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Category: Mississippi

Notes From a Dumb Southerner

Notes From a Dumb Southerner

Apparently the current president called his attorney general a “dumb southerner” and made fun of his accent. This is one of many ugly incidents reported in Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book Fear. Look, I don’t like Jeff Sessions. He is a racist, sexist, homophobic, and self-righteous little man. But “dumb southerner” is an insult too far. One of Trump’s most annoying verbal habits is that he slings broad insults rather than specific ones. Calling Sessions a “dumb southerner” implies that all (or most)…

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Civility is Not the Goal

Civility is Not the Goal

We’re currently seeing numerous calls for civility in dealing with people on the opposite side of the political divide. These calls come from both Democrats and Republicans, though rarely in response to the same things. What passes for civility among friends is considered a grave insult when delivered by your enemy. Civility is an admirable goal. An uncivil society, in which citizens turn against one another instead of working together, will likely fall into chaos. But let’s stop equating civility…

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Chatting with Strangers

Chatting with Strangers

I spent the past week traveling through my home state of Mississippi. I read from my latest novel at bookstores in Oxford, Greenwood, and Jackson, before heading to New Orleans for the Tennessee Williams Festival. My mother and my husband stuck with me through Mississippi, but I am on my own in New Orleans. I don’t mind traveling alone. When you explore a city on your own, you can do it any way you please. And it’s a good way…

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Age is No Excuse for Hatred

Age is No Excuse for Hatred

In the same week that our president was spewing some of his worst racist comments, Edgar Ray Killen drew his last breath at the state penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi. Killen is the notorious klansman behind the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He was not convicted for the brutal crimes until more than 40 years after the fact, and even then he was only declared guilty of manslaughter. He spent about a dozen years in jail…

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When Hell Freezes Over

When Hell Freezes Over

It’s snowing in Mississippi today. Tomorrow a sitting president will visit the state. These rare events seem portentous in their confluence, or maybe I’m too willing to assign meaning where none exists. The president’s decision to attend the opening of the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi, is causing consternation and division among the organizers. Rep. John Lewis, the Civil Rights hero slated to give the keynote at the event, says he will not attend now. Ditto for Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi’s only…

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We Read, Joyce Carol Oates. We Read.

We Read, Joyce Carol Oates. We Read.

Give anyone enough time and they will break your heart. I am a southerner. I live in Denver now, but I spent the first 21 years of my life in Mississippi. I first read Joyce Carol Oates’s short story, “How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again” as part of an English class in the Jackson, Mississippi public school system. I knew I wanted to read more and over the years,…

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Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Does anyone have an IQ test at the ready? I ask, because apparently challenging someone to an IQ duel is now a thing that is happening in the highest levels of our government. Lord, help us. I have no desire to watch elected officials on either side of the aisle brag about their intelligence. No matter how smart you think you are, it’s hard to look like anything but an ass when you are basically screaming: I’m smarter than you…

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Banned Books I Have Loved

Banned Books I Have Loved

It’s Banned Books Week and organizations from the American Booksellers Association to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (who knew?) are commemorating our right to read without censorship. When we think of banned books, we often think of books forbidden by the government ala the plot of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451,  but that isn’t really how books are banned in America today. Our books tend to be banned one school district or library at a time. And it’s often aimed at…

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Mama Knows Best? Not Always

Mama Knows Best? Not Always

This weekend my home state held its annual Mississippi Book Festival. I didn’t go. It’s a long way from Denver to Jackson, but my mother gave me a full report. She told me Ellen Gilchrist was super funny and charming at the morning session. No surprise. She told me about young adult author Angie Thomas and the road to publication for her debut The Hate U Give. I can’t wait to read it. And she told me about the powerful…

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