The Storied South

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By Alex Constantinou

 

On Saturday, April 26, the Northeast Regional Library will host Dr. William Ferris, a professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the former head of the National Endowment of the Humanities, as he discusses his 2013 book, “The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists.”

 

The book, which comprises more than 40 years of interviews with 26 of the most prominent artists and thinkers from the American South, illustrates the connection between storytelling and the Southern identity.

One-on-one interviews with people like folk singer/activist Pete Seeger and critically acclaimed author Alice Walker offer insight into how the words and works of the 26 interviewees have cultivated widely held ideas and opinions about the American South amongst the general public.

Ferris, a recognized Southern studies and folklore authority, was born and raised on a rural Mississippi farm. His interest in the subject stems from his upbringing.

“I loved the people and places from my childhood, and I didn’t want to give them up,” Ferris said. “I figured the studies of stories and music was a way of preserving what I loved deeply.” Following his interests, Ferris soon found himself with an extensive collection of interviews.

“I would meet people whose work influenced my life and I would always ask to do an interview. They always agreed. Years later I decided to compile them,” Ferris said.

Ferris said the people interviewed in the book all share a common ground.

“All their lives were transformed by the South. Some were born in the South, others were from outside the South,” he said.

Among those not native to the South is folk musician Pete Seeger. Seeger, who was born in Manhattan, heard banjo music for the first time in Asheville, N.C., landing him in the category of Southerner, regardless of origin.

“The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists” also includes a CD and DVD containing audio and film of the  book’s interviews.

The event, which marks the end of the Friends of the Library Spring Series, will feature live music by authors Clyde Edgerton and John Sullivan, performing Southern blues under the moniker “The Whitley Brothers.”

Ferris will speak briefly about the book and show a PowerPoint featuring some of the interviews and pictures from the book.

“It’s going to be a celebration of the South. The talk will be like a toe in the water of the book,” Ferris said.

The book was awarded the 2013 Okra Pick: Great Southern Books Fresh Off the Vine by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and is also under consideration for several other awards.

The event starts at 2 p.m. and admission is free. For more information, contact Dorothy Hodder at the New Hanover County Public Library at 910-798-6323.

 

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