Archive for the 'Rheta Grimsley Johnson' Category

Rheta Grimsley Johnson on gratefulness during a time of uncertainty

Friday, December 11th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Rheta Grimsley JohnsonPopular NewSouth author and nationally syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson favors us with a striking and poignant read given the recent events in San Bernardino. In “Thankful for Small Moments of Peace,” the column illustrates Johnson’s determination to celebrate a restful and restorative Thanksgiving among friends. She lists many things for which she gives thanks, from Bradford pears through books read and music enjoyed.

Johnson points out “the world’s problems are best solved with old friends around a warm fire.” As the holiday season continues through Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza, giving thanks for moments of peace is a good practice for all to continue.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s books Poor Man’s Provence, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, and Hank Hung the Moon . . . And Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts are available from NewSouth Books or your favorite book seller.

Wall Street Journal calls Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s Enchanted Evening Barbie great vacation reading

Friday, August 31st, 2012 by Lisa Harrison

If you’re hitting the road this Labor Day, the Wall Street Journal recommends bringing along a copy of Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming. Enchanted Evening was featured in Danny Heitman’s Friday article about vacation reading, “A Beached Wail — No Time for That Pile of Books.” Heitman noted that “along with her gift for memorable book titles, Ms. Johnson has a commendable knack for writing stuff brief enough to be savored in a sitting or two.”

Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming is a frank, exhilarating, wise, poignant, and brave memoir from Johnson, an award-winning syndicated columnist. In a warm and down-to-earth voice, Johnson reflects on childhood memories of ritual pre-interstate trips in the family station wagon to young-girl fixations on the Barbie dolls of the title. The book is a perfect read for vacation, whether beachside in the summer or fireside in the winter!

And don’t miss Johnson’s two other eminently readable titles, Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana, about Johnson’s unexpected decision to move to a houseboat on the edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp and what she found there; and her newest, Hank Hung the Moon … and Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts, and ode to 1950s and ’60s musical staples, and how they’ve touched Johnson’s and others’ lives.

Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming is available in hardcover and ebook formats direct from NewSouth Books, Amazon or from your favorite bookstore.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson recalls Charles Rose, vibrant and true

Monday, June 27th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

A Ford in the River by Charles RoseOne NewSouth author remembered another this past month. Syndicated newspaper columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson called her former Auburn University English professor Charles Rose “vibrant and true” in her weekly column; Rose died June 6, 2011 at the age of 80.

Johnson, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated columnist and author of Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming: A Memoir, took Rose’s creative writing course at Auburn in the 1970s. In her column “The Outline of a Man,” Johnson recalled how Rose (whose students called him “Charlie,” not Dr. Rose) held office hours at a local hamburger joint, and taught writing often by reading to his students. Johnson recalled:

I remember to this day tips he gave me about dialogue. Turns out a lot of dialogue is “understood,” and doesn’t have to be “expressed.” He improved my short stories with a few deft marks of his pen and a quiet suggestion or two. I’d leave that restaurant thinking I might have some kind of future with words, or at least some kind of future. And the ability to give an insecure kid that feeling might be the best definition of teaching that there is. 

Later Johnson would learn that, as well as writing short stories and screenplays, Rose was a talented jazz musician and dedicated hospice volunteer. He recounted his volunteer experiences in his book In the Midst of Life: A Hospice Volunteer’s Story. Rose’s book of short stories, A Ford in the River, is forthcoming in July from NewSouth Books.

Read Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s full column, “The Outline of a Man.”

Charles Rose’s and Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s books are both available direct from NewSouth Books or your favorite local bookseller.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson writes “On Faith” in Washington Post

Friday, April 8th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming by Rheta Grimsley Johnson“The one belief I never revealed in three decades-plus was my disbelief,” writes syndicated newspaper columnist and NewSouth author Rheta Grimsley Johnson in a March 28 guest-post on the Washington Post “On Faith” blog; Johnson would later talk about religion in her memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming. “I figured that straw for a Bible Belt columnist would be the last. I never said I did believe. But I never said I did not. It was a sin of omission.”

Johnson describes how she had kept her “disbelief” secret for years, for fear of alienating her readers. After the death of her husband Don, however, Johnson said she grew “fearless” enough to make her opinions known.

“The year of my husband’s death, I somehow finished a memoir I’d already begun for NewSouth Books, a Montgomery, Ala., publishing house,” Johnson continues. “Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming for the first time made clear my position on faith and religion. No bones. No hedges. I finished the manuscript in September, 2009, and waited a little nervously for its release in March of 2010. How would my regular readers, the ones who for so long had indulged my liberal politics and feminist rants, react to this ultimate departure from Southern mores?”

In the year that followed, Johnson describes, she received mixed responses to her revelations in the book; often those she expected to be shocked were not, and those she hadn’t expect to be were. Her fear of speaking about religious issues might have been unfounded, she notes, though she remains unsure if she would have faced editorial pressure not to potentially offend readers.

Read Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s full essay, “My belief system? Disbelief,” at the Washington Post “On Faith” blog. You can also visit Johnson at her official website,

Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming is available in hardcover and ebook from NewSouth Books,, or you favorite retail or online bookseller.

Chapter 16 highlights Tennessee authors, talks Barbie with Rheta Grimsley Johnson

Friday, May 7th, 2010 by Andrew

Burgeoning online journal Chapter 16 certainly stays busy highlighting the wealth of Tennessee’s literary offerings. Launched in October 2009 by Humanities Tennessee, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Chapter 16 covers books, authors, and literary events within the state.

Margaret Renkl, book editor of Chapter 16, noted the motivating factors behind the journal’s foundation. “The idea for Chapter 16 arose in response to the continued erosion of books coverage in the mainstream media,” she said. “All over the state, newspapers have been shuttering their book pages, and the folks at Humanities Tennessee came up with the idea of starting a web site that would feature book reviews, author interviews, excerpts from works in progress by writers in the state, and all manner of community literary events.”

Chapter 16 also publishes original poems and essays and will soon launch a database of Tennessee authors, including biographies and links to other sources online. The journal covers a broad range of Tennessee authors, including those who’ve only lived in Tennessee briefly, as well as visiting authors appearing in the state.

In advance of her May 4 event at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis, former Commercial Appeal columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson sat down with Chapter 16 to discuss life and love, newspapers and literature, and her newly published memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming.

Read the full interview at Chapter 16.

Enchanted Evening Barbie is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson memoir reviewed in Columbus Dispatch and others

Friday, April 9th, 2010 by Andrew

Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s new memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming is receiving high praise from fellow writers and rave reviews from newspapers and magazines from Tupelo, Mississippi to Columbus, Ohio. Newly published from NewSouth, Enchanted Evening Barbie is Johnson’s cathartic and introspective look at her life as a daughter of the South and an award-winning writer in a male-dominated newspaper world.

Leslie Criss of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal said, “Each essay, written in true Rheta-style, only added to my assurance that I was reading something wise, something witty, something wonderful, something oh-so worthwhile.”

Jake Mabe, reviewer for the Hall/Founain City Shopper-News in Knoxville, Tennessee said, “It’s the loving chapters devoted to the love of [Rheta’s] life that make this book such a keeper. Rheta has long possessed a talent for making her subjects come alive.” He continued, saying, “Reading Rheta is one of life’s true treasures.”

Mike Harden of the Columbus Dispatch also writes fondly of Rheta’s style and skill with words, stating “Possessed of an ear for the laconic remark that defines the moment, Johnson could write anywhere.”

Citing Johnson’s past awards and achievements, Dave Helms of the Mobile Press Register is quick to note how little such accolades mean to Johnson’s loyal fan base. He said, “More importantly to her readers, she can quote long strings of ‘Andy Griffith’ dialogue and Hank Williams’ lyrics.”

Enchanted Evening Barbie is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer.

Publishers Weekly, others praise Rheta Grimsley Johnson memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie

Monday, March 15th, 2010 by Brian Seidman

Publishers Weekly calls Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s new memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming a “notable story of [a] devoted journalist,” and indeed the Birmingham News‘s Kathy Kemp notes that “to many young, Southern female journalists making their way in the 1980s, Rheta Grimsley Johnson was our hero and role model, not to mention the best writer we’d ever read.”

This praise comes as part of a bevy of well-deserved positive reviews for Rheta’s new book. Alabama Public Radio’s Don Noble has called Enchanted Evening Barbie “moving [and] utterly believable,” and John Branston of the Memphis Flyer‘s “City Beat” blog noted that “good [memoirs] have perspective, emotional highs and lows, sharp writing, strange places, revealing glimpses of famous people, and humor … [Enchanted Evening Barbie is] a good one.”

Kemp notes that in writing the emotional Enchanted Evening Barbie, Rheta found inspiration in Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking:

[Enchanted Evening Barbie] traces the life of a busy girl and woman who, right out of Auburn, started a small newspaper in Georgia. She married a newspaper cartoonist, moved from here to there, got divorced, dated a man who killed himself in front of her, married for a second time to the man of her dreams and then found him dead at home, last March, four days after his heart surgery.

“Joan [Didion] said you expect to be crazy with grief when you lose a spouse, but you don’t expect to be literally crazy.”

Rheta still sounds tender when talking about her late husband, journalist Don Grierson, a UAB journalism professor … She’s having minor second thoughts about having published the memoir, but she hopes it will help someone in the way Didion’s book helped her. And, as always, Rheta couldn’t stop herself from writing it.

As Florence-Lauderdale Library director Nancy Sanford told the Times-Daily, “Knowing how much women’s lives have changed in the last 25 to 30 years, and how our expectations change, I think that’s hit a chord, and I think [Enchanted Evening Barbie] is going to hit a chord for us.” NewSouth is proud to see that chord already beginning to resonate.

Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

NewSouth Author Rheta Grimsley Johnson Named 2010 Clarence Cason Award Winner

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 by Andrew

NewSouth author and award-winning journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson has been named the winner of the 2010 Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing. Established in 1997 to honor exemplary non-fiction writing over a long career, the Cason Award is given annually by the University of Alabama’s journalism department within the Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences. Johnson will receive the award at a banquet in her honor at the Hotel Capstone in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Tuesday, March 9.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson has covered the South for over three decades as a newspaper reporter and columnist, and her memorable career is punctuated by her distinctive writing voice and an unerring knack for revealing her much-loved South through uncommon stories about its common people.

Johnson is no stranger to receiving awards—she’s garnered many during her over three decade tenure covering the South, including the Ernie Pyle Memorial Award for human interest reporting (1983), the Headliner Award for commentary (1985), and the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for commentary (1982). In 1986 Johnson was inducted into the Scripps Howard Newspapers Editorial Hall of Fame, and in 1991 she was one of the three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Syndicated today by King Features of New York, Johnson’s column appears in about fifty papers nationwide.

Johnson is also the author of several books, including the NewSouth published Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana and the forthcoming Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming: A Memoir.

The evening’s event begins at 6:00 p.m., and tickets for the dinner are $50. To order tickets, call Sheila Davis at 205-348-4787.

Mary Kay Andrews: Rheta Grimsley Johnson offers “lots to love” in new memoir

Thursday, February 11th, 2010 by Suzanne La Rosa

New York Times best-selling author Mary Kay Andrews chooses her words — and, it seems, her bedtime reading material — carefully. Fortunately for NewSouth Books, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming by Rheta Grimsley Johnson won a spot on her night table and now on her blog.

The author of Savannah Breeze, Blue Christmas, and the soon-to-be-published The FIxer Upper calls Enchanted Evening Barbie a “Valentine to life in the South,” and praises Johnson’s “ability to make both the comic and tragic come alive in this wonderful memoir.” Thanks, Ms. Andrews, for the gift.

Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming named Spring 2010 SIBA Okra Pick

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 by Suzanne La Rosa

Enchanted Evening Barbie by Rheta Grimsley Johnson“It may still be frosty outside but in the South it’s always Okra Season!” So says the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) in announcing the books named to its 2010 winter/spring Okra Picks list.

Lucky for us at NewSouth, Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s new memoir made the cut. Thanks, SIBA. Maybe writer and reviewer Nancy Pate said it best in considering the bushel of literary delights: “I think I need a snack to tide me over.” We agree!

Of Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, Rick Bragg says, “Rheta Grimsley Johnson writes with nothing short of beauty about childhood, lost loves, sad dogs, and everything else worth knowing about.” Watch for it in April.