Sitting Up with the Dead: A Storied Journey Through the American South

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9780007292295: Sitting Up with the Dead: A Storied Journey Through the American South

The story of the South is not finished. The southeastern states of America, the old Confederacy, bristle with storytellers who refuse to be silent. Many of the tales passed down from generation to generation to be told and re-told continue to change their shape to suit their time, stretching elastically to find new ways of retailing the People's Truth. Travelling back and forth, from the Carolinas to Louisiana, from the Appalachians to Atlantic islands, from Virginian valleys to Florida swamps, and sitting before bewitching storytellers who tell her tales that hold her hard, Pamela Petro gathers up a fistful of history, and sieves out of it the shiny truths that these stories have been polishing over the years. Here is another America altogether, lingering on behind the facade of the ubiquitous strip-mall of anodyne, branded commerce and communication, moving to other rhythms, reaching back into the past to clutch at the shattering events that shaped it and haunt it still

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About the Author:

Pamela Petro has been educated at Brown, Paris and Harvard Universities, and at the University of Wales, Lampeter. She has since taught Welsh and travel writing in the USA. She regularly contributes to the New York Times Travel Section and to Planet, and has compiled a guide to New England