Book Review: As Southern As It Gets

As Southern As It Gets:  1,071 Reasons To Never Leave The South, by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishing.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Although I grew up in rural West Central Florida around people who considered themselves and would have been considered by others as Southerners, my relationship with the South has always been one that is deeply ambivalent [1].  This book somehow manages to be inclusive and exclusive at the same time, seeking to appeal to blacks and whites and to people who are from both the traditional deep south and also some of its border areas (like Kentucky, Missouri, and Oklahoma, who all get a few shout outs for southern institutions like Carrie Underwood, although Texas is completely ignored), while also cattily reminding readers that just because one is from the south that one is not necessarily Southern, just like a cat having kittens in an oven does not make those kittens biscuits.  The book is evidence of a desire to inflame Southern pride, and those sorts of displays are generally of the sort that makes me feel deeply uncomfortable as someone whose experiences in the South were less than pleasant.

This book has an immensely straightforward structure and despite being a bit over 200 pages may be read by someone in twenty or thirty minutes without too much trouble if they are not carried into a reverie by the reasons that the author gives for never leaving the South.  After a short introduction where the author gives his bona fides as to why he should be considered as a suitably Southern person to write this book, the author gives alphabetical reasons why someone should never leave the South.  Some of the reasons are given their own page with hand-drawn drawings, and the reasons themselves tend to fall into a few categories:  food, places, people, phrases, and Southern behavior.  There is no doubt that the author considers himself an expert on what to appreciate on the South, and his tastes are pretty reasonable–he loves Daytona Beach, Elvis, the Civil War, the rituals of small town and youth Southern life, country music, NASCAR racing, and so on.  He’s the sort of Southerner whose bumptious attitude towards the South may be more than a little irritating but who is basically viewed as more of a friendly character than someone who is an active annoyance, and this book shares the same prickly nationalism of the South without crossing the line into real offense.

Obviously, as someone who has left the South and whose thoughts of it are deeply mixed, and whose thoughts about Confederate nationalism are deeply negative, I am not the ideal target audience for this book.  Even so, the reasons that the author gives for loving the South are generally innocuous and could apply equally well for proud white as well as many black Southerners, although one gets at least some feeling that this book is aimed at Southern whites.  Why does this book exist?  Do Southerners still find it necessary to prove to others why their region is so great?  I’m not sure, but that gnawing lack of self-confidence when one is dealing with the complaints and insults directed towards the South appears to have motivated this book.  This is not a book that seeks to start or participate in debates about education, politics, or history, but in defending what it views as laudatory elements of Southern culture and geography, this is a book that will likely make plenty of Southerners feel better about themselves, and at a price of under $20 is a lot cheaper than going to a therapist.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/01/17/cracker-country/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/11/22/entering-through-the-front-door-the-endurance-of-antebellum-hospitality/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/10/26/book-review-why-the-confederacy-lost/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/06/20/juneteenth-a-case-study-in-acceptable-holidays/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/05/30/book-review-ought-yankee-traitors-rule-the-nation/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/06/16/book-review-southern-families-at-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/09/20/book-review-starving-the-south/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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