Although this volume probably does not qualify for the Reading Challenge, one of my favorite books with a decidedly Southern setting is titled Dixie Rising: How the South is Shaping American Values, Politics and Culture by Peter Applebome. A transplanted, self-proclaimed Yankee now living in Atlanta, GA., Applebome has written about the South for more than 20 years. In a moment of candid clarity he writes, "Out of habit or ancestral loyalties, I still vote Democratic and root for the Celtics and the San Francisco/New York Giants of the world of my father and grandfather. I hate football. I find stock-car racing unfathomable. I don't have a bass boat, a pickup, a gun or a taste for bourbon. I've never read Gone With The Wind and fell asleep the only time I went to the movie. I don't even root for the Atlanta Braves. But, like countless people before me, I know I've been seduced. The weather is warmer, the people nicer, the traffic milder, the prices lower, the pace of life saner, the greenery lusher, the history richer. Even the race relations are better."
In Dixie Rising, Applebome delves into the history and contemporary sociopolitical climate of places such as Newtland (Cobb County, GA), Selma & Montgomery, AL, Charleston & Charlotte, NC, the Delta of Mississippi and Moreland, GA the home of a museum dedicated to Louis Grizzard. Through this literary journey, the reader is afforded a front-row seat to witness the cultural, social and political changes that have taken place since the end of the 19th Century, and, consequently, the indelible mark the American South has wielded upon the nation as a whole. As one reviewer of Dixie Rising writes, "Southern values have become American values. Southern politicians lead both political parties, and the South has powered the rightward shift in American politics over the course of the past three decades. The South is far and away the leading area of population and economic growth in America. People in Michigan are listening to Country Music and parishioners in California are worshipping at Southern Baptist churches. New Yorkers are lining up to hear Newt Gingrich speak and militia members in Idaho look at Southern neo-Confederates as allies and inspirations."
For anyone interested in learning more about the way the culture of our heritage has become a national force, I highly recommend this monograph. I suspect most readers will come away from this work not only having thoroughly enjoyed Applebome's bouncy prose, but also enlightened by his investigation of the maturation of Dixie.