No one tells a story like the Oxford American

With the tagline "A Magazine of the South," the publication has lived up to that billing for nearly 30 years, highlighting "the very best in Southern writing, while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South" since 1992.

The nonprofit quarterly magazine is headquartered in Conway, Arkansas, and is known for its lively, heartfelt pieces that have garnered national attention, making it a powerhouse in the world of literary publications.

Today, the OA's editor-in-chief Danielle A. Jackson and executive director and "Points South" podcast host Dr. Sara A. Lewis take us on a trip through the archives to share some essential reading on the experience of being a woman in the South.


 

Danielle's Must-Reads:

Since I was a little girl, books and stories have helped me travel beyond myself, through generations, across borders and oceans, lakes and rivers. Books and stories have kept me curious, enriched my friendships and informed my sense of myself, keeping my various identities — Black, Southern, woman, bookish, a little bit witty — clear, yet connected and fluid. These five picks are great companions and guides for life, reading and more. 

 

"Read My World" & "Hating the Blues" by Jamey Hatley

Jamey Hatley's writing is filled with an uncanny knowing and a command of how color, mood and music elevate a sentence. The reader is drawn in with all of her senses. Hatley is excellent at world building but also attuned to the delicate world of the imagination. Magic has a place. Ambivalence is confronted. These two essays, about mentorship among writers and reckoning with the blues, feel like real life: heartbreaking, but lit, from within, with possibility.

"Perhaps this tale planted a seed of storytelling in me, because what I learned from this was the one who writes it down gets the power."

"Just as the blues found W. C. Handy, the blues found me."

  

"The Blessing and Burden of Forever" by Rosalind Bentley

This piece by Atlanta-based writer Rosalind Bentley tells a winding tale of the author’s homeplace in Jackson County, Florida, where her maternal great-grandfather built a home on land the family owned since Reconstruction. Through tragedies of land loss and the upheavals of history, their land sustained generations. 

“The value of an education, entrepreneurship, a sense of self-pride and belief in self-defense — all of that was nurtured on the family land. They were better armaments than stones against a segregated world.” 

 

"You Can Never Tell About A River" by Katoya Ellis Fleming

Katoya Ellis Fleming’s beautiful story of a tender relationship with a beloved uncle, filled with literary talk and dreaming, reminds me how many conversations with other people, how much love and tenderness go into making a self. 

It was during my expulsion from the hospital that I found the notebook in which, for years, Uncle Wayne and I had been keeping notes,” Fleming writes. “Places we would go, books we would read. Books we would write. I could think of no better outlet, no better way to connect to him than to throw myself into the work. It was then that I made the promise that I would finish what we started.”


 

Sara's Must-Reads:

  

"Crossing Over" by Jonathan Blitzer

When contemplating what the OA archives hold about being a woman in the South, I first thought of this story about Claudia Delfin, who navigates the borders of both South and woman.

 

"Three Friends in a Hammock" by April Ayers Lawson 

The OA’s fiction issue came out when I was studying fiction in Hattiesburg. I remember sipping whiskey and reading this, hoping that I could some day portray a group of friends — not unlike my own — this deftly.

 

"Safe Houses" by Sara A. Lewis

Since I wrote a story for the OA that touches on my own apprehensive journey toward womanhood in the South, it seems only fitting that I include it here!

 
Read more from the Oxford American on the magazine's website or subscribe to the print edition, and follow the OA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for the latest.

 

Danielle A. Jackson is a Memphis-born writer and the editor at Oxford American. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Vulture, Bookforum and the Criterion Collection among other outlets.

Sara A. Lewis earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. She is the executive director of the Oxford American and host of its podcast, "Points South," which is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

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