Southern Literature

Image of Harper Lee at a desk.
Donald Uhrbrock / The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

What lessons can the now-deceased Harper Lee teach a modern-day investigative journalist? Writer Casey Cep retraced Lee’s footsteps to a small town in Alabama to find out. She reopened a 1970s murder case that Lee had once obsessively followed: a rural preacher named Reverend Willie Maxwell who was accused of killing five of his family members for insurance money.

In 'Going To Graceland,' Moose compiles tales from 22 pilgrims visiting the home of their idol, Elvis.
Courtesy of Ruth Moose

A hairdresser, a secretary, a preacher and a wrestler stand in the sun in a line of fellow pilgrims. They come from small towns in every nook and cranny of the South, their home-cooked lunches in hand, to seek the counsel and blessings of their patron saint, St. Elvis of Tupelo. While they gather together at the gates of Graceland, the pilgrims swap stories – some poignant, some silly, and only a few related to Elvis – to pass the time.

Image of writer Tayari Jones
Nina Subin

Tayari Jones is committed to writing about the South as she sees it. Her critically-acclaimed novels are all deeply rooted in Atlanta and explore the intersection of black family stories with the structures that define American life.

Best-selling North Carolinian author Allan Gurganus.
Courtesy of Roger Haile

Allan Gurganus is a New York Times best-selling author whose work has been seen on both television and the Broadway stage. The TV adaptation of his novel “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” won four primetime Emmy awards, including a best supporting actress win for Cicely Tyson. He built much of his career telling stories of the old South, but in his early days Gurganus was an aspiring artist who studied painting at the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. 

Driving Through a Changing South

Sep 29, 2017
book cover of "Discovering the South: One Man's Travels Through a Changing America in the 1930s."
Courtesy of Jennifer Ritterhouse

In the summer of 1937, Jonathan Daniels, the young, white, liberal-minded editor of the News & Observer, embarked on a driving tour of 10 Southern states. He documented the stories of the diverse people he encountered and hoped to change the national perception of the region.

Diana Matthews / Algonquin Books

This program originally aired April 4, 2016

Lee Smith started writing stories when she was nine years old and sold them for a nickel a piece.

Many of them were inspired by the gossip, true stories and daily grind she observed at her father's dime store, deep in the coal mining mountains of Virginia.

Jim Grimsley was an 11-year-old boy growing up in Jones County, North Carolina, when the first black children enrolled in his all-white school.

It was more than 10 years after Brown v. Board of Education and Grimsley’s whole world was about to change. Grimsley gets into this in his new memoir, in which he describes the racist environment in which he was raised and how he began to rethink his assumptions.

Author Wiley Cash smiling outside
photo by Tiffany B. Davis http://www.wileycash.com/

Wiley Cash's latest novel, "This Dark Road to Mercy," is set in his hometown  of Gastonia, N.C. 

In 1960, Elizabeth Spencer became a southern literary icon with the release of her novella, "The Light in the Piazza." The film version of the book starred Olivia de Havilland.

More than fifty years after her acclaimed Italian love story, Spencer is still writing.  Her newest collection of short stories is "Starting Over" (Liveright, 2013).

All of the narratives in the book stem from her two southern homes: Mississippi and North Carolina.

Algonquin Books

    

William Faulkner may be one of the most well-known writers of the 20th century. But you might not associate his name with southern literature if not for Louis Rubin

Rubin helped develop the genre of southern literature in its own right. A well-respected writer, an adored teacher and the founder of the Southern Literary Journal and the Society for the Study of Southern Literature, Rubin is regarded as one of the icons of southern writing.