Charles Joyner dedicated over 50 years to his passion of being a Southern historian, influencing many others along the way. “Becoming Southern Writers” is a collection of letters written by nearly 30 historians and literary artists. Not all of them are about Charles Joyner, but more about the spirit of history he embodied, and how his passion encouraged dozens of other Southern historians.
Most of the essays, if not all, within this volume discuss personal stories on how each writer came to be a historian of the South, whether honorary or through a degree. The history of our southern states is complex and quite varied, with multiple points of contention and pride.
Whether actually Southern or not, each author has realized through experience and education the significance of history through its social, cultural, and political distinctions. More than a few of them went through times of civil unrest and were subjected to maltreatment.
No matter what each individual’s reasoning in becoming a Southern historian, all the writers in this book stress the importance that lessons from the past should reject one-sided views and instead embrace truth – good, bad, and ugly. And of course with so many different voices and experiences, every essay differs in tone, some more pessimistic than others.
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Just as tone varies, there are subtle changes in focus when authors wish to highlight one of the aspects that make up history. The two most obvious aspects being gender and race, but religion, music, art, and even a little bit of geography are some other points of examination. No matter what their concentration is, this fantastic group of people always stays under the wide umbrella of Southern history.
Considering the professions of our essayists, it comes as no surprise that all the writing is impeccable. A few do read easier than others, if only because it’s difficult to take the scholar out of an essay, no matter the topic. Nevertheless, there can be a lesson to take from each writer, which is no doubt one of the purposes for such a distinguished gathering.
These historians from our own state all the way to New Zealand do indeed honor Charles Joyner and the South. By describing their paths wrought with failure, success, and everything in between, they all in their own way embody passion for the past, so that triumphs and tragedies of the Southern states are never forgotten.
Emily Smith, For The Sun News.
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At A Glance
Title | “Becoming Southern Writers: Essays in Honor of Charles Joyner”
Authors | Orville Vernon Burton and Eldred E. Prince, Jr.
Publisher | The University of South Carolina Press
Length | 276 pages
Price | $39.99