Every area of the US has its personal literary taste. Authors writing regional literature seize that taste by exploring the landscapes, traditions, and tradition of their house states.
Currently, the searing warmth of my house state sends me straight to the Southern literature shelf, the place I discover atmospheric fiction that captures the thick, humid air, the boiling stress of household secrets and techniques, and the age-old themes the area has grappled with for many years.
The American South boasts a vibrant literary legacy, having borne authors like Zora Neale Hurston, Jesmyn Ward, and William Faulkner. But no single Southern novel—or only one guide record—can presumably characterize such a big expanse of land or such various communities.
With that in thoughts, know that it is a mere pattern of what Southern literature has to supply. The examples of Southern literature I’m sharing right now embrace each up to date titles and traditional ones. These are a few of my favourite novels (and considered one of my husband Will’s favorites) by Southern authors, with tales set within the Deep South, southern Appalachia, and the Southeastern coast. All of those areas include their very own traditions, accents, and folktales—however they collectively supply a consultant slice of the regional literature of the American South.
Atmospheric, literary, humorous, and memorable—these novels will transport you to the Southern United States with distinct characters and a powerful sense of place.
Whether or not you’re within the temper for a fascinating traditional or a up to date tackle the area, I hope you discover a satisfying style of Southern literature on this record.
15 absorbing novels set within the American South
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This is likely one of the books I like to recommend most frequently on What Should I Read Next? though I resisted studying this one for a very long time as a result of the title merely didn’t enchantment. Readers, please do not make the identical mistake, particularly should you’re drawn to novels that comply with one character over the course of a few years. You’ll love spending time with Jayber Crow and the small city neighborhood of Port William, Kentucky. This beautiful novel has a powerful sense of place. It is a guide you possibly can see and really feel. It is contemplative, lovely, and unhappy. I can not cease studying or recommending it, and I all the time hope it finds the correct reader on the proper time. More info →
What occurs once we get the factor we want most in life—solely to search out that it’d destroy us? That is the query Margaret faces on the opening of Evensong. This story, set within the mountains of North Carolina, faithfully examines marriage and vocation and calling via the eyes of Margaret, a thirty-something Episcopal priest, who’s compelled to lastly confront issues when three sudden and—let’s face it—unwelcome visitors arrive in her sleepy North Carolina mountain city of Excessive Balsam. This guide, first printed in 1999, has the fingerprints of the millennium throughout it. In the event you find it irresistible, return and skim its predecessor, Father Melancholy’s Daughter. More info →
Joshilyn Jackson lives in Georgia, the place she each writes and narrates Southern fiction and home thrillers. Completely fitted to studying on a sizzling summer time day, this story begins when candy 21-year-old Shandi “fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle Ok” when he steps between a gunman who’s excessive on medicine and her 3-year-old son. When the disaster is over, Shandi hurls herself into a brand new mission: getting him to like her again. This blonde god-like man she so rapidly fell in love with seems to be an excellent geneticist, whose genetic make-up comprises some “particular duplications and deletions.” What Shandi would not understand is that she’s stepped into the center of another person’s love story, not her personal—however that story proves to be much more fascinating than she ever may have dreamed. More info →
With sparkly Southern girls, screwed-up household relationships, and magical realism, this novel is quintessential Sarah Addison Allen: a bit of bit quirky, a contact romantic, and completely suited to learn in a single afternoon. 27-year-old Josey lives in North Carolina, the place she’d relatively eat sugary treats and skim romance novels than follow being an ideal Southern Belle. Her distinctive magic will make readers swoon: the precise guide she wants in her life, on the proper second, mysteriously seems—on her bedside desk, on her desk at work, in her purse. Candy-but-not-too-syrupy, this pleasant chunk of Southern fiction will fulfill your yearning for a darling, unputdownable learn. More info →
Kingsolver grew up in Kentucky, and units this novel in southern Appalachia. When a younger girl witnesses one thing inexplicable in nature, her expertise creates stress between spiritual leaders, scientists, politicians, and local weather change specialists with totally different views on what precisely it was that she noticed. Suspenseful and page-turning, I believed this finely crafted novel had many fantastic moments and a disappointing ending. (That is not a cause to skip: ambiguous endings make for excellent guide membership conversations.) And take a look at the audiobook, narrated by Kingsolver herself. It’s unusual for novelists to read their own work, however Kingsolver’s lyrical voice completely fits her prose. More info →
Set in 1980s Atlanta, Jones’ third novel has among the finest opening strains: “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” One in all our favourite authors right here at MMD, Jones writes in regards to the hyperlink between two African-American half sisters, one reputable and one secret, solely considered one of whom is aware of the opposite exists. That’s, till the key of their father’s second marriage begins to power its means into the open. Fairly than writing back-and-forth between two views, the reader encounters nearly all of 1 sister’s viewpoint within the first half, adopted by the opposite’s. The result’s an absorbing coming-of-age narrative wrapped in an advanced household novel. More info →
On the lookout for a sweeping novel set in southern Florida? Observe Janie Crawford as she experiences love and loss and comes of age within the 1920s. Often called Hurston’s finest work, this story about expectations, marriage, and stunning romance is richly atmospheric. It’s a traditional for a cause, with a important character you may always remember. The truth is, echoes of Janie Crawford will be seen in up to date literature, like Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. I extremely advocate listening to the audiobook model, narrated by Ruby Dee, to totally expertise Hurston’s expertise for writing dialect. More info →
Flagg serves up heartfelt moments, a great deal of humor, and mouth-watering barbecue in her iconic Southern girls’s fiction. In her 1987 novel-turned-Academy-nominated-script, we meet tomboy Idgie and her good friend Ruth who run a diner in Whistle Cease, Alabama within the 1930s. Quick ahead 50 years, and Mrs. Threadgoode tells their story to a middle-aged Evelyn (and us) for inspiration and encouragement. Evelyn’s life wants a jump-start as she faces down the second half of her years, making this an ideal alternative for anybody desirous to examine seasoned female protagonists or anybody in search of an endearing forged of characters coming collectively in a small Southern city. More info →
North Carolina native Wiley Money writes page-turning Southern literature. This 2017 launch is a fictionalized account of the 1929 Loray Mill strike in Gastonia—with a particular concentrate on folks hero and ballad singer Ella Mae Wiggins—and was partly impressed by Appalachian mining city backgrounds of Money’s personal grandparents. Although set practically 100 years in the past, Money’s story sizzles with life. Readers, don’t miss his acknowledgements—and should you’re loving this story, go forward and place a maintain on Money’s most up-to-date novel: When Ghosts Come Home, considered one of my 2021 favorites. More info →
After I consider Southern literary fiction, Jesmyn Ward comes first to thoughts. Her beautiful prose and atmospheric sense of place stand firmly within the Southern Gothic custom. Set within the current day, this story of three generations of a struggling Mississippi household explores inherited trauma, dependancy, incarceration, and unsettling historical past. It’s heavy content material, however Ward imbues even the household’s most painful moments with tenderness and wonder. Award-winning, uniquely structured, and completely devastating, this haunting novel is certain to be thought of a traditional for years to come back. More info →
I have been following fellow Kentucky writer Silas Home’s profession ever since a good friend raved about his YA debut Eli the Good. His newest work facilities on Asher Sharp, a Pentecostal preacher in rural Tennessee. When a flood devastates his neighborhood, he presents shelter to 2 homosexual males—and his congregation’s response prompts a disaster of religion, and a public meltdown, the video of which works viral. Within the aftermath he flees to Key West (therefore the title) to cope with unfinished enterprise from his previous. Readers will discover a heat and reflective novel, with Home’s acquainted lovely prose. More info →
This strange story focuses on a robust Southern political household with one tiny drawback: when their youngsters get mad, they spontaneously combust (critically!). The husband is angling to grow to be Secretary of State, and should even run for president at some point—but when the reality will get out, his profession is over. And so the household calls on an unlikely candidate to step in as a nanny-of-sorts: an estranged previous good friend with a troubled previous who has no thought what she’s in for. A surprisingly poignant meditation on friendship and motherhood, hopes and goals, triumph and defeat, and a narrative about changing into your individual particular person, and forming your individual household—whether or not that’s the one you’re given, or the one you discover. It is a quick guide that packs a punch, with a Southern setting and memorable characters. More info →
Many readers do not know of prolific Harlem Renaissance poet Margaret Walker. Born and raised in Alabama, Walker printed just one novel in 1966. This lesser identified work is each historic fiction and a traditional: the sweeping story follows an enslaved girl named Vyry via the antebellum period, the Civil Battle, and Reconstruction, specializing in her struggles and struggling, the boys she cherished, the kids she bore, and her fixed craving for freedom. Enjoyable reality: Walker modeled her protagonist after her personal great-grandmother. I extremely advocate studying the 50th anniversary version, with a particular ahead from poet Nikki Giovanni. More info →
I really like a very good story-behind-the-story, and this 2022 Summer Reading Guide choice delivers: Stringfellow’s grandfather was a World Battle II veteran who served as the primary Black murder detective in Memphis—earlier than being lynched by his personal all-white police squad. Her grandmother was among the many first Black nurses in Memphis. This twin legacy of excellence and injustice permeates the novel because it traces a legacy of violence and matriarchal energy via three generations of Black girls dwelling on this historic metropolis from 1937 to 2003. It unflinchingly portrays each its sturdy communities and grim historical past of racism and violence, but it additionally lovingly and fiercely conveys the resilience, grit, love, and even pleasure of those girls and their neighborhood. More info →
From Will, who cherished it: This gritty crime novel reveals the numerous dichotomies a spot (and its individuals) can maintain. Appalachian Virginia versus massive metropolis Richmond, Black and white, homosexual and straight, upstanding citizen or lawless legal. Ike and Buddy Lee aren’t associates however they grow to be companions as a result of they share an unlucky bond–their sons had been murdered. The truth is the one factor they’ve in widespread previous to this tragedy is a strained relationship with a son they could not perceive—or maybe selected to not perceive. Half vigilante story, half remedy session for the 2 fathers. This story is illuminating with out being preachy. More info →
Do you’ve a favourite novel set within the South? Please share your suggestions for traditional or up to date Southern literaturewithin the feedback part!
P.P.S. I’ve realized a ton about Southern literature by studying nonfiction books on the subject. The latest I’ve learn and loved is Ralph Eubanks’s 2021 guide A Place Like Mississippi, which covers a ton of floor in simply 268 pages.
What do you think?