Dawn Major interviews Kim Woods Miller about “The Woods of Fannin County”

Associate Editor of Southern Literary Review, Dawn Major was sharing Janisse Ray’s latest work, her novel, The Woods of Fannin County, on her Facebook page when a family member of the abandoned children Ray wrote about, Kim Woods Miller, thanked her for reading her family’s story. The novel is a work of fiction, inspired by true events; Ray researched and verified historical and genealogical records for accuracy. Typically, SLR only interviews authors, but the novel was such a heart-wrenching story that when Major finished, she wanted to know more about the Woods.

Dawn Major

DM: Kim, thank you for agreeing to this. I understand it is a little unorthodox, but your family story has touched me and from the responses I’ve observed on Ray’s social media it has impacted many others as well. It is a tough story and I want to acknowledge that first. What was your first impression after reading this book?

KWM:  Thank you so much for letting me do this. The book is so amazing. I never thought my family’s story would ever be told like this, so this has touched me like it has everyone else.  Seeing it in writing is so special and heartbreaking.

DM: I understand you were not one of the eight children who survived this harrowing experience, but you are the daughter of one. Were you also one of the individuals Ray interviewed? Or were you present when your mother/father were interviewed? And if so, can you describe that experience?

Kim Woods Miller

KWM: Janisse did not interview me for the book, but I helped her communicate with my father through emails. She and I talked a lot through email, and I have kept her up to date on things going on with the family like the loss of my Aunt Glenda just recently. Hearing things that I did not know was just crazy to me. I am always learning something new all the time even though I am now in my 50s.

DM: This story was about buried family secret. When and how did you first learn about it?

 KWM: I have two other siblings and we always knew daddy grew up in the children’s home. He never kept that a secret from us, but we never knew the extent of what he and his siblings went through till we were much older.  I would say I was in my late twenties or early thirties, but it was limited about what we were being told. Before my Aunt Phyl passed away two years ago, she talked a lot about it with me and I learned more from her than anyone. When Janisse came to my daddy about the book it really opened him up more about it.

DM: Unearthing old trauma can sometimes retraumatize. Was that your experience or are you relieved that your family has been given a voice? Or maybe a little of both here?

Kim Woods Miller with her father

 KWM:  For me and from what I have seen my daddy go through since Janisse started the book it’s both. He talks about it so much more now than he ever did, but he also sometimes really gets upset over it. He has broken down over it and it affects his everyday life. I was with him one day and he was telling a friend about the book, and he just broke down. I feel like this has really helped him finally deal with everything that happened to them.

DM: What kind of responses have you received from those who have now read the novel and discovered the book was inspired by your family history?

KWM:  I have friends that never knew my family’s story and they are just amazed. I have heard from so many people about how they love the book and just cannot believe that this happened to my daddy and his siblings. I have also heard from family that I never thought I would ever hear from like some of my half aunts and cousins that did not know the story until this book came out.  They are amazed by it also and are happy they finally know the story. I have so many people texting me or messaging me asking me a hundred questions and I love it because I want people to know about my family history.

DM: I am honored that you agreed to do this interview. I hope The Woods of Fannin County offers some peace and healing for your family.


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