Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up on my grandmother and grandfather’s farm, where we ate fried potatoes, green beans (cooked for an entire day or more on the stove in a pot), and cornbread. Fried chicken was a treat we enjoyed, and it was really fried—not the carbon-copy fried chicken found frozen in stores today. We ate tomatoes from the garden (straight from the garden). My southern heritage isn’t limited to food, though—I have the most marvelous southern accent that I have refused to relinquish for academia. I’m proud of my heritage!
SLS: Growing up in south Georgia, I have a Stockholm Syndrome-type relationship to temperatures over ninety degrees and one hundred percent humidity. But the devil can have his damned gnats.
Southern Legitimacy Statement: I talk slow. I eat etouffee, jambalaya and boudin. I’ve clapped my hands to gospel in hot, crowded churches, and visited Catholic psychics. I’ve gone through many Louisiana winters in short sleeves and shorts.
Southern Literacy Statement
I was born and raised in the North, but now have lived most of my adult life in the South. When I first moved my mother acted as though I were moving to another country and told me all the stories she had collected from the tabloids she loved. When she visited during the summer she rolled and tied a hand towel around her head, a desperate hachimaki, and stuffed tissues around its edges to catch the sweat before it fell into her eyes and down her cheeks. “Eight o’clock at night is the same as three o’clock in the afternoon,” she said. “That’s why horses go crazy and impale themselves.”
SLS: John Davis Jr. is a sixth-generation Florida native. His poetry has covered the South like kudzu, including a prior appearance in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Now he’s trying his hand at a little down-home fiction. He hopes yall like it.
SLS — Born and raised in Memphis, Diane Thomas-Plunk is highly skilled in the three B’s of Memphis — blues, barbecue and beer. These may be enjoyed individually, in various pairings, or — best yet — all together.
Southern Legitimacy Statement: I spent four plus years of undergrad in Greenville, SC–the Buckle of the Bible Belt–and I’ve got plenty of stories to tell.
Southern Legacy Statement – Half Mexican, Half Redneck. I use that to describe my heritage.
Upon hearing that: my mother’s family gets upset and offended, my father’s side laughs and hollers. I’ll let you decide which is half is which half.
From ages three to eighteen, one year of my life was spent in Southern California, the next in North Georgia. The odd-numbered years were in smoggy cities, people giving me odd looks for ordering sugar in my tea, and mocking me when I say “ya’ll.”
I was fired from my first California job because customers insisted I insulted them by saying “sir” and “ma’am.” When I got older: I chose fresh air in the woods, people that became your new best friend when you share the counter at Waffle House, and smiles when I reply to statements with “sho’nuff.” Now, I’m the boss and all my employees know full well to treat all customers with respect and address them with “sir” and “ma’am.”
Southern Legitimacy Statement: Excuse me for being southern and for not. I’ve lived all but two of my seventy-five years in the deep south, defined here as lower Alabama, and yet I drink unsweet ice tea with sucralose, and everytime I’m introduced to my place, or my duty, or sometimes my manners, I wiggle and stretch and work my way out and around.
Southern Legitimacy Statement: I have spent my entire life at the foot of one hill or another in North Carolina. When I was a little girl, I spent my summers with my grandma and pawpaw.
They were farmers, but my pawpaw ran a little country store over by the road…just co’colas, nabs, moonpies and such. They had 23 grand-younguns so he kept a whole shelf full of every kind of penny candy you can think of. Whenever we would go visit, he would give each youngun a tiny little paper poke to fill up with as much candy as the bag would hold. Well, grandma dipped snuff and in the evenings we would sit on the front porch and string beans or shuck corn or cut up cucumbers to make pickles – whatever the garden was producing that day and I was always amazed at how far that woman could spit. Still am..
I admired my grandma and in my eyes she could do no wrong, so when I went to fill up my candy sack, I filled it right up to the edge with Tootsie Rolls. I would tuck one under my bottom lip and let the spit build up, then I would get grandma to spit for an example and then I would give it a go. Grandma would always clear the porch and her brown tobacco juice would land in the holly bush, but my Tootsie Roll spit would splat right there on the porch. Grandma would keep a straight face, but I could see her belly jiggling as she chuckled at my efforts. After dark, when pawpaw closed up the store and came home, we’d still be sittin’ on the porch with all the spit puddles. He would get mad and start fussin’ – using his favorite cuss words like “dad gimmit!” and “drot take it to the dickens!” while he stomped over to the spigot at the pump house to fill a bucket with water and wash the spit off the porch. The first few times, I thought I was in trouble, but then, I saw him wink at grandma and he tossed me another handful of Tootsie Rolls.
Southern Legitimacy Statement: I never tire of telling my Northern friends stories of my childhood, growing up near Tampa, FL. During season, our old man would wake us up early to pick grits from the grove of grits trees up the road. We would gather the necessary equipment: a burlap grits sack, magnifying glass, tweezers and a tall ladder. The biggest, ripest grits always seemed to be at the top of the tree. We would carefully select the grits, one by one, gently plucking them off the branch with our tweezers, then deposit them into the burlap sack on our back. As a child, I could only fill one sack before noon.
I was always amazed by my father, who could adeptly climb up and down the ladder, quickly and methodically picking the finest grits, like an artisan at work. He would fill 3 or 4 bags, before we sat down to our packed lunch of scratch biscuits and strawberry jam. As the day grew late, we would make our way back to the house, dragging the full grits sacks behind us. Tired, but excitedly anticipating Mama cooking us up a big plate of fish and grits for supper. Afterward, the old man would take out his fiddle and sit on the porch to play.
Sometimes Uncle Jim would come over and join us for dinner and bring his mandolin. We would drift off to sleep with the sounds of fiddle and mandolin coming in through the window.”
SLS: Deep South is different than South even though I can’t prove it. Ever since I moved north from Alabama to Tennessee I’ve felt like a Yankee. Writing Southern is about writing legacy, and that ain’t easy. We pronounce things like they sound, and I can’t hear a banjo without tapping my foot. Sweet tea tastes different when Mama mixes it up, but yall already knew all that.