The south is different. It’s more than the grits and sweet tea. It’s more than the language and weather. Southerners share a collective memory that separates them from us; one as impenetrable as the torrid Mississippi summer. The South is like a living thing: romantic, proud, defiant, tragic and resilient. Something these poems help you understand. They are part southern blues, part gospel, part opera. They are a gift.
Born in Mississippi, Trethewey is definitely a southerner, yet as the child of a black mother and white father she lives there in exile. These are poems of the Civil War, of hurricanes, isolation, loss and injustice. Many of the poems are elegiac; all of them are accessible, evocative and affecting. In exploring the history of the south she uncovers a truth about all of us–that we are all under reconstruction–that we each need to come to terms with our past in order to claim our identity. In the end it’s about forgiving the places and people we love most…. I return / to Mississippi, state that made a crime / of me–mulatto, half-breed–native / in my native land, this place they’ll bury me.