I spent the 4th of July weekend in the state of Virginia, a stay that took us to small town shops, firework displays and parades in the center of the state. We battled the heat, humidity and managed somehow to fend off mosquitos, most of them anyway.
Now when it comes to winding roads, green cow pastures, immaculately manicured lawns, red barns with silos and small churches scattered across the countryside, it does not get any better than Fluvanna, Augusta, Nelson and Louisa Counties in central Virginia. I know since I was born and raised there and learned to really appreciate the awesomeness of all once I left many years ago en-route to the “big cities” up north.
But let’s get real folks.
There’s no denying that “the South” has garnered lots of attention lately thanks in part to the terrible massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. And the ensuing brouhaha surrounding the Confederate flag served to further exacerbate matters. To say, rightly or wrongly, that the image of the South has taken a beating lately is to put it mildly.
But broad brushing – the killer of individuality – any group, be they blacks, Muslims, Christians, gays, Northerners, Mexicans et al pertains to Southerners as well. The caricature of the Confederate flag-toting, tattooed, beer-bellied hillbilly in a red pickup truck has been stamped into popular lore and, one could argue, the minds of those new to the South, or reside outside the South.
Back to the Confederate flag.
One side argues that it symbolizes a history of racism particularized by slavery; on the other side the argument is that it symbolizes Southern heritage. I’ll leave that to be hashed out in the domain of public debate.
But what about “Southern heritage” or “Southern culture?”
Enter “Going Southern; the no-Mess Guide to Success in the South,” written by Deborah Levine. Call it Devine (Or maybe “Levine”) Intervention, extraordinary vision or pure coincidence, Levine’s book is timely and right on target.
So what do the reviews say?
Writes Dr. Roger G. Brown, Chancellor Emeritus, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, “This fun and highly useful book is the result of Deborah Levine’s ability to view aspects of the Southern culture through objective eyes and with the benefit of her keen insights as a relative newcomer.”
Said Beate Ziehres, Edition-In-Chief of the German magazine, “In the old Southern tradition of telling stories, Deborah shares her magnificent knowledge and experience of the south with the unique kindness of the region. To me as a German part-time Southerner, her advice is worth gold.” (Here is a link to more reviews on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Going-Southern-No-Mess-Guide-Success/dp/1489553371)
Now if you think for a moment that “Going Southern” is just extolling the niceties of Southern hospitality, home cookin’ cuisine, choo choo trains and popular “Southernisms” – while purposely sidestepping the thorny issue of race – then you’re in for a surprise.
You see, In Chapter 7, “The race issue: What outsiders should know,” Deborah thoughtfully debunks six common myths relating to race in the South and replaces each one with the reality. She nails it in the end with her list of practical tips for navigating race and race relations.
Oh, yes, I should mention that “Going Southern” was actually published in 2013, exactly two years before the events of the past few months.
(c) Terry Howard is an award-winning writer, story teller and trainer who resides in Douglasville, Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org