The New Mind of the South
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The New Mind of the South

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3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  182 ratings  ·  39 reviews
There are those who say the South has disappeared. But in her groundbreaking, thought-provoking exploration of the region, Tracy Thompson, a Georgia native and Pulitzer Prize finalist, asserts that it has merely drawn on its oldest tradition: an ability to adapt and transform itself.

Thompson spent years traveling through the region and discovered a South both amazingly si...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Simon & Schuster
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Justin
Thompson gives two catalysts in writing this book. First, she discovers that one of her ancestors was a Union sympathizer. As someone who grew up in southern Appalachia hearing (inflated) stories about how much Union support up there, I was a bit bemused at her overreaction. Thompson’s second catalyst is the disappearance of sorts of the South. This is certainly true, but only to a point. W.J. Cash’s closing paragraph still rings true today. Thompson sees the South as defined by, first and forem...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Tracey Thompson doesn't apologize for the south or glorify it or airbrush its blemishes. She is a southerner and spends most of the book exploring what it means to be a southerner. To her southern identity is a double consciousness like Jewish identity. You can embrace it fervently, take a milder more nuanced approach to this identity or distance oneself or outright reject it. Southerners have taken each of these routes.
Thompson has the first three chapters devoted to key elements that traditi...more
Mythili
Tracy Thompson grew up in Georgia, and concluded that the simplest way to deal with the cognitive dissonance of being from the South was to “shove the whole thing into a mental drawer and get on with your life.” As a career journalist, though, it was only a matter of time until her need for deeper answers caught up with her. In The New Mind of the South, Thompson sets out to meet historian Carl Degler’s challenge: “No Southerner, so far as I know, has yet seen fit to write about the ‘two-ness’ o...more
Bruce
Trying to characterize a particular region of the United States – its culture, its attitudes – can be a brave and daunting challenge. Tracy Thompson is a native of Atlanta and has taken on that challenge in this book. Sociological studies, and that is what this book aims to be, are inherently difficult in themselves, since issues of data and inferences and conclusions are often fraught with ambiguity.

Thompson clearly has great affection for her region of the country, but her views are not uncrit...more
Hilary
I was born, raised, educated in Georgia and have lived near Washington, DC for years. I couldn't help but think, if you want to start an argument with your relatives at Thanksgiving, well then, this book is for you.

Her title is similar to W.J.Cash's THE MIND OF THE SOUTH published in 1941 and I read it, too. The South can be misunderstood and both authors offer their perspectives from different eras. Is it the Civil War or War Between the States? Why did poor Southern whites (non slave owners)...more
Alexander
The less you know about Southern history, the more you'll enjoy it. That's a definition not critique the book. If you know the academic literature of the past, oh, thirty years, then the tension between historical fact and Southern identity is old news - a point Thompson acknowledges (and attributes to academia) extensively throughout. That said, Thompson's breezy, ingratiating style and Southern upbringing allows for a freewheeling examination usually absent from books on this topic. I suspect...more
Michele
I loved this book. So underrated. Even a passing study of the civil war/civil rights and the current politics of the south leaves any thinking person scratching her head. As Shelby Foote said in Ken Burns Civil War series, "Southerners are so odd about the war."

Tracy Thompson just tells it like it is. A native white southerner, she explains why the appearance of the south is so perplexing. She explains how this came to be and how it persists, among other things.

This book is a snapshot of the Sou...more
Barb
I loved this book! Absolutely loved it. The author's voice is very readable, and I loved getting insight into questions I've had about the land I've called home for over a decade.I would highly recommend this book to transplants, people thinking of moving South, Southerners who are open to self-reflection about their customs, or anyone just interested in learning a bit more about a fascinating place with a challenging history.

Complete Review here:
http://thesaucywenchesbookclub.blogsp...
Katie
Interesting non-fiction book about the culture of the American South. Of interest to me because I am Southern-but-not-really (even Thompson admits in a footnote that New Orleans is not really like the rest of the South... it being a blend of France and the Caribbean as well as American South). She examines the history, politics, culture, attitudes, etc. of the South from the past to the present, warts and all.

