cover image The New Mind of the South

The New Mind of the South

Tracy Thompson. Simon & Schuster, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4391-5803-6

Thompson (The Ghost in the House), a veteran journalist, Pulitzer finalist, and Georgia native, re-examines the notion of Southern identity (following W.J. Cash’s classic, The Mind of the South) for the 21st century. Not only is the South that Thompson knew disappearing, but Southerners don’t have much awareness of their past. According to Thompson, this “cognitive dissonance” is especially apparent in Southern views of the Civil War. Growing up in the 1960s, Thompson and her generation witnessed John Lewis beaten by a state trooper and Lester Maddox standing at his restaurant door with an ax handle, not understanding how the whopping omissions of history regarding racial violence and the Ku Klux Klan made the South a mass of contradictions because everyone “agreed not to talk about” the years between the Civil War and WWII. Combining her own experiences and observations with solid ethnographic and historical research, Thompson covers topics including immigration (after 1990, following 200 years of relative isolation, North Carolina and Georgia had the largest immigrant population growth in the U.S.); religion, race, politics, community; the disappearance of the rural South, and the urbanization of Atlanta. The result is a nuanced—and sometimes astringently humorous—portrait of a multifaceted, often misunderstood region that overturns stereotypes. Agent: Beth Vesel, Beth Vesel Literary Agency. (Mar.)