No, 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.
I 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?