BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘South To America: A Journey Below The Mason-Dixon To Understand The Soul Of A Nation’ by Imani Perry

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, host of the long-running Book Stew, a video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, authors, playwrights, and even a cat who survived a tornado and wrote a book about it.

South To America: A Journey Below The Mason-Dixon To Understand The Soul Of A Nation by Imani Perry

If you enjoyed “How the Word is Passed,” Clint Smith’s tour of historically important sites of enslavement, you may also cherish this memoir-travelogue. Or not.

Perry’s is a much more personal view, reflective of her family origins and of how the cities she visits reflect the history of Black Americans, how they arrived, how they suffered, how they thrived.

It’s filled with loving encounters with family members, fellow academics, and just plain folks she meets. Her observation that Black and white speech in the South sounds the same, but with unique idioms, was surprising to me. This is a rich itinerary through “Affrilachia”; Harper’s Ferry, WV; Charlottesville; Louisville; Annapolis; DC; Huntsville; Duke University in NC; Atlanta; Birmingham; Nashville; Memphis; Montgomery; Mobile; New Orleans; Jackson; the Georgia Sea Islands; Savannah; Charleston; Miami; Orlando; Havana; and the Bahamas.

The author has a connection to all and a tale for each. This is a remarkable recounting.

QUOTE: “The Janus face of Southern whiteness — they know what they’ve done wrong, and they know you know; they hate you for it, and hate themselves for it, too — is strange.”

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