Nonfiction: The New Mind of the South by Tracy Thompson

That is a mighty audacious title, self-consciously placing The New Mind of the South as a successor to W.J. Cash’s seminal The Mind of the South.

Thompson gives two catalysts for writing this book.  First, she discovers that one of her ancestors was a Union sympathizer.  As someone who grew up in southern Appalachia hearing (inflated) stories about how much Union support up there, I was a bit bemused at her overreaction.  Thompson’s second catalyst is the disappearance of sorts of the South.  This is certainly true, but only to a point.  W.J. Cash’s closing paragraph still rings true today.  Thompson sees the South as defined by, first and foremost, two cultural institutions: slavery and evangelical Protestantism.  The small fact that slavery no longer exists does little to lessen its influence today.  The ruts and scars are still there.  The South has always been religious, and even as the ubiquity of religion has faded its intensity has grown.

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