Lee Zacharias (Lela Ann Zacharias) earned a master
of fine arts degree from the University of Arkansas in 1975. That
same year she began lecturing at the University of North Carolina,
and she also published a collection of her short stories, Helping
Muriel Make It Through the Night. Zacharias has since become
an associate professor of English and coordinator of the writing
at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She was born
in Chicago, Illinois; neighboring Hammond, Indiana, is a common
setting for her writings. Zacharias was an assistant director of
publications for the Research Center of Language Sciences, Indiana
University, for three years following her graduation from Indiana
University in 1966. Bloomington, Indiana, is also a
setting for her novel, Lessons.
Zacharias describes Hammond
in an oppressive manner, referring to its skies as gray, colorless,
and dirty. In
her short story "Disasters," she gives these
ominous skies an almost tangible quality. She writes: "[A] great gray cloud
hung just ahead of the Kankakee River on Highway
In "The Death of
Pomloe," Zacharias gives a year round
cause for the cloud surrounding Hammond, Indiana. She writes, "The
house is one on a street of impenetrable houses made dingy and
alike by the frosting
industrial soot… " (54).
She also addresses the tight urban residential conditions of Hammond
that catalyze urban
sprawl. She records the
results of this sprawl in "Disasters,"
"We couldn’t have walked here ten years ago," I said. "This
used to be a very bad neighborhood."
"Is it a good neighborhood now?"
it’s not any neighborhood. See those lights? That’s
The dual pressures of growing families and growing
businesses push the city's residential areas into the surrounding
In her novel, Lessons,
Zacharias blatantly blames poor air quality on the steel mills
of the region. Zacharias
writes, "[W]hen the bus taking me home for Christmas crossed the
River into the cocoon of soot spun by the mills… " (89).
Even Zacharias’ own use of simile shows shades of the
damage done by the mills: "The paint on the windowsills was
breaking up like ice on the scummy Little
Calumet River" (Lessons 9).
Indiana, are in razor-sharp contrast to her descriptions of Hammond,
Indiana. Instead of Hammond’s
gray, colorless, and dirty skies, she writes, "[T]he
auditorium at Indiana University under a blue sky stretched
so tight over heaven, I thought it might break and let Paradise
fall at my feet" (Lessons 82). Later she passionately
invokes a powerful cinematic allusion
in describing Bloomington, Indiana:
Every winter in Bloomington there is a two-or
three-day spring, a premature warmth that penetrates the earth
a damp fragrance of loam. Scarlett O’Hara
didn’t know what she was missing, with her crummy
handful of red clay. Dirt doesn’t mean anything held
in your hands; sucked into your lungs, it’s next
to your heart. (122)
Clearly, Zacharias’ literary works record not
only the variations in the lands of Indiana, but also in the
the lands evoke.
us both numb indifference and vibrant passion.
She challenges the reader to realize what feelings the lands of
evoke in them.
Ann Zacharias.” Contemporary Authors. 2001. Gale Group
Databases. Ball State Library, Muncie, IN. 7 Dec 2003. <http://www.infotrac.galegroup.com>
Lee. Helping Muriel Make It Through the Night. “The
Death of Pomloe.” 43-58. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
---. Helping Muriel Make It Through
the Night. “Disasters.” 30-42.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975.
---. Lessons. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin Company, 1981.
Walter Clinton Jackson Library. University
of North Carolina Greensboro. 2003. 7 Dec 2003. <http://library.uncg.edu/depts/admin/fol/litlandmark
Intensive English Program homepage.
Indiana University. 2003. 7 Dec 2003. <http://iep.indiana.edu/>