South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation

Winner, National Book Awards 2022 for Nonfiction

South to Anerica by Imani Perry
ISBN 9780062977403
Ecco / HarperCollins Publishers
Imani Perry

Imani Perry is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Perry is the New York Times bestselling author of South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

An essential, surprising journey through the history, rituals, and landscapes of the American South—and a revelatory argument for why you must understand the South in order to understand America.

We all think we know the South. Even those who have never lived there can rattle off a list of signifiers: the Civil War, Gone with the Wind, the Ku Klux Klan, plantations, football, Jim Crow, slavery. But the idiosyncrasies, dispositions, and habits of the region are stranger and more complex than much of the country tends to acknowledge. In South to America, Imani Perry shows that the meaning of American is inextricably linked with the South, and that our understanding of its history and culture is the key to understanding the nation as a whole.

This is the story of a Black woman and native Alabaman returning to the region she has always called home and considering it with fresh eyes. Her journey is full of detours, deep dives, and surprising encounters with places and people. She renders Southerners from all walks of life with sensitivity and honesty, sharing her thoughts about a troubling history and the ritual humiliations and joys that characterize so much of Southern life.

Weaving together stories of immigrant communities, contemporary artists, exploitative opportunists, enslaved peoples, unsung heroes, her own ancestors, and her lived experiences, Imani Perry crafts a tapestry unlike any other. With uncommon insight and breathtaking clarity, South to America offers an assertion that if we want to build a more humane future for the United States, we must center our concern below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Judges Citation

Imani Perry guides us gently below the Mason-Dixon line, drawn legally and geographically, and into the American South’s cities, towns, forests, mountains, and coast lines to understand the region’s history. Perry breathes fresh air into examinations of long-held policies and current cultural practices nuanced by place and time. South to America is elegantly personal and archival, predictive and bold, sweet and soulful, and, most of all, true.


Imani Perry accepts the 2022 National Book Award for Nonfiction for South to America

Imani Perry at the 2022 National Book Awards Finalist Reading