South and West ~Joan Didion

Rating: ehh???

Such a short read, this book feels incredibly dated, which was to be expected, as it is from Didion’s travels in the 70’s. 

She writes true to her perspective as a white woman from the South but used to a different lifestyle. This story comes from writings in her notebook from this trip to the South, and she captures fragments of her own thoughts, historical facts and stories, and conversations she had with locals. Her main topics cover race, gender, social life, and anything else she encountered in her travels. Every time a social question was raised for her, she explored it by talking with others or reading about the history/culture of the South. 

Many claim that this is one of Didion’s most revealing works, but as I’ve not read any of her other books, I can neither refute nor acclaim this remark. I can only say that from my perspective, it is not terribly interesting or surprising. I guess having lived in the South for a number of years now, and seeing what the South is like in the 21st century, I don’t feel surprised by what Didion’s writes. And if this book is not a critical race theory on the South, or new perspective for the audience it reaches, then it is not so worthwhile, in my opinion. However, I believe her audience is meant to be white affluent/middle class people who have not experienced the South in its rural and raw regions, people who have not talked with bigoted locals or liberal locals or locals of any kind. And so, if that is you, by all means, read this book and ponder the questions. If not, don’t worry too much about all the hype because this book may not have much to offer. 

Curious, too, that this book was published now. She speaks of sentiments that are being echoed by our modern government, sentiments that look toward our future while looking backwards at our past. It’s recent publication of recent yet historical stories sparked more questions for me than the book itself. 

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