After years of research, first-time author and Gonzales County resident Jenice Benedict is finally ready to share her family’s story. In the Land of Cotton is a portrait of ordinary life in the American South told over the span of its most tumultuous era: from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.
The novel focuses on seven protagonists—all based on actual members of Benedict’s family—spread across roughly a century. Though the book is considered historical fiction, Benedict dedicated years to meticulously researching her family lineage and crafting what she considered realistic interpretations of these figures.
“Several years ago, I realized I should share more about my ancestors before the details were lost. I had collected a massive amount of data sheets and tangible articles, but they became cumbersome, hard to explain, and didn’t connect emotionally to anyone but me. This was when my laptop seemed to beckon to me to write a book—to bring our ordinary, but brave, Southern American relatives’ stories to life, not only for my immediate family’s knowledge but for readers of any age to enjoy,” Bendict said.
The book begins with a profile of Andrew Hancock, a Confederate soldier from Alabama, and ends with stories on a Methodist circuit rider preacher Reverend M.L. Boone and his wife Ruby. Though men are the focus of several chapters, Benedict also made sure to include the unique perspective of women during this era.
“Half the book is written through a women’s point of view,” Benedict said. “So many books about that day and time are about men’s achievements and made very sure that I wrote about women’s achievements.”
Benedict is a native Texan and resident of Gonzales County. She and her husband own a cattle ranch in the area and Benedict has been heavily involved in community activities. As for her book, she believes that it is a look into Southern life accessible to most.
“Even though the book is about my family, it really is something that I think people when they read it can identify it with their family too,” Benedict said. “These members of family weren’t famous, and nobody was writing down what they said or following them or doing reporting or photography, so they were average people, average everyday kind of people.”
In the Land of Cotton can be purchased anywhere books can be found, including Amazon. For more information on Benedict and her book visit jenicebenedict.com.