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Lillian Smith Record Collection: Trembling Earth

This is the LibGuide to for educators and the public to explore the Lillian E. Smith digitized records from Laurel Falls Camo

Lillian Smith

Joan Titus Recording


Joan Titus was part of the film crew who came to Clayton, Georgia, in 1962 to interview Lillian Smith for "Miss Smith of Georgia," an episode of the March of Time series. Following that meeting, Smith and Titus kept in touch, and Titus interviewed Smith numerous times, in the hopes of one day writing a biography about Smith entitled Trembling Earth.  Conducted on June 14, 1966, in Atlanta, "Trembling Earth," as Rose Gladney and Lisa Hodgens returned Titus' title for the piece in A Lillian Smith Reader,  provides insight into Smith's early life and her thinking about storytelling, memory, and more. Smith's reminiscences appeared as "The Old Days in Jasper: A Reminiscence," in 1982 in The Virginia Quarterly Review (on the left). 

Gladney and Hodges open their edited collection with "Trembling Earth" because, as they put it, "[o]n many occasions throughout her life Lillian Smith introduced herself with a story from her childhood home in Jasper, Florida." "Trembling Earth" does just this, returning us to Smith's childhood to that shaky ground on the border between Florida and Georgia. "Trembling Earth" would be, as well, Smith's final writing, and as Gladney and Hodges note, in it, Smith provides us with "her message to future writers, storytellers, and the creative spirit in everyone." 

Collaboration lies at he core of Smith's message.  We are all connected, and Smith details this fact in her memories of the times she spent with her friend Marjorie in Jasper. Smith would tell stories and Marjorie collaborating in the formation of the story through her listening. Smith states, "I think I rather remembered her as collaborating. I would say, more actively than just listening because it was her story." Smith and Marjorie took part in a "collaboration of the dream," joining together in their construction and forming of the stories they told. 

Smith ponders what collaboration looks like, especially between artist and audience, and she says, "This collaboration of the dream is such a strange, strange kind of thing. And yet there'd be no art without it." To expand this, she talks about the reception of her debut novel Strange Fruit and how some readers didn't get the message she wanted to convey; rather, they picked up the book to see a four letter words they could find on any bathroom wall. We can read Smith's "Trembling Earth" as her artistic statement, as a culmination of her thoughts on the role of art and the artist in society. 

Possible Atcivities

Possible Activities

  1. In "Trembling Earth," Lillian Smith talks about her memories of childhood and her friendship with Marjorie. Have students think about a memory and/or friend from their younger years then have them write about it. As part of their writing, students can discuss how the memory and/or friendship has shaped their own identity. 
  2. Smith argues that art is a collaborative effort, one that involves both the artist and the audience. Have students find a piece of art (visual, musical, literary, etc.) and imagine a conversation with the artist about the work. Students can write this as an essay or a story. 
  3. Joan Titus recorded Lillian Smith three months before her death in September 1966. Have students interview a relative or family friend about one of their memoires or friendships in their childhood then have students transcribe the interview. 



  1. Lillian Smith uses the term "collaboration of the dream" throughout "Trembling Earth." What does she mean by this phrase? Who are the collaborators? What are their roles? What is the dream? 
  2. Smith states, "a book in nothing until you find the reader who can listen and really hear everything you're saying in the book. And most readers hear very little of what you're saying." What does Smith mean by this statement? What role does the reader play in the "collaboration of the dream." 
  3. Smith tells us that critics inform how we think about artistic productions. What role do critics play in our appreciation of art? How do they impact our understanding and perceptions of artistic expression? 
  4. What role do the graveyard and funerals play in Smith's memories and thoughts about her own mortality?