What is it about the South that just gets to me? When I visited New Orleans for the first time, it felt like going home. Wandering the streets of the French Quarter, I came across street musician Grandpa Elliot and fan girled like a teenager. I visited the Voodoo Museum, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, and a Mardi Gras museum. These were my people; this was my place. And my food and my drink.
Of course, you can’t sneak away to the South every time you want to get some gumbo, so instead I offer these literary sojourns.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Dynamic and unforgettable characters span generations to bring a tale of family and friendship deeply rooted in Southern tradition. I was dazzled by the portrayal of Louisiana but also of by-gone eras. It was one of those books you wanted to live in and it added so much to my list of ways I want to live my life. You can also check out Little Altars Everywhere, also by Wells, however, despite the quality of the vignettes, I found it shattered my perception of some of the characters from the other text.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
I loved the movie, and when I learned it was a book, I had to get my hands on it. Once I did, I may have read this book more than any other book in my collection. Flagg deserves immense kudos for her rich allusions and the complexity of her plot twists. I was immersed not only in the world of the South, but in a timeline of American culture. While I LOVE this book, I might even love Flagg’s Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man more. Told in journal format by narrator Daisy Fay Harper, it is at turns hysterical and heart warming.
The Sweet Potato Queen’s Book of Love by Jill Conner Browne
This book is just silly. Part recipe book, part self-help (?!), it is a bit naughty and so conversational, you’ll feel as though you were just inducted into this band of fun-loving women. They’ll build you up and send you off with a newly confident air of I-don’t-give-a-hoot what anyone thinks of me anymore (clearly I still do, though, because I used the word ‘hoot’ instead of getting more colorful).
and now we take a turn for more serious literature…
Swamplandia by Karen Russell
While I’ve read the above titles multiple times, I only read Swamplandia once. However, I have long been haunted by its vivid imagery and detailed characters. It is a cornucopia of well chosen words. It’s the story of 13 year old Ava’s attempt to reconstruct her family after her mother’s death, a journey which introduces her to places and people you will long remember.
Finn by Jon Clinch
Wow. This book is a literary spin-off of Twain’s Huck Finn and it takes everything he did one step further as we learn more of Finn’s origins, Twain’s south, and the complexity of our histories-nationalistic and personal alike.
Where do you like to travel via books? What other Southern charmers can you think of??