Bestselling travel writer Richard Grant offers an entertaining and profound look at a city like no other.
Natchez, Mississippi, once had more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in America, and its wealth was built on slavery and cotton. Today it has the greatest concentration of antebellum mansions in the South, and a culture full of unexpected contradictions. Prominent white families dress up in hoopskirts and Confederate uniforms for ritual celebrations of the Old South, yet Natchez is also progressive enough to elect a gay black man for mayor with 91% of the vote.
Much as John Berendt did for Savannah in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and the hit podcast S-Town did for Woodstock, Alabama, so Richard Grant does for Natchez in The Deepest South of All. With humor and insight, he depicts a strange, eccentric town with an unforgettable cast of characters. There’s Buzz Harper, a six-foot-five gay antique dealer famous for swanning around in a mink coat with a uniformed manservant and a very short German bodybuilder. There’s Ginger Hyland, “The Lioness,” who owns 500 antique eyewash cups and decorates 168 Christmas trees with her jewelry collection. And there’s Nellie Jackson, a Cadillac-driving brothel madam who became an FBI informant about the KKK before being burned alive by one of her customers. Interwoven through these stories is the more somber and largely forgotten account of Abd al Rahman Ibrahima, a West African prince who was enslaved in Natchez and became a cause célèbrein the 1820s, eventually gaining his freedom and returning to Africa.
Part history and part travelogue, The Deepest South of All offers a gripping portrait of a complex American place, as it struggles to break free from the past and confront the legacy of slavery.
Being a Mississippi girl, I could not wait to get my hands on this book. And this book…it nails it. The historic south is commingled with the new south…unique and doable…in most instances. There are still some “grand guards” out there which refuse to let go of the “Old South”. Richard Grant shows how and where they are in Natchez.
When I was a young girl, I would read books about slavery. They would always reference “down south”. I kept thinking they were talking about the Mississippi gulf coast. (Well, I was young! ) I had no idea they were talking about where I lived. Boy, did I learn a thing or two when I got older. This book touches on that and delves deeper into the slave trade and the practices of slavery in and around Natchez. It also touches on the wonderful characters of Natchez and how they strive to have a mix of the old and the new.
This is a well written book with lots of history about slavery and the mix of culture in Natchez, MS. Natchez is a beautiful, historical town. Everyone needs to visit and enjoy!
I received this novel from the publisher for honest review.
You can purchase a signed copy from the best book store in the world, Square Books in Oxford, MS.