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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Dotty Oliver, Mistress of the Misunderstood

Dotty Oliver - Mistress of the Misunderstood[Welcome Dotty Oliver, and Host Warwick Sabin.] [As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

Mistress of the Misunderstood

Here in Arkansas, we know Dotty Oliver as the brave, smart, fun and irreverent woman who published the Arkansas Free Press, which started around the time Bill Clinton became president in 1993 and lasted until 2008.

The Free Press (known locally as the FREEP) was the very alternative free weekly newspaper in Little Rock, as opposed to the Arkansas Times, which was merely the alternative free weekly newspaper.  Those of you who believe that liberal, uninhibited expression doesn’t exist in the South would have had your preconceptions significantly altered by a brief confrontation with the FREEP.

Of course, Dotty Oliver was not the typical Southern girl.  She left her Little Rock high school to enroll in an all-male trade school, and shortly thereafter moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and joined the psychedelic scene there.  Back in Arkansas a couple of years later, she lived in a commune with the band Black Oak Arkansas.  All of these experiences gave her a rich template to draw from for her writing, which has been called “a cross between Gloria Steinem and Hunter S. Thompson with a hint of Mark Twain thrown in for good measure.”

The glory years of the FREEP coincided with the long gubernatorial administration (1996-2007) of Mike Huckabee, and many of Dotty’s columns and stories collected in “Mistress of the Misunderstood” concern him.

Dotty’s column on July 7, 1999 begins: “On June 23rd, I received a knock at the door.  It was a lawsuit being delivered for Gov. Mike Huckabee suing me for allegedly printing malicious lies.”

Instead of being intimidated, Dotty goes on to discuss the Christian Coalition, the war on drugs, the media, and women’s rights, before finally concluding: “So Gov. Huckabee, what is the real reason you are suing me?  Is it because I say what I’m thinking in my columns and it’s offensive to you and the Republican Party?”

It is that kind of honesty, openness, fearlessness and free-thinking that Dotty brings to all of the topics in “Mistress of the Misunderstood,” whether it is pop culture, politics, human rights, or sex.

You don’t have to be from Arkansas to appreciate or understand this book.  In fact, considering that we brought you Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee, and a long list of associated phenomena, you might find this book surprisingly helpful and enlightening.

At the very least, you will find it fresh, entertaining and exciting, as Dotty’s writing and perspective is a product of her turbulent and unusual life.

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Warwick Sabin

Warwick Sabin

Warwick Sabin is the Publisher of The Oxford American magazine. He also serves as President of the Arkansas Committee on Foreign Relations, a state affiliate of the American Committees on Foreign Relations. Previously he was Associate Editor of the Arkansas Times and co-host of "Unconventional Wisdom," a public affairs program on Arkansas public television. Before that, he was Director of Development for the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation in Little Rock. He also served as Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Marion Berry (Ark.-01) in Washington, D.C. Selected as a 1998 Marshall Scholar, he earned an M.A. (Oxon) in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University in 2000. During his time in England, he was the speechwriter to U.S. Ambassador Philip Lader at the American Embassy in London. Earlier he held internships at Foreign Affairs magazine in New York City and the White House. In 1998 he graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arkansas, where he was president of the student body. Sabin also was named a 1997 Truman Scholar, as well as a member of the 1998 USA Today All-American Academic Team.