From ‘The Other Side’
A view of
The works of writer
Daphne Athas ’ 43
often evoke her
growing up in the
orbit of the University.
She’s on the far left in
this 1938 photo.
COURTESY OF DAPHNE ATHAS ’ 48
The place where Daphne Athas ’ 43 spent the teenage
years that helped shape her as a writer — the house she
and her siblings called The Shack — straddled the line separating Carrboro to the west and Chapel Hill to the east.
The Athases did, too. Socio-economically they belonged
to the working-class mill town; socio-intellectually, to
the University and all that came with it, not the least of
which were the fascinating people it attracted.
If you could stand on the porch of the long-gone
Shack today, you would glimpse Greenbridge, 10 stories
of decidedly upscale condominiums and retail that also
straddles the line and heralds change that could not be
foreseen even in the 1980s, the point from which Athas
traces the start of what she calls “the juggernaut.” She
would teach writing and a spiked-up version of basic
grammar at UNC for another 20 years, but she began
then to see a college not as comfortable with its roots, a
town becoming too big for its bohemian britches.
Today, at 87 — “I feel beyond age; I’m not old, I’m
any age” — her angst is a measure of how thoroughly
she embraced the Chapel Hill of the ’40s and ’50s, how
carefully she clung to Carrboro.
For much of the time since the 1971 publication of her
Entering Ephesus, which often is called the best novel about
Chapel Hill, Athas has longed for a publisher to share
the value she put on a group of memoir/essays that take
readers — those who remember and those clueless —
way back to the village of Ab Abernethy and The
Intimate Bookshop, the Communist Junius Scales, A Tree
Grows in Brooklyn author Betty Smith, the maltreatment
of Native Son author Richard Wright. These or portions
of them, including a rather unflattering look at UNC
icon Horace Williams, were published at various times,
many in the old Raleigh Spectator.