Book Review: Mockingbird Songs

“My aunt is Harper Lee.” My children’s existences hinge on those five simple words, for that was the very effective pickup line their father used to attract me the day we met. He sprung that line on the right college freshman. Even then, if asked to name my favorite novel, I would have answered To Kill a Mockingbird. Favorite author? Harper Lee. But what did I really know about the reclusive writer from L. A. (Lower Alabama) who penned one of the most revered novels of recent times? For that matter, what did, or what does, anybody know? Perhaps Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the history department at Auburn University and the author of Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee, co

Book Review: Before We Were Yours

History is like a cluttered attic, hiding boxes stuffed with dark secrets in forgotten corners. One such secret is the work of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. Beginning in the 1920s and lasting through 1950, thousands of children were taken from loving, if impoverished, families and sold for high “adoption premiums” to wealthy parents out of state—including actress Joan Crawford. Many more children died of disease and neglect in mismanaged orphanages before they could be adopted. Tragically, authorities and politicians alike turned a blind eye to these atrocities while Georgia Tann shamelessly profited off of the exploitation of disadvantaged children, and

Book Review: That Bright Place

Nothing says “summer reading” like a good thriller, so I was more than happy to dig into That Bright Land, the newest novel from Terry Roberts, winner of the James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers and guest writer at this year’s SouthWord on November 3 and 4. Inspired by the adventures of Roberts’s own ancestor, That Bright Land takes place during the tumultuous years after the American Civil War. It follows Union veteran and spy Jacob Ballard, who journeys to from Washington, D.C. to the rural mountains of North Carolina in order to catch a serial killer who is murdering Jake’s fellow veterans. Although he is initially contemptuous of the rough mountain people and their w

Book Review: The Halo

Admittedly, I have a penchant for the fantastical. I spent most of my formative years reading Harry Potter and Redwall novels, and I still find myself drawn to literature that deals with the strange and otherworldly—even as an adult. It makes sense, then, that I would be intrigued by the premise of C. Dale Young’s collection of poetry The Halo. I was even more intrigued to learn that Young was recently awarded the Hanes Prize for Poetry by the Fellowship of Southern Writers and will be a guest at SouthWord in Chattanooga on November 3 and 4. However, although this collection abounds with references to angels, monsters, and mythical gods, The Halo deals with subjects that are anything but fan

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