South to America: Book summary and reviews of South to America by Imani Perry

South to America

A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation

by Imani Perry

South to America by Imani Perry X
South to America by Imani Perry
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About this book

Book Summary

An essential, surprising journey through the history, rituals, and landscapes of the American South - and a revelatory argument for why you must understand the South in order to understand America.

We all think we know the South. Even those who have never lived there can rattle off a list of signifiers: the Civil War, Gone with the Wind, the Ku Klux Klan, plantations, football, Jim Crow, slavery. But the idiosyncrasies, dispositions, and habits of the region are stranger and more complex than much of the country tends to acknowledge. In South to America, Imani Perry shows that the meaning of American is inextricably linked with the South, and that our understanding of its history and culture is the key to understanding the nation as a whole.

This is the story of a Black woman and native Alabaman returning to the region she has always called home and considering it with fresh eyes. Her journey is full of detours, deep dives, and surprising encounters with places and people. She renders Southerners from all walks of life with sensitivity and honesty, sharing her thoughts about a troubling history and the ritual humiliations and joys that characterize so much of Southern life.

Weaving together stories of immigrant communities, contemporary artists, exploitative opportunists, enslaved peoples, unsung heroes, her own ancestors, and her lived experiences, Imani Perry crafts a tapestry unlike any other. With uncommon insight and breathtaking clarity, South to America offers an assertion that if we want to build a more humane future for the United States, we must center our concern below the Mason-Dixon Line.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Perry, professor of African American studies at Princeton, melds memoir, travel narrative, and history in an intimate, penetrating journey through the South...A graceful, finely crafted examination of America's racial, cultural, and political identity. Perry always delivers." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[A] saturated, gorgeously written, and keenly revelatory travelogue...Perry's southern tour is intimate and encompassing, finely laced and steely, affecting and transformative." - Booklist (starred review)

"Perry, a professor of African American studies at Princeton, interweaves personal and regional history in this impressionistic study of the American South. Adding depth and nuance to standard portrayals of 'lost cause' narratives of white supremacy, Perry highlights moments of 'resistance to the slave-based society'...a rich and imaginative tour of a crucial piece of America." - Publishers Weekly

"The chapters about cities where Perry has a strong connection (e.g., Birmingham, where she spent her early childhood) are moving, but others can be hard to follow, when the hodgepodge of facts and stories don't seem to be leading to a specific point about that place. Recommended for readers of travelogues and African American and Southern history, as long as they like a meandering style." - Library Journal

"South to America marks time like Beloved did. Similarly, we will talk not solely of books about the south, but books generally as before or after South to America. I have known and loved the South for four decades and Imani Perry has shown me that there is so much more in our region's fleshy folds to know, explore and love. It is simply the most finely crafted and rigorously conceived book about our region, and nation, I have ever read." - Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

"In the tradition of native daughters and sons returning home and cataloging the journey, Imani Perry undertakes an exploration of and meditation on the many Souths that make up the American southland. Part pilgrimage, part elegy and clarion call, South to America is wide-ranging, associative and seamlessly woven—an ambitious sweep of history, culture, language. Perry's intellect is capacious. Moving deftly between registers, she proves to be an insightful and compelling guide." - Natasha Trethewey, author of Memorial Drive

"An elegant meditation on the complexities of the American South—and thus of America—by an esteemed daughter of the South and one of the great intellectuals of our time. An inspiration." - Isabel Wilkerson, New York Times bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

This information about South to America shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Imani Perry

Imani Perry is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Perry is the author of Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, winner of the 2019 Bograd-Weld Biography Prize from the Pen America Foundation. She is also the author of Breathe: A Letter to My Sons; Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation; May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem; and South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation. Perry, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, who grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Chicago, lives outside Philadelphia with her two sons.

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