She probably offended some people in the course of writing this book, but who knows (it...more
Aaron Deerey
The author tries to cover too broad a topic in too short a space. Her urban perspective sat poorly with me as it usually does from any city-dweller, but that is the real divide in America today. Us rural folks know that we are losing, so much so that this book relegates the rural mindset as a bygone ideal. We're not quite dead yet.

The part about Southerns pretending that our history is rosier than it is is partially correct. Though those of us that acknowledge the unfortunate parts of our past d...more
Cicely
I was excited to read this book, and thought it had a lot of promise. As someone who has never spent more than three consecutive weeks outside the great state of Minnesota, I am equal parts fascinated and abhorred by "the South." Overall, I think the premise of the book extremely overpromised and underperformed. There wasn't really much meat to Thompson's argument (in fact, I'm not sure, after having read the entire thing, that I could concisely pinpoint what her argument was) - and there was a...more
Eric Stone
I liked reading this one a lot but the jury is still out on how I really feel about it. I've recently moved to the South and in some ways the book seems like it will be a good introduction to the sociology and culture of the place - perhaps cautionary at times. In others, it seems a little overly academic to me. I just don't know. It has made me think a great deal about my new home - which is exactly what I was hoping it would do. But I'm also trying to avoid having it make up my mind for me. It...more
Alex Templeton
3.5 stars. In this book, Thompson explores the culture of the South--her "homeland"--where it has come from, and how it has changed. It is both fascinating and repulsive how much of Southern culture and its fierce attitude towards the importance of states' rights has been largely due to entrenched racism. Thompson writes, effectively, of the trend to deny that slavery was the major cause of the Civil War, or, as many Southerners call it, The War Between the States. (As an aside, when I was talki...more
Anna
As a white southern woman who identifies with southern culture in many ways but wants to find a way to do that that doesn't glorify historical atrocities or perpetuate oppression, I appreciated another southern white woman's attempt to reconcile her identity. I'm not sure I followed all of her arguments to the same conclusions she made, but it was a good exploration of southern cognitive dissonance, with some interesting history I didn't know.
Mike
Good look at the state of the south today. The title is a play on WJ Cash's classic book from the 40s, The Mind of the South. The author doesn't hide any of the blemishes (racism, poverty, the stupid need to still deny that slavery caused the Civil War) but she examines the significant ways the south today is changing. She looks at the remigration back of African Americans an the huge influx of Latino immigrants.

