A Knoxville Remembrance Sparked by Agee

James Agee and “Knoxville: Summer, 1915”

I have always felt a special connection with Agee, not just because I admire his now-seldom-read maximalist prose, but because he grew up on Highland Avenue in Knoxville, where I lived for a couple of years while my father was in graduate school and where my mother’s mother lived when she was growing up. ...

My mother also told me that her mother had lived on Highland Avenue as a girl, and when I later became aware of James Agee’s growing up there, I wondered if they had ever met. Agee was a bit younger than my grandmother, and the Avenue is a longish street, so the answer is probably no. But as I read A Death in the Family, I felt certain that the childhood Agee described was very near to the one my grandmother experienced. He mentioned Laurel Avenue, he mentioned Miller’s Department Store—and so had my grandmother. And those places really existed and were still extant during my teenage years.

Miller’s has by now been bought out, and the neighborhood that once housed families has largely been bull-dozed to make way for hospitals, doctors’ offices, businesses, and university buildings. There are a few pockets preserved, but it is a changed landscape. ...

—Lisa Roney, joyouscrybaby.com, Dec. 1, 2011

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