GRAVITY IS STRONGER HERE
People of the Mississippi Delta’s Weighty Life
The photojournalism of Phyllis B. Dooney and the poetry of Jardine Libaire meld into a seamless story of Halea Brown, her family, her girlfriend and her hometown of Greenville, Mississippi in this, the second decade of the Twenty-First Century.
The beautifully-bound work is a treasure of the daily life of Halea, at once so ordinary and so unique, so heart-rending yet so enviable. This book goes beyond the tired prying eyes and hands of Western tabloid-ism and gutter news. The reader-viewer-poetry lover sees beyond the harsh life of modern American poverty to the abundance of human love and perseverance.
The project, a five-year-long documentary featuring Halea (who is openly gay) and her dynamic Southern American family, culminates in this “coffee table” book that would make any of the class-unconscious blush. It’s a book of contradiction set in full color – the physical, emotional, spiritual sides of her, the family and the community. And, by proxy, it’s a testament of one’s own life as well. The Dooney-Libaire work, along with Halea and the people of the Mississippi Delta, is a microscope of American life, a telescope of the steadfast dreams of one person, and a mirror for those fortunate enough to have shared in it.
Proud of the Walker Percy and Eudora Welty legacies, steadfast in the bedrock-rootedness of Christianity’s promises, and victorious in the still-rising-from-the-ashes addiction recovery, the subjects of this project give one long cry of survival – a victor’s yell. All the while the reader, upon finishing the book, lets loose one continuous cheer for the Human Spirit of those former subjects in the empire of King Cotton who strive to build something better in their corner of the world.
GRAVITY IS STRONGER HERE is more than simply a human interest story with raw photos and strong poems. The visceral nature of the work speaks of the real, the human – the true and flesh-colored/multicolored experiences of one particular person, her family, her people, her nation. Halea’s story is everyone’s story – her struggles, joys, loves, fears, losses and victories are ours as well. The Hope of the Human Race lies in that we see the commonalities in ourselves alongside everyone else, over and above our differences. The Mississippi River runs just about the entire length of the nation. How metaphorical the Delta of that river becomes in this work, celebrating the lifelong journeys of people and the peaceful culmination in which we all hope to share.
Joseph Anthony Rulli is a transplanted Hoosier, living in Chicago since the fall of 2006. A 1987 graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BA, History) and a 1992 graduate of St. Meinrad School of Theology (MDiv) he taught Social Studies, Religion, Philosophy and History at the high school level. He began writing as a career upon his arrival to his second city and has had two short stories published, a stage play performed, an electronic tour book published online and The Chicago Haymarket Affair (History Press/Arcadia Publishing, 2016) his first print book.