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Summer Learning Track: Southern Literature

"My characters aren't grotesque. That's just the way people are in the South."

Flannery O'Connor, speaking at an Iowa Writers' Workshop

http://www.southernliterarytrail.org/

Connect with the history and culture of the South this summer! These works of southern literature are great for new movers or lifelong residents of the southern region. By participating in the Friends Summer Learning Challenge you'll get credit for reading and attending programs. Get started by using this sample Learning Track, or customize your own to meet your specific learning goals. The challenge begins on May 30th and goes through August 16th.

Southern Literary Classics:

  • Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  • A Death in the Family by James Agee
  • All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
  • Contemporary Southern Literature:

  • A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash
  • In Country: a novel by Bobbie Ann Mason
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
  • Salvage the Bones: A Novel Paperback by Jesmyn Ward
  • The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly
  • Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
  • The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
  • Safe from the Neighbors by Steve Yarborough
  • Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus
  • Books Set in South Carolina:

  • Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorthy Allison
  • The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe
  • Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow
  • Edisto by Padgett Powell
  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank
  • The Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn
  • Saints at the River by Ron Rash
  • The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy
  • Southern Books to Movies:

  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  • Amazon Says: Experience one of the most significant milestones in film history like never before with To Kill a Mockingbird 50th Anniversary Edition. Screen legend Gregory Peck stars as co more...
    Amazon Says: Experience one of the most significant milestones in film history like never before with To Kill a Mockingbird 50th Anniversary Edition. Screen legend Gregory Peck stars as courageous Southern lawyer Atticus Finch - the Academy Award winning performance hailed by the American Film Institute as the Greatest Movie Hero of All Time. Based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel about innocence, strength and conviction and nominated for 8 Academy Awards, this beloved classic is now digitally remastered and fully restored for optimum picture and sound quality and boasts hours of unforgettable bonus features. Watch it and remember why “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” less...
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    Amazon Says: The story of an old Southern tragedy which befalls the Sutpen family. more...
    Amazon Says: The story of an old Southern tragedy which befalls the Sutpen family. less...
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    Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
    Amazon Says: One thing you could depend on in Cold Sassy, Georgia, was that word got around--fast. If the preacher's wife's petticoat showed, the ladies would make the talk last a week. Bu more...
    Amazon Says: One thing you could depend on in Cold Sassy, Georgia, was that word got around--fast. If the preacher's wife's petticoat showed, the ladies would make the talk last a week. But on July 5, 1906, things took a scandalous turn. That was the day E. Rucker Blakeslee, proprietor of the general store and barely three weeks a widower, eloped with Miss Love Simpson--a woman half his age and, worse yet, a Yankee! On that day, fourteen-year-old Will Tweedy's adventures began, and an unimpeachably pious town came to life. As the newlyweds' chaperone, conspirator, and confidant, Will is privy to his renegade grandfather's second adolescence. Meanwhile, Will does some growing up of his own. He gets run over by a train and lives to tell about it, and he kisses his first girl and survives that too. Author Olive Ann Burns has given us a timeless, funny, Southern romance. less...
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    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
    Amazon Says: A popular Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy follows the adventures of New Orlean's lower denizens of the French Quarter. more...
    Amazon Says: A popular Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy follows the adventures of New Orlean's lower denizens of the French Quarter. less...
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    The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy
    Amazon Says: An American classic, The Orchard Keeper is the first novel by one of America's finest, most celebrated novelists.  Set is a small, remote community in rural Tennessee more...
    Amazon Says: An American classic, The Orchard Keeper is the first novel by one of America's finest, most celebrated novelists.  Set is a small, remote community in rural Tennessee in the years between the two world wars, it tells of John Wesley Rattner, a young boy, and Marion Sylder, an outlaw and bootlegger who, unbeknownst to either of them, has killed the boy's father.  Together with Rattner's Uncle Ather, who belongs to a former age in his communion with nature and his stoic independence, they enact a drama that seems born of the land itself.  All three are heroes of an intense and compelling celebration of values lost to time and industrialization. less...
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    Amazon Says: “Bold, daring, graceful, and engrossing.”—Bobbie Ann Mason“This book will knock your socks off….A first novel that sings with talent.”—Clyde EdgertonA more...
    Amazon Says: “Bold, daring, graceful, and engrossing.”—Bobbie Ann Mason“This book will knock your socks off….A first novel that sings with talent.”—Clyde EdgertonA stunning debut reminiscent of the beloved novels of John Hart and Tom Franklin, A Land More Kind Than Home is a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina townFor a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can't help sneaking a look at something he's not supposed to—an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess's. It's a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he's not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil—but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.Told by three resonant and evocative characters—Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral conscience; and Clem Barefield, a sheriff with his own painful past—A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all. These are masterful portrayals, written with assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.  less...
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    Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel by Wilton Barnhardt
    Amazon Says: "Move over, Tom Wolfe! Writing with brilliance and brio, Barnhardt has penned a hilarious satire which often has surprising depth and hits way too close to the truth." ―L more...
