6 Great Writers From The American South
From Booker T. Washington to William Faulkner and Alice Walker, writers from the American South have penned some of the country's most powerful and culturally resonant literary works. Many of the region's books focus on themes of community, religion, and race, with genres encompassing history, Gothic thrillers, and everything in between. In no particular order, here are some talented contemporary authors putting their own stamps on Southern literature.
For #1 we have Kwoya Fagin Maples, who hails from Charleston, South Carolina. She is the author of "Mend," which tells the story of the birth of obstetrics and gynecology in America, and the role black enslaved women played in the process. The book received a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, and was a finalist for the 2019 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry.
Maples has her work published in several journals and anthologies, including Berkeley Poetry Review, Blackbird Literary Journal, and Cave Canem Anthology XIII. In addition, she does readings and lectures at many venues throughout the South and beyond. As of 2020, Maples teaches in the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Alabama, home of the Black Warrior Review.
Coming in at #2 is Felicia Mitchell, a South Carolina native residing in southwestern Virginia. A poet, her work tends to explore family roots and the natural world, with inspiration being drawn from acquaintances, family members, the medical world, archetypal myths, and more. Mitchell's poems have appeared in numerous journals over the years, and have been nominated for awards including the Pushcart Prize.
Among the author's works are chapbooks such as "Earthenware Fertility Figure," which contains poetry based on images of women in art, and "The Cleft of the Rock," which is laced with folklore and myth. There's also the collection "Waltzing with Horses," as well as the Freudian academic monograph "Case Hysteries." Beyond her poetry, Mitchell has published scholarly articles and creative nonfiction, and edited the Appalachian-centered anthology "Her Words."
For #3 we get Heather Weidner. This Virginia-based author is known for her "Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries" series, which centers on the titular female sleuth and her frequently humorous adventures. The author also penned novellas for the canine-themed collections "To Fetch a Thief" and "To Fetch a Scoundrel," about trusty pooches and their owners uncovering fearsome crimes.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Weidner has written a number of short stories, which have appeared in anthologies such as "Virginia is for Mysteries" and "50 Shades of Cabernet." Among her stories are "Spring Cleaning," set under Virginia's Mill Mountain Star, and "Par for the Course," about the deadly secrets revealed between a business mogul and her granddaughter.
Arriving at #4 is Mississippi native Benjamin Morris. His books include limited-edition poetry collections such as "Coronary," which is comprised of 24 sonnets, and the illustrated "Ecotone," inspired by the embattled environment of coastal Louisiana. Other works include "Hattiesburg, Mississippi," the first full-length narrative history of the city from prehistory to the present day.
Additional pieces by Morris have appeared in such venues as the Oxford American, the Southern Review, and the Guardian. On top of his own writing, he has edited and co-edited multiple volumes of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Morris is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Chancellor's Medal for Poetry from the University of Cambridge, where he earned his PhD.
For #5 we find Chandra Sparks Splond, an editor, speaker, and award-winning author and blogger from Birmingham, Alabama. She has authored books for middle grade, young adult, and adult readers, with titles including "You've Gotta Have Faith" and "Make It Work," the latter of which was named Alabama's Great Read 2017.
Y.A. novels by Splond include "The Pledge," about a sixteen-year-old forced to negotiate her virginity after falling in love, and "Speak," about a teen stuck at home during the pandemic with his famous father. For older readers, the "Grow Zone" series centers on women who must make difficult life decisions. Beyond her writing, Splond is the owner of West End Publishing, LLC., and has edited for companies such as Random House, Kimani Press, and Kensington Publishing.
Finally, at #6 is John Hornor Jacobs. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Jacobs is the acclaimed author of genre-bending adult and Y.A. fiction. His debut novel, the Lovecraftian thriller "Southern Gods," was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award and won the Darrell Award. The book was followed by "This Dark Earth," in which a small settlement fights for survival in a bleak, zombie-ridden future.
Jacobs also received plaudits for "The Twelve-Fingered Boy" trilogy, which Cory Doctorow described as "part 'Huck Finn,' part 'X-Men.'" Subsequent works have included the fantasy series "The Incorruptibles," which was nominated for the Morningstar and Gemmell Awards in the UK, and "Murder Ballads and Other Horrific Tales," a collection of ten horror and crime noir stories.