Cornelia Nixon

1998 Wallace Fellow
Novelist
Bloomington, IN

@nealthegirl

About the Fellow

Cornelia Nixon is a novelist and short story writer. A member of the English faculty at Indiana University since 1981, she is the author of Now You See It, a novel-in-stories published in 1992; Lawrence's Leadership: Politics and the Turn Against Women, a work of criticism as well as short stories published in the Indiana Review and the Michigan Quarterly Review.She is the recipient of O. Henry Awards in 1993 and 1995 and a Teaching Excellence Recognition Award from Indiana University in 1997, as well as numerous scholarly fellowships. At AAS, Nixon conducted research for, Jarrettsville, a novel telling the true story of her ancestor, Martha Jane Carines, a Maryland woman who killed her fiancé in 1869 and was acquitted.

Synopsis of Jarrettsville:
Based on a true story from the author’s family history, Jarrettsville begins in 1869, just after Martha Jane Cairnes has shot and killed her fiancé, Nicholas McComas, in front of his Union cavalry militia as they were celebrating the anniversary of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

To find out why she murdered him, the story steps back to 1865, six days after the surrender, when President Lincoln has just been killed by John Wilkes Booth. Booth belongs to the same Rebel militia as Martha’s hot-headed brother Richard, who has gone missing along with Booth. Martha is loyal to her brother but in love with Nicholas McComas, a local hero of the Union cause, and their affair is fraught with echoes of the bloody conflict just ended.

The story is set in Northern Maryland, six miles below the Mason-Dixon line, where brothers literally fought on opposing sides, and former slave-owners live next door to abolitionists and freed men. Such tension proves key to Martha’s motives in killing the man she loves, and why — astonishingly — she is soon acquitted by a jury of her peers, despite more than fifty eyewitnesses to the crime.

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