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War of the Winds

Alice Randall vs. the Margaret Mitchell Trust


By most accounts, The Wind Done Gone is a far from beautiful book, but people at first didn't recognize this due to the cloud of commotion surrounding its publication.

A semi-successful Nashville country songwriter (who happens to have a Harvard degree), Alice Randall set out to write an answer to Gone With the Wind, which she considers "poisonous" and "damaging" to generations of black readers. The novel reimagines Scarlett's world from the perspective of her mulatto half-sister, Cynara, and gives a decidedly different take on Tara (renamed "Tata" in the revisionist version).

Upset over an unauthorized sequel to the matriarch's masterwork, the Margaret Mitchell Trust initially blocked the book's publication. The ensuing legal battle and public relations firefight made Randall an overnight celebrity -- a dubious defender of the First Amendment suddenly backed by names ranging from Toni Morrison to Harper Lee. The book was finally released in June, when the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell's injunction against the book's publication, saying the Mitchell estate had fallen short of establishing copyright infringement claims.

Unfortunately, critical response to the much-anticipated "parody" turned out to be roughly equivalent to the burning of Atlanta. Critics decried Randall's writing as a mere shadow of Mitchell's, and comparisons to Margaret Walker's 1967 novel, Jubilee, were rampant.

Despite the criticism, The Wind Done Gone enjoyed a spike in sales due to its controversy; the book has now seen five printings, with 183,000 copies currently in print. Thanks to the Margaret Mitchell Trust, Alice Randall will never go hungry again.

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