New Orleans author Grace King’s childhood turns from Civil War era refinement to navigating the bayous with her family on a flatboat and then emerging to a different life in New Orleans after the war. In the present day, Meredith Mandin becomes fascinated by the life of Grace King after her husband returns from the war in Afghanistan, and they begin a new direction for their family. In her debut novel, Finding Grace and Grit (Forthcoming 2021), Khristeena Lute shows how Meredith and Grace risk poverty and social suicide as they carve daringly different futures than the ones society had prescribed.
Meredith Mandin is a first-generation college student and a new doctoral candidate. Just as she begins her doctoral program, her mother runs off with a man she just met, and her father is arrested. With a wry sense of humor at the dark and comedic turns of her life, Meredith struggles to parent her daughters and her mother, navigate the treacherous waters of competitive graduate students, and find a job to prevent sliding back into her family’s generational poverty—all while finishing her dissertation on Grace King, a pre-Modernist New Orleans writer.
Meanwhile, in her own time, nine-year-old Grace King survives the Civil War and grows into a strong, southern writer—until her own family’s darkness threatens to destroy her sense of self and identity. Meredith and Grace struggle to define themselves one hundred years apart. Even though they live in different centuries, Finding Grace and Grit shows the darkness southern women often face as well as their resolve to overcome it.
Khristeena Lute is a writer and English professor currently residing in upstate New York, where she spends as much of her time outdoors as possible—running, hiking, and camping—or following whatever projects or topics interest her that week.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Ohio University before she became a junior high literature teacher in Yuma, Arizona. During her time as a teacher, she completed a Master of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University just as the Army shipped her family across the country to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. While there, she finished both a Master of Arts in English from Austin Peay State University and a Doctorate in English from Middle Tennessee State University, specializing in American women writers from the Civil War to present. After finishing her Ph.D., she, her husband, and two children moved to New York, where Khristeena is also an active volunteer for the American Red Cross.
Khristeena has written several academic chapters on Grace King, which have been published in various anthologies of literary criticism. Finding Grace and Grit is her first novel. Finding Grace and Grit (Forthcoming) is a novelization of the life of Grace King (1852-1932) intertwined with the narrative of the modern writer trying to write a doctoral dissertation about her.
Find Khristeena on Instagram, @khristeenalute, or at her personal webpage, khristeenalute.net.
Photo of New Orleans: "A vista through iron lace, New Orleans" by Arnold Genthe. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Arnold Genthe Collection, [Reproduction number e.g., LC-DIG-ppmsca-123456].