For Immediate Release
September 25, 2012
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BROCKPORT, NY—A Brockport English Professor has written a new novel. Anne Panning, who also co-directs Brockport’s prestigious author series The Writers Forum, has published Butter, a coming of age tale set against the backdrop of small-town Minnesota during the 1970s.
Butter is told from the perspective of an 11-year-old girl, Iris, who learns from her parents that she is adopted and is set in a Midwest creamery. Her world begins to unravel when she learns that her parents, who own a creamery, have decided to adopt another child. In the end, Iris’s story represents a profound meditation on growing up estranged in small town America—on being an outsider in a world increasingly averse to them.
While there are strong parallels to Panning’s own life—she grew up in the Midwest and her grandfather was a butter maker—the story itself is completely fiction.
“I do like that I was able to write very fictionally about such an autobiographical fact of my family. This is most unlike me,” Panning says. “I like that there’s a family link that I was able to parlay into something fictional.”
The idea for the novel emerged after Panning’s parents passed away and she came upon a box of old home movies, finding footage of her grandfather at his creamy with a huge vat of butter. The image struck Panning as a perfect setting for a novel—and she thought Butter would be an ideal title.
“Butter is so comforting…it’s creamy and wonderful and rich…but it’s so forbidden, too. It has too many calories. It’s loaded with fat.” Panning says. “It’s representative of the decadence of the ‘70s. People weren’t worried about fat free stuff then. It was a completely different lifestyle and mindset, and food is so representative of that.”
Panning was the recipient of the 2009 Lillian Fairchild Award—presented annually by the Department of English at the University of Rochester to a Rochester area resident who has produced the best visual, literary, or musical work of art during the past year—in recognition of her collection of short stories, Super America: Stories (University of Georgia Press). The work also received the 2006 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, as well as starring reviews from The New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, and the Boston Sunday Globe, which stated, “Panning writes with intelligence and humor, as well as a grasp of craft…”
She has published a book of short stories, The Price of Eggs, and has written numerous essays, poems, and short fiction. Four of her essays have been listed as Notable in The Best American Essays series.
Panning will read an excerpt from Butter as part of The Writers Forum on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 8 pm in the New York Room of Cooper Hall on the Brockport campus.
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