Photo by Madoline Markham.
Lanier Isom 2
Lanier Isom worked on her first book, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, from the Crestline farmhouse where she lives with her family.
It took 19 years on the job for Lilly Ledbetter to learn that the Goodyear plant in Gadsden had been paying her less than men doing the same job as she. It took 10 years of fighting for equal rights in the workforce before she saw any results. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, inspired by Ledbetter’s historic discrimination case.
A new book telling Ledbetter’s story, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, was not just years in the making for Ledbetter though.
Mountain Brook resident Lanier Scott Isom had been writing throughout her career before she partnered with Ledbetter to share this story with the world. Grace and Grit is Isom’s first book.
“Writing the memoir of an Alabama woman seeking social justice was a dream project for me because it involved many elements close to my heart,” Isom said. “Lilly’s memoir also involved using the eye of a reporter and the heart of a novelist.”
Random House published the book with a Feb. 28 release date. It is now available at Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Amazon and other major retailers across the country. Isom is traveling with Ledbetter to New York where Ledbetter will be on CBS This Morning and The Rachel Maddow Show on March 5 to talk about the book.
The book project started as a single article Isom was writing about Ledbetter for Thicket magazine. Birmingham photographer Jason Wallis took the book’s cover photograph for the original article, bringing the book’s Alabama ties full circle.
“[Lilly and I] had a great rapport, and she wanted an Alabama writer for her book,” Isom said. “We hit it off, and she chose me of all people.”
Isom had long been passionate about both about writing about Alabama people and about social justice. Ledbetter’s project was the perfect marriage of the two.
“Lilly is a pistol,” Isom said. “She is charming, tough and smart. She is the most determined person I have ever met and frankly very inspiring to me.”
Isom wrote the book proposal over the course of a year, the usual amount of time for a good proposal. It sold in a matter of weeks. Grace and Grit remains one of Isom’s proudest accomplishments.
“[In] nine months, I had fleshed out the book; nine months after that, Grace and Grit will be published,” she said. “I like to say writing and publishing the book are akin to the gestation cycle of an elephant, except longer.”
Isom is quick to emphasize the importance of another person in Ledbetter’s life, her attorney and Mountain Brook resident Jon Goldfarb. He fought her case for six years and stood by her until the legislation in her name was passed. “I am not sure who else would do that,” Isom said.
Isom and Ledbetter will speak on March 2 as a part of Altamont Alumni Author Series at the Altamont School, where she attended high school and returned to teach literature and writing after receiving her master’s degree in English. Isom also taught at Mountain Brook High School.
While teaching, she had become a literary jack-of-all-trades by writing editorials, book reviews and articles as a freelancer. She later became a publicist and served as the editor of Birmingham Home and Garden magazine for several years.
“I say the whole [Lilly Ledbetter] thing came about because I wrote for years and years—and with a little serendipity,” she said.
While teaching, Isom wrote her first novel. She is currently seeking a publisher while she writes her second novel.
Born and raised in Mountain Brook, Isom lives with her husband, Hugo, and her kids in a Crestline farmhouse her grandfather bought in 1918. Her son Clint is in the eighth grade at Altamont and daughter Frances is in third grade at Crestline Elementary.
For more information on Isom and the book, visit www.lanierisom.com.