Stuck on Southern

03 Mar

the invention of wingsNo, not food or wailing blues music, both of which I do like a lot. I’ve been reading southern books for several weeks (months?) now. Several years ago I gave myself a graduate course on Tennessee Williams, then black writers. More recently it’s been V.C. Andrews of Flowers in the Attic fame, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Sue Monk Kidd. What do people DO who don’t have fabulous public libraries? I can’t imagine.

This process of immersing myself into the gothic, dark nature of the South and its ethic of class structure, proper society, and land inheritance satisfies a curiosity about my own Midwestern roots, certain deep, mysterious values. When I read all these southern stories I “hear” my parents’ neighbors and customers from childhood, the figures of speech, the humor, the making fun of uppity people, and the crude remarks about the opposite sex. Harsh treatment of folks who are a little off in the upstairs. I’m coming to the conclusion that a mellow, mild, Northernized version of the South seeped into the Midwest. It’s still there/here.

culture map of the USI highly recommend Sue Monk Kidd’s latest book, The Invention of Wings, a stark historical story of the Grimke sisters of Charleston who left their father’s slave-labored plantation and became abolitionist lecturers in the North. This was in the 1830s! And also please take a look at this marvelous map from Tufts Magazine that shows the true cultural map of our country. Where are you?


Posted by on March 3, 2014 in Uncategorized


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5 responses to “Stuck on Southern

  1. Carl Stilwell

    March 3, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Like the review of Ms Kidd’s book. I remember the Grimke sisters among the list of abolitionists when I taught U.S. History at Thomas Starr King Middle School in LA. otherwise I wouldn’t have remembered them.

  2. Ellen Bowers

    March 3, 2014 at 6:51 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed the story about the Grimke sisters. It reads like a thriller.

  3. Donna

    March 4, 2014 at 4:24 am

    Playing around on FB, I scored 45% in the “how southern are you?” test. I was glad to know that I hadn’t lost ALL of the South in me and now I know why – According to the map, I’m still amongst it to some degree. My heart will always be in the South, though, especially as long as my parents are still on this earth.

    Thanks, Ellen, for the interesting blog.

  4. Ellen Bowers

    March 4, 2014 at 4:40 am

    I’m going to look for that test! Thanks for reading my blog, Donna. I’d been pondering these ideas for quite awhile, and it was time for them to have a voice. It really helps to know other people who understand the southern values. Missouri is SO ODD because it was divided during the Civil War.

  5. Peter Dawson

    March 4, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Funny, I was just singing to myself the old Jesse Winchester song “Nothin’ but a Breeze” This reminds me of the line: “I’m the kinda guy who likes to ride the middle, I don’t like this bouncing back an forth. Me I wanna keep my feet in Dixie and my head in the cool blue North.” (Forgive me if the lyrics aren’t precise, I haven’t heard it in ages.)


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