My only semi-complaint is that the book can't quite seem to decide if it wants to b...more
Payson
I think Ms. Thompson makes some solid points about how the South needs to face up to its true history of racial violence. However, I felt like some of the chapters, especially the one about Atlanta, was too negative in tone. Basically the only nice thing she had to say about her hometown was that "people are nice." The truth is more nuanced, with intown Atlanta really thriving compared to the suburban Metro areas.
James Cage
The first two pages made me laugh - always a good sign - and I recognized many of the feelings Thompson relates about the South. But she quickly settles into grinding axes. She lost me completely on p. 14: "It's not a big leap from modern proposals to require voters to produce some government-issued photo identification to literacy tests of the Jim Crow era." It's a gigantic, intercontinental-scale leap actually, and from there Thompson draws direct lines of moral authority from the civil rights...more
Steven
As luck would have it, I was reading this book as the ginned-up controversy over Brad Paisley's "Accidental Racist" had its moment. The bad faith and inept revisionism of so much Southern history is one of Thompson's themes, and she explores how the Lost Cause mythology and its attendant lies -- i.e., the Civil War was about states' rights, not slavery -- started almost before the ink was dry on the surrender documents at Appomattox. When she's not tweaking Confederate nostalgists and apologists...more
Sharon
I was a bit disappointed in this book, having been a great fan of WJ Cash's "The Mind of the South." Ms. Thompson's book seemed a bit too perfunctory, and many chapters were filled with rather dry statistical information from Pew Research Group. I expected more.
Robert
I lived in Mississippi during my 20s and have been fascinated by the region ever since. I picked up this book with low expectations, but was completely blown away. Tracy Thompson, an Atlanta native, returns to the South and examines its culture and heritage anew, and traces them back in time like a dendrologist examining the rings of an old tree. Thompson, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is bold and clear-eyed, and doesn't flinch away from controversy. I recommend this book to anyone interested in po...more
Jeff Carpenter
The author brings out many pertinent points in this book, but as urban dweller's often do, she misses much of the perspective of rural folk. In any comprehensive study of the South the rural population must be taken into consideration. Although Thompson discusses this she cuts it off pretty quick and returns to talking about the sins of the past. It is also apparent she has been influenced by her time in the North as much as her time in the South, by constantly putting the southern region down f...more
Richard
Read a review of this book in the newspaper and was immediately interested. I was not disappointed. Thompson explores the modern connotations of what it means to be Southern, where these notions come from, paying equal weight to both the bad (very often talked about) and the good (less well documented). The author and her family are from the South, although the author moved away. The portrayal is fair and also raises so interesting questions about weather things like Big Agriculture are destroyi...more
George
I'm about half way through tis charming book by Atlanta Journal-Consitution columnist Tracy Thompson. As a fellow non-Confederate Southerner, I find her takes compelling. In "Salsa With Your Grits," she's very discerning about a new wave of Hispanic immigration for season farm labor that is transforming a wide agricultural swath of the central South from Mississippi through Georgia to North Carolina. "Jesusland" portrays the Protestant Bible Belt and argues convincingly that the Fundamentalism w...more
Cyrilla
This book was very personal for me and explained a lot about my childhood. Being a first-generation Southerner born of Yankee parents, I had no idea that much of what I was taught in school about American History was created out of whole cloth by a nice southern lady after the Civil War and she launched a campaign to have her version taught in every school. No wonder so many southerners so stubbornly cling to their version of history - it's what we were taught from 1st Grade on! The book made me...more
Sara Wise
I got bored with this book towards the end, but all in all it was worth the read. The author hails from Atlanta, which is not an area I know about (or have any interest in) so she concentrated on that region more than others. However, I can say I learned a lot about the region, and other parts of the deep south, and it's issues with class and race. If you're at all interested in the history of Southern poverty, I'd say this is worth checking out. It's easy to read and understand and the footnote...more
Alison
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was clearly written, and contained a nice balance of anecdote with research/history. Indeed I worried that I was enjoying it too much, so it couldn't be too "good" - but the professional reviews agree with me. The author is from Atlanta but her presentation is not partisan. I found the section on Shadow History/the Lost Cause especially enlightening.
Olivia
I found this book mediocre at best. If you read other reviews, you might think this book is "compelling." Unfortunately I do not find words of wisdom and other important tidbits from Tracy Thompson's grandmother --to be compelling. She spent too much time bringing me back to her time in the south instead of objectively exploring the South.

Oliver Bateman
Great (borrowed) title, weak execution. Read her essay on this same subject in the Atlantic--it's far more concise and nothing in the longer work improves on it. This book is both too slight and too long, a terrible combination but depressingly common in these mass-market "author does the NPR/CSPAN interview circuit" offerings.
Tommy Druen
While an entertaining read, it was a little less objective and academic than I had hoped. There was clearly some political bias that leaked its way into the work. And I was hoping more for a "this is what makes the South unique" look. That being said, the book flowed well and there were some great insights into some areas.
Dean Brodhag
An add to my American history list. As a "new" Southerner of 32 years it provided new perspectives. I especially appreciated the section on the Mississippi Delta having spent 4 days there last years. The section on Atlanta also provided insights on Charlotte.
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