the author of short stories and plays, she is particularly known for her novels depicting life in the American South, including Goodbye to the Buttermilk Sky, Music of Falling Water, and Devotion: A Novel Based on the Life of Winnie Davis, Daughter of the Confederacy. The latter title, a historical novel, also takes place in Germany, New York, London, and Paris.
Oliver's Seventeen Times as High as the Moon is a collection of short stories, some of which have a supernatural motif. The book balances themes of death and separation with humor, as a widow realizes that she has been mourning in front of the wrong coffin, and a fortune teller mixes up her predictions. Calling the tales "parables of modern life," a Publishers Weekly critic deemed the collection a "refreshing treatment of the supernatural."
In her first novel, Goodbye to the Buttermilk Sky, Oliver explores the social upheaval that occurred in the South during the Great Depression. The main character, Callie, has an affair after her husband leaves farm life to work in a textile mill. Noting that setting takes precedence over plot in the book, a Publishers Weekly writer appreciated the "graceful writing and unerring social observations" of this "richly detailed story [that is] short on suspense but full of subtle surprises."
Oliver's next novel, Music of Falling Water, is a mystery about four sisters in early twentieth-century Alabama. The death of their mother and disappearance of one of the siblings causes tension among the three remaining sisters. Hal Jacobs, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called the work "a dense novel of memories and multiple points of view."
Devotion: A Novel Based on the Life of Winnie Davis, Daughter of the Confederacy offers a fictionalized account of the life of Jefferson Davis's celebrated young- est daughter, who became a cultural symbol of the South's "lost cause." A complicated figure known as "The Daughter of the Confederacy," Varina Anne "Winnie" Davis was an avid spokesperson for her father, the former president of the Confederacy, after the Civil War. At the same time, she fell in love with a Yankee and descendent of a famous abolitionist. Based on substantial research, Devotion presents a fleshed-out portrait of Winnie and the Davis family. It weaves first-person narration and fictional journal entries from Winnie together with perspectives from key players in her life, including her older sister Maggie, family friend Kate Pulitzer, and others. Daily Advertiser reviewer Cheré Coen called the book "a fascinating examination of one of history's most interesting yet little known figures." First Draft critic Philip Beidler felt that Oliver's "characters sound like people thinking out into language what it means to be a person in history," and Jim Fraiser, writing in the Northside Sun called Devotion "a literary marvel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Athens Banner-Herald, September 30, 2006, Wayne Ford, "Alabama Author, Julia Oliver, Tells Romance Story of the Daughter of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August, 2001, Hal Jacobs, review of Music of Falling Water; September, 2006, Hal Jacobs, review of Devotion: A Novel Based on the Life of Winnie Davis, Daughter of the Confederacy.
Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, LA) October 29, 2006, Cheré Coen, review of Devotion.
First Draft, fall, 2006, Philip Beidler, review of Devotion.
ForeWord, January-February, 2007, Keya Kraft, review of Devotion.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006, review of Devotion, p. 748.
Library Journal, June 15, 2001, review of Music of Falling Water, p. 105; July 1, 2006, Ann H. Fisher, review of Devotion, p. 69.
Northside Sun (Jackson, MS), November 16, 2006, review of Devotion p. 748.
Publishers Weekly, March 22, 1993, review of Seventeen Times as High as the Moon, p. 71; August 29, 1994, review of Goodbye to the Buttermilk Sky, p. 62.
Southern Scribe,http://www.southernscribe.com/ (February 16, 2007), Robert L. Hall, "The Past and Present: Julia Oliver: An Interview."