    Amazon Says: "Move over, Tom Wolfe! Writing with brilliance and brio, Barnhardt has penned a hilarious satire which often has surprising depth and hits way too close to the truth." ―Lee SmithJerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband Duke are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina's high society, a world where old Southern money and the secrets behind it meet the new wealth of bankers, real estate speculators, and carpetbagging social climbers. Steely and implacable, Jerene presides over her family's legacy of paintings at the Mint Museum; Duke, the one-time college golden boy and descendant of a Confederate general, whose promising political career was mysteriously short-circuited, has settled into a comfortable semi-senescence as a Civil War re-enactor. Jerene's brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute bestselling historical novelist who has never managed to begin his long-dreamed-of masterpiece, and their sister Dillard's unfortunate life decisions and losses have rendered her a near-recluse.As the four Johnston children―smart but reckless Annie, good-boy minister Bo, might be gay but that's okay Joshua, and damaged, dangerous Jerilyn―flounder in their adult lives, Jerene must take action to preserve the family's legacy, Duke's fragile honor, and what's left of the dwindling family fortune. She will stop at nothing to keep what she has―is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family? In Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt has written a full-bore, headlong, hilarious narrative of a family coming apart, a society changing beyond recognition, and an unforgettable woman striving to pull it all together.Includes a bonus interview between Wilton Barnhardt and George Witte, editor-in-chief of St. Martin's Press. A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2013 less...
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    Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
    Amazon Says: In Jordan's prize-winning debut, prejudice takes many forms, both subtle and brutal. It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband's M more...
    Amazon Says: In Jordan's prize-winning debut, prejudice takes many forms, both subtle and brutal. It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband's Mississippi Delta farm—a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family's struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura's brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not—charming, handsome, and haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, has come home with the shine of a war hero. But no matter his bravery in defense of his country, he is still considered less than a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its inexorable conclusion. The men and women of each family relate their versions of events and we are drawn into their lives as they become players in a tragedy on the grandest scale. As Kingsolver says of Hillary Jordan, "Her characters walked straight out of 1940s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are with me still." less...
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    The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
    Amazon Says: From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women    Writing at the height of her narrative and imagi more...
    Amazon Says: From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women    Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection. Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women. Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love. As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements. Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better. This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved. less...
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    Amazon Says: A young doctor wrestles with the legacy of a slave “resurrectionist” owned by his South Carolina medical school. "Dog days and the fresh bodies are arriving once again." S more...
    Amazon Says: A young doctor wrestles with the legacy of a slave “resurrectionist” owned by his South Carolina medical school. "Dog days and the fresh bodies are arriving once again." So begins the fall term at South Carolina Medical College, where Dr. Jacob Thacker is on probation for Xanax abuse. His interim career―working public relations for the dean―takes an unnerving detour into the past when the bones of African American slaves, over a century old, are unearthed on campus. Out of the college’s dark past, these bones threaten to rise and condemn the present. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Dr. Frederick Augustus Johnston, one of the school’s founders, had purchased a slave for his unusual knife skills. This slave, Nemo ("no man") would become an unacknowledged member of the surgical faculty by day―and by night, a "resurrectionist," responsible for procuring bodies for medical study. An unforgettable character, by turns apparently insouciant, tormented, and brilliant, and seen by some as almost supernatural, Nemo will seize his self-respect in ways no reader can anticipate.With exceptional storytelling pacing and skill, Matthew Guinn weaves together past and present to relate a Southern Gothic tale of shocking crimes and exquisite revenge, a riveting and satisfying moral parable of the South. less...
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    Amazon Says: A “miraculous” (Newsweek) human drama, based on a true story, from the renowned author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini   The island is nearly desert more...
    Amazon Says: A “miraculous” (Newsweek) human drama, based on a true story, from the renowned author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini   The island is nearly deserted, haunting, beautiful. Across a slip of ocean lies South Carolina. But for the handful of families on Yamacraw Island, America is a world away. For years the people here lived proudly from the sea, but now its waters are not safe. Waste from industry threatens their very existence unless, somehow, they can learn a new way. But they will learn nothing without someone to teach them, and their school has no teacher—until one man gives a year of his life to the island and its people.   Praise for The Water Is Wide   “Miraculous . . . an experience of joy.”—Newsweek   “A powerfully moving book . . . You will laugh, you will weep, you will be proud and you will rail . . . and you will learn to love the man.”—Charleston News and Courier   “A hell of a good story.”—The New York Times   “Few novelists write as well, and none as beautifully.”—Lexington Herald-Leader   “[Pat] Conroy cuts through his experiences with a sharp edge of irony. . . . He brings emotion, writing talent and anger to his story.”—Baltimore Sun less...
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    Amazon Says: The raw emotions and crackling dialogue of Tennessee Williams' 1955 Pulitzer Prize play rumble like a thunderstorm in this film version, whose fiery performances and taboo the more...
    Amazon Says: The raw emotions and crackling dialogue of Tennessee Williams' 1955 Pulitzer Prize play rumble like a thunderstorm in this film version, whose fiery performances and taboo themes made it one of 1957s top box-office hits. Paul Newman earned his first Oscar nomination as troubled ex-sports hero Brick. In a role that marked a transition to richer adult roles, Elizabeth Taylor snagged her second. Her Maggie the Cat is a vivid portrait of passionate loyalty. Nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture and also starring Burl Ives, repeating his Broadway triumph as mendacity-loathing Big Daddy, Judith Anderson and Jack Carson, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF sizzles. less...
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    Amazon Says: Epic Civil War drama about a Southern belle. Winner of 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director Victor Fleming, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress. This m more...
    Amazon Says: Epic Civil War drama about a Southern belle. Winner of 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director Victor Fleming, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress. This movie version is the highest resolution available. Includes historian commentary. less...
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