Six Contemporary Southern Books Everyone Should Read


Ubi bene ibi patria

"Here are six books by contemporary writers with roots in Kentucky, east Tennessee, West Virginia, and upstate South Carolina. Note that in the very act of reading the names of those places, as you have just done, you may inadvertently conjure in your mind a multitude of negative or simplified depictions.

You may hear full-gallop banjo picking. You may visualize some skewed humanoid picture of “inbreeding,” whatever that term has come to mean. Note that the mainstream national media might be to blame for this conjuring, as it tends to function in a sensational and visually-jarring manner that homogenizes a people and misrepresents a region, thus perpetuating a cycle of wholesale cultural dismissal.

The truth about the Appalachian South and its people, of course, is more complex, and it involves all that the rivers and roads and rails brought to us, and all that they took away. The truth is found here in fiction and in poetry, in the wise and funny and heart-breaking voices of those who have listened, of those who know not only their collective past, but also how to best sit you down and tell it to you, if only you will listen. These are six books you won’t soon forget."