NC Literary Hall of Fame



Pretty Much: A Memoir by Betty Bell Brown

Lystra Books & Literary Sources
$16.95, paperback / $5.99, e-book
ISBN: 978-0-9996931-7-9
April, 2019
Nonfiction: Memoir
Available from your local bookstore or

"Betty Brown has written my favorite type of book: an utterly gripping story about family, It's the story of ordinary people finding themselves in extraordinary, physiologically challenging situations. This is truly a memorable book."
—Judy Goldman, author of Together: A Memoir

"Betty Brown is an esteemed painter who, with an artist's eye for detail and truth-telling, has written a memoir, Pretty Much, about her prototypically Southern family. It is an astonishing book. She has skillfully interwoven excepts of her mother's diary (whose 'voice' melds uncannily well with the author's own, as well as exquisite old photos that lend an almost mythological resonance to a story with more of it's share of tragedy. Against all odds, with courage and compassion, Betty Brown has gathered all of these pieces, and much more, in one pitch-perfect, heart-rending book to savor."
—Michael White, poet and professor of creative writing, UNC-Wilmington

"Pretty Much is a palimpsest of author Betty Brown's mother's diary. Brown's own recollection and research, and her original artwork mixed with family photographs. The result is a richly textured portrait of a South Carolina family over the twentieth century with an unforgettable matriarch at the center. Brown's voice is at once familiar and fresh; she is a detached observer whose vaguely ironic tone permeates the memoir's title and the many narrative strands that verge on tragedy. Her love for her rfamily seeps into even her relatives' least loveable moments The reader is simply swept along."
—Cynthia Lewis, Charles A. Dana Professor of English, Davidson College

Pretty Much: A Memoir is the story of a girl named Clara, born when little girls wore white ruffled dresses, though she preferred handmade brown jodhpurs she stitched in pink. Clara, of necessity, grew into a woman who made her own way in the world. No obstacle she encountered deterred her from having her own way, "pretty much." Her daughter, Betty, grew up in Clara's shadow and then had to find her way out from under it to realize her own dreams.

Clara, Betty's mother, was one of a kind. Her family just learned to live with her bizarre actions. She discovered an imperfection the author's Dad had that he couldn't handle. Writing her story helped Betty see her family in the similar way that she stands back to look at a painting in progress to see what it needs.

Betty Bell Brown is primarily a studio/plein air painter, art teacher, widely published writer, award-winning artist, and art teacher, based in Wilmington, North Carolina. She is passionate about writing and intrigued by word and image, her journals from painting trips often trigger her poetry and stories, and often her paintings..

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