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South to America

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Member Reviews

Truly a deep and amazing book with so many interesting historical pieces. I have followed Imani Perry for years and the research she put into this book is obvious. I think many things about the South and Perry really challenges that thinking to provide a more complex view of south of the mason dixon line.
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This book wasn't what I thought it would be--it was so much more. Through a combination of history, memoir, and just some simply stunning storytelling, Imani Perry has redefined not only what the South is, but what a reckoning of it could look like.

While I was reading this, I did a poll on my Instagram (@kiara.in.th.stacks) asking what states my followers considered to be a part of the South. Being a Southerner myself (Carolina born and bred!), I was curious. The answers varied a lot more than I expected. There were the usual suspects: North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tenessee. Surprisingly, everyone left out states like Florida, West Virginia, and Texas. When asked, the people who left these states out said that they (the states) just didn't seem very "Southern". 

And what does that mean, "Southern"? In South To America, Imani Perry picks that concept apart, but she also expands upon it in ways that are totally unexpected, even to someone like me who's never lived anywhere else but the South. Stereotypes are dismantled and shown to be what they are: a mix of fact and fiction that have become prolific and harmful. I learned so much from this book, and my view of the South has grown so much. Before reading this book I would have never seen Kentucky or DC as being part of the South, but now I do! Perry really put so much research into this book, and getting stories from the people of the region was a nice touch.

I found myself highlighting and making notes in so many parts of this book, and I can see myself coming back to it for years to come. This book was obviously such a labor of love for Perry, and I greatly appreciate her work. I'll never look at the South the same way again, and I hope that other readers leave with the same impression. The South has influenced so much of America, and it's a shame that the rest of the US often looks down on us as backward. If the South is backwards, then so is the rest of the US, and it's time that that be acknowledged.
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Ms Imani Perry takes readers on a tour of America's South as she uncovers lesser known histories and muses about America's past and present. She highlights touchstone moments in America's history along her journey through various cities' and state's touristic spots all the while reflecting on the warp and weft of the many cultures and races that are interwoven into our nation's checkered past. Eloquently written in a manner that is easy to get immersed in, the author leads you along the history of inequality and injustice that continues to silently hound the US. Informative and timeless with great reread value. I hope to one day visit some of the many places Ms Perry spotlighted in this reflection on history.
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Like many others, The South intrigues me greatly which is why I wanted to read this book. Perry gives a very personal account as well as an historical accounting of different places she visits in the South. I found it interesting, but also painful to read.
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Told in a narrative, almost train of thought, format.  Perry weaves her own experiences in with historical facts to create a different story of the south than you would have ever found in your textbooks from school.
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South to America is a travelogue replete with history, sociological and anecdotal facts, as well as traditional stories of the region. If you are a Southerner, South to America will make the you nostalgic, and if you are not Southern readers will long to experience the places Perry so expertly and beautifully critiques to fully grasp how much of the South's cultural influence impacts your life today. It is important to remember that if you have prior knowledge of many of the states or cities which Perry writes of, you may not learn any new historical facts but the manner in which she examines these spaces may  influence how readers interpret those well known facts. South to America  deeply personal travelogue which readers, particularly lay historians,  should place on their to be read lists.
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I wanted to love this book, especially because I received an eARC for this (which I unfortunately, did not get to before the book published) and because I recently read "How the Word Is Passed" and saw the power of this sort of story telling. This book, however, pales in comparison to "How the Word Is Passed," not because of a lack of poetic quality to the words - Imani Perry crafts lines that punch straight to the heart or gut - but because of her lack of coherent framework in which to place the narrative. Without this framework, the narrative wanders without restraint leaving the reader to wonder as to the purpose of the narrative, the point Perry wanted to prove with this book. A stronger framework would have elevated this book to be on par with "How the Word is Passed." The lack leaves it looking worse for the wear.
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I absolutely loved this book!  I have always liked Dr. Perry's writing and this book is another great one to add to my bookshelf!  Her book follows a personal family narrative as well as historical facts that is written so exquisitely I felt like I was traveling with her to all of the locations she describes.  Part memoir, part history lesson as well as what it means to be a "southerner."  Her travels take her from Alabama, throughout the South and then back to Princeton New Jersey.  The subtitle says it all -- A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation.  I highly recommend this book.
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So glad to be approved to review this book.  As a African American woman born and raised in the Black Belt area of the south I know the area has a history of pain, sadness, and poverty but there are also good things that are not always discussed and shared.  Perry has done an outstanding job of researching and writing about the South from her point of view and experiences.  The vivid descriptions and details she gives you about the places and people she visited that were nice experiences gives a sense of pride in being from here.  A scholarly work that is timely and should be taken notice of.
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Perry adds to the growing list of books about the Black experience. What makes her book different than the others is her look at what “South” means to different people. Is Washington DC in the South? It depends on who you ask. She also adds personal narrative to the story and it’s the personal touches that make this book most unique. Yes, there is a racially divided south but there’s also a great diversity in the South. Her point that if the south was a big part of the division in the US it also might possibly become the place where America can find its belief in unity again. There’s lots to ponder even after the reader finishes the book.
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South to America by Imani Perry is a journey through the American South.  The author takes you on a journey with her, state by state, and explains the history of each state, the people that she encounters, and how the state is today.  This was a remarkable read because it taught me of some history that I hadn't heard of before, and it reminded me of how many racial injustices have been committed in the American South and the injustices that are still being committed today.  This book is very well-done and thoughtful, and I definitely recommend it as necessary reading.  Thanks to NetGalley for the free digital review copy.  All opinions are my own.
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This was such a fulfilling and informative read!
I loved the in-depth research that went into each chapter and each topic within them. Being a native of Louisville, Kentucky, I was blown away but some of the things I learned about my own hometown.
The biggest takeaway for me is that racism, both structural and blatant, are both alive and well. They shape all of our experiences here in the US  so much so that it goes ALMOST undetected. It’s so shameful in the day and age of information being on demand, that we as a nation are still struggling with a concept as simple as treating every person humanely regardless of how they differ from you.
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I read this as an ARC from Netgalley.com.

South to America by Imani Perry offers a personal narrative on the black culture of the American south, with every chapter focusing on a different state. Perry has a unique perspective, having grown up in Alabama with activist parents; her network of friends and acquaintances from her youth is vast and I learned about many black activists that I hadn't known about before now.  

I did find it to be occasionally hard to follow, as the narrative was winding and somewhat nonlinear, but overall I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a deeper understanding of how the south was shaped by the complex and often misunderstood people who make it their home.
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As an American that couldn’t have grown up further from the South and yet has lived here for the last two years, the premise of Imani Perry's South to America had me immediately intrigued. I was fascinated with the idea of an actual Southerner’s take on the interpretation of the complex, often misunderstood idea of the South as a monolith. Perry takes the reader on a journey with her from Appalachia all the way down to Cuba, exploring not only the current culture of this region - but the years of conflict and struggle against impossible odds of those who can trace their ancestry back to the darkest times of Antebellum America. 

A fair warning - this book is dense. It’s not the easy, breezy narrative nonfiction found in the more approachable versions of this genre. But then, the subject matter explored here and how the centuries of trauma have shaped the modern landscape of the South doesn’t necessarily lend itself to this type of writing. Perry is a PhD scholar and academic, and her masterful use of language was remarkable - if not the most digestible way to take in the information and insights she shared in her journey. 

This novel is incredibly well researched, even beyond the author’s own personal anecdotes she shares in her travels to various cities across the South. It truly is a deep dive into the history of this region in America. As such, it does sometimes get a little clouded in its presentation of names, dates, and the underlying message of each chapter. My one hang-up with this structure was how I sometimes struggled as the reader to connect the many facts and figures Perry provided with whatever leg of her journey she was on. Perhaps this transition could have been made a little smoother, or perhaps this was just a function of my own lack of familiarity with the places and events she discussed. But I do admit this sometimes made the non-linear narrative a bit difficult to follow with her overall thesis. 

In the end, South to America is a heartfelt and meticulous exploration of the history of the American South. Anyone looking to learn a little more about this region is bound to come away from this book with a better understanding of not only the people, places, and events that shaped the current cultural landscape here - but also understand how one woman was able to come to a reckoning on her own personal history and connection to her ancestors.
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South to America by Imani Perry offers narrative nonfiction of the Southern U.S. centering Black perspectives. Perry’s fusion of research with personal insights is in the style of Clint Smith’s How the Word is Passed or Michael Twitty’s Cooking Gene, which are both well-deserved best-sellers. But Perry’s targets are even more specific. makes clear that while racism is definitely not specific to the South, race has had a particular way of manifesting in American Southern history. she points out that Tony Horowitz’s Confederates in the Attic was more intrigued by Confederates than the plight of actual Black people. Readers gain a wide range of insights and nuances from Perry’s South to America.
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An interesting read. The author highlights southern states and cities, based on her interpretations and experiences. I enjoyed her family tidbits. I didn’t always agree with her explanations or extrapolations. It’s a unique look at the south.
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Thank you to Ecco and Netgalley for the  Advanced Reader's Copy!

Available Jan 2022

Sometimes a book wanders into your life at the perfect moment. This is one of those serendipitous occasions, where I just finished teaching Protest Literature in an English course at Louisiana State University. Told in beautiful prose, Imani Perry's South to America takes us to the heartland of the American South. Intertwining personal, political, and social histories, Perry takes on a journey through the Southern States. Elegant and emotional, the narrative commands our respect. South to America asks us to consider how the South is both a place of love and anguish, history and future and leads us to a deeper understanding of it means, truly, to be a Southerner.
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As a life long Southerner, I was blown away by Perry’s essays about the region. This collection was so personal, intelligent, and considered. I found myself going down google rabbit holes and my TBR has exploded with topics I want to explore more after having read this collection. I will be gifting and recommending this one widely.
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4.5 stars

Part travelogue, part memoir, part history, part soul: this collection of essays meditating upon the American South kept me equally engaged throughout every section. Imani Perry not only travels the Southern United States (and some places beyond) to impart their history, but interrogates the meaning of “Southern” and “southernness” as applied to these areas. This book is an exploration, a search for meaning and connection, rather than a treatise in which the author explains a predetermined fact. This book would make an excellent gift for any self-proclaimed Southerner, dubious border-stater, or smug Northerner. It is also well worth picking up merely to enjoy Perry’s beautifully constructed prose.

The South is, fundamentally, America. And America is only America because of the South. Dismissing the region is folly indeed.
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There is no way for me to do justice to this book in a review. It was poignant and pointed, gracious and honest. Perry calls for a reckoning with the traumatic parts of the South and its history while regaling the reader with what remains excellent and specific to the South. It is a love letter to a tragically - and perhaps fatally - flawed place that calls for examination and change. Highly recommended.
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