Sister Anne Brooks’ life has been full of surprises — not only in what she has felt called to do, but also when.
At age 17, Sister Anne joined a convent against the wishes of her father, who was not Catholic. She later went to medical school — at the age of 40. After becoming a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, she then moved to Tutwiler, Miss., where she received her only job offer, to reopen the local clinic.
Sister Anne, also known professionally as Dr. Brooks, went on to serve as the director of the Tutwiler Clinic for 34 years, touching thousands of lives during her tenure.
Authors Sally Palmer Thomason and Jean Carter Fisher first learned about Sister Anne through Betty Bobo Pearson, the subject of their first book “Delta Rainbow: The Irrepressible Betty Bobo Pearson” and one of Sister Anne’s patients at the clinic.
Sister Anne would become the heroine of Palmer Thomason and Carter Fisher’s next collaboration, titled “The Power of One: Sister Anne Brooks and the Tutwiler Clinic.”
Palmer Thomason and Carter Fisher will present the inaugural lecture in the Martha Swain Speaker Series at Mississippi University for Women on Thursday. Their presentation will be at 6 p.m. in Rent Auditorium on campus and simultaneously streamed on Zoom.
Prior to their lecture, the authors will appear at Friendly City Books for a book signing from 2-4 p.m. the same day.
Palmer Thomason and Carter Fisher jointly participated in an interview with The Dispatch, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What made you decide to write this book?
Panny Mayfield, a writer from the Delta and longtime friend and patient of Sister Anne, had been collecting documents and information for years about her friend, with the intention of writing Sister Anne’s story. In the spring of 2017, Sister Anne planned to retire within months and the writing needed to begin. However, Panny’s current obligations prevented her from starting to write the story for several years.
Sister Anne suggested she ask Sally if she would be interested. Sister Anne had read “Delta Rainbow: The Irrepressible Betty Bobo Pearson.” Panny called Sally. Sally called Jean and they said yes and the writing began.
What was your process of writing the book together and researching Sister Anne’s life?
[We] read the material from Panny and had extensive interviews with Sister Anne in Tutwiler Clinic, her retirement home in Latham, N.Y., and by phone, plus multiple interviews with individuals who had known or worked with Sister Anne. Sally wrote and Jean edited.
Is there a particular story from someone that Sister Anne helped or worked with that really stood out to you?
There are so many individual incidents that we believe Sister Anne’s words respond to the question:
I look at the person, I don’t look at the disease. I look at the whole person. When we talk about the whole person, you talk about their water supply, the roof over their head, how they treat their children, how their children treat them. When someone comes in and says, “I cut my leg,” I say, “Well, how did you cut your leg?” They say, “ Well, I fell through the porch.” The next thing I say, “Well, how can we fix that porch?”
What was the most surprising thing you discovered about Sister Anne?
There are so many surprises in Anne Brooks’ story, but we decided on the fact that after 18 years of crippling, wheelchair-dependent arthritis and extensive treatment in multiple medical facilities, she regained complete physical mobility through holistic treatment.
What was the biggest lesson you took away from Sister Anne’s life and work?
A single individual, through dedication and perseverance, can influence and change one’s own life and have influence for change in the self-understanding and lives of others.
Emily Liner is the owner and founder of Friendly City Books, an independent bookstore and press in Columbus, Mississippi.