Reasons Fannie Flagg is my Homegirl: Standing In the Rainbow

May 16, 2013 Chick Lit, Coming of Age, Family, Friendship 31

How y’all doing, Bookworms?

I took a trip to my hometown recently to spend a little QT with my mom. We had lunch and got mani-pedis to celebrate Mother’s Day. It felt extra indulgent because I’d taken some vacation time and we were galavanting ON A WEEKDAY! As I’ve discussed with you on several occasions, when driving alone, I hate to waste the hours. I have taken to listening to audio books on all solo road trips and find the car time infinitely more tolerable.

On this particular trip, I purchased a copy of Fannie Flagg’s Standing In the Rainbow via iTunes to play on my fancy little phone through a wire thingie to my car’s speaker system. It’s as high tech as you can get while still using wires. I did not realize it AT THE TIME, but it seems the version I downloaded was ABRIDGED. I KNOW! I’m very disappointed in myself for not doing my due diligence, but as is the case any time I visit Elmwood Springs, Missouri, I was enchanted (even if I inadvertently missed out on some of the story…)


Fannie Flagg narrated this audio book herself, which I LOVED because southern accents are adorable when you’re talking about small towns in the American south. A little twang is downright endearing. I’ve been to Elmwood Springs, Missouri a couple of times already when reading Welcome To The World, Baby Girl and Can’t Wait To Get THeaven and I love the way Flagg incorporates her characters into different stories. They might only show up as a side note, or write a song that becomes someone’s favorite, or host a charming radio show, but the minute I run into a character I’ve heard of before, I feel like I already know them. I was SO pleased to hear so much of the famous Neighbor Dorothy’s story in this book.

Neighbor Dorothy started up a little radio show out of her home in the mid 1940s, and shared recipes, homemaking tips, and hosting a wide variety of musical guests. Neighbor Dorothy’s show, and her cakes, appeared in both Welcome To The World, Baby Girl and Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven, so hearing her story was quite a treat. She was a homemaker, but no pushover. She could bake with the best of them, but she and her former suffragette mother-in-law weren’t about to sit back and watch women pushed out of politics or anywhere else. Dorothy’s gentle personality and her typical refusal to discuss hot button issues made her opinion all the more valuable when she occasionally let it out.

Dorothy’s children, Bobby and Anna Lee go on to lead interesting lives, but nobody’s life is quite as interesting as the introverted daughter of a gospel singer the Smiths take in one summer. Betty Raye Oatman starts out as a painfully shy girl. She is so shy that the idea of traveling with her family’s gospel group sickens her. She is anxious and forced to go on stage and be around people constantly. All the poor girl wants is some peace, quiet, and a place to read (bless her heart.) After a short visit with Dorothy and the Smith family, Betty Raye finds it even harder to go back on the road with her family. This is why it comes as such a surprise when little Betty Raye goes on to marry a mover and a shaker in politics, Hamm Sparks.

I could keep on rambling about Tot Whooten and Aunt Elner and Jimmy Head and Macky and Norma and the impossibly fabulous Cecil Figgs, but I’ll spare you the details. I can’t help it, y’all. Fannie Flagg lifts my spirits in a way nobody else can. I love her quirky characters, I love the Southern charm, I love the whole schtick. When I need a pick me up, she’s my go-to gal.

Now that I’m longing for a simpler time when soda fountains were in pharmacies and bubble gum blowing contests were a thing, I’ll pose this question to you. When Bobby Smith hits middle age, he’s struck by an intense nostalgia for his childhood and the town he’d grown up in. I know I personally get really happy when I find ORIGINAL (and not the new fangled animation style) Care Bears and My Little Pony stickers and whatnot. What are some of your favorite childhood toys and memories?

31 Responses to “Reasons Fannie Flagg is my Homegirl: Standing In the Rainbow”

  1. Serafina Bear

    This book actually calls up another memory for me. I am a counselor with homeless addicts. There was one man I had worked with for years who, eventually, got sober and he let us help him get into housing and on disability. Actually (going down memory lane right now) he had me fill out the part of his social security application that a family member fills out, because I was the closest thing he had to family. He died about a year ago, and though I’ve known other clients who’ve passed on, I had the hardest time with his. I really cared about him.
    Anyway, we both love to read, and he gave me a copy of this book after he had finished it because he liked it so much. I only got about halfway through but every time I see it, I think of him.

  2. Jennine G.

    I’ve had this book on my shelf for years – among others of Flagg’s – but haven’t read it. Thanks for the reminder of her!

  3. lostinliterature108

    I remember some popular toys I had. They were probably a little before your time.

    1. Dancerella – She was a ballerina doll, battery powered and she would twirl and kick and such. I still have her but her hair is a mess and she has stains on her.
    2. Weebles Hounted House – . I LOVED these. Wish I still had them.
    3. Zip – This was a black stuffed monkey. There was a yellow monkey Mama, (don’t remember her name, wanna say Molly), and a baby named Chip.
    4. Drowsy Doll
    And of course Barbies. I remember Tuesday Taylor. You could twist her scalp and change her hair from blonde to brunette.
    Oh! And last but not least….I had and STILL have a Shaun Cassidy doll. Yep. He hangs out with my old barbies.

    • justJen

      Weeble-wobbles! 😀 Somehow my brother and I ended up with a mismatched set that included the glow on the dark ghost, who played many an important part in the story lines I made up for my dollhouseful of Ginny Dolls and my little brother’s GI Joe men.

    • Words for Worms

      I had a whole lot of barbies, but none of the other toys. My barbies would engage in elaborate soap opera scenarios with the Lady Lovely Locks dolls, Jem, and my cupcake dolls. It was glorious.

  4. justJen

    When I first started reading Fannie Flagg at the advice of my mother, I rolled my eyes a bit– but was hooked. It’s so true, reading about her characters just makes you happy! I can’t tell you how many times I watched Fried Green Tomatoes, thinking that Hollywood did a pretty good job with the book. I fondly remember my childhood lite-brite, fashion plates, speak and spell (that toy is likely why i’m such a spelling snob today. i rocked at those games!) and a version of the perfection game where you had to put two or three different colored pieces of plastic together to form an odd shape that fit in the board.

    • Words for Worms

      Yeah, when I started I was like, ugh Mom, really? But I loved Fried Green Tomatoes the movie so much I caved. Lite Brite! I loved that thing. I remember fashion plates, though I didn’t have them… Or a speak and spell (which makes me very grateful for spell check!)

      • Lisa G

        Tried hard (and without luck) to find a speak and spell for my kids when they started school. *sigh*

  5. kebum1

    I love her too & have all her books. You should try Daisy Faye & the Miracle Man if you haven’t read it. I haven’t read the whole book in years, but whenever I need a pick up I can go to the first few chapters & before I know it I’m laughing so hard I’m crying. “She do be a hoot”, as the saying goes 🙂

  6. Cindy

    I may have to start reading more Fannie Flagg!

    My favorite toys that I remember are my little Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I had her, and her friends, and they all smelled like their names. I’m hoping that I find them in a box – I am very slowly unpacking after moving. I may have also stolen my brothers care bears – they’re boys, they didn’t still want them now, right?

    Oh, and of course, my childhood books. When my parents moved out of the house that I grew up in, we all split up a bunch of the toys and books one day. Luckily, I had put my name in all of my favorite books so I got all of them. 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      Strawberry Shortcake! I had a few of those. And Rainbow Brite dolls. I’m pretty sure your brothers would be cool with you stealing their Care Bears. Sweeeeeeeet!

  7. Sarah Says Read

    I need to invest in more audiobooks.

    Hmmmm I get really excited when I see any original Disney movie stuff, like when they were still animated and not all computerizes. I would FREAK if I could find real Eureka’s Castle stuff, but apparently I’m the only one of my generation who still remembers how awesome that show was…

    • Words for Worms

      I remember Eureka’s Castle! I was more of a David The Gnome girl, but YES! And Under The Umbrella Tree? Sometimes I get those puppet show theme songs stuck in my head. I think I could sing them right now…

  8. Megan M.

    I’ve never read one of her books. I’ve thought several times about reading Fried Green Tomatoes because I love the movie but I’ve just never broken down and done it.

    I played mostly with Barbies and Polly Pocket. I had a redheaded Cabbage Patch doll that I accidently left at a grocery store in Germany when I was five-ish. It would probably be worth some money now if I’d held onto it.

    • Words for Worms

      Read Fried Green Tomatoes. It’s different, but the important stuff remains the same. You’ll like it. Cabbage Patch kids RULED (except for when you tried to style their hair in a way it wasn’t mean to be and they ended up with a giant bald spot…)

  9. Megan

    Thanks for the review! Fried Green Tomatoes is probably in my top ten list, and this one’s been sitting on my shelf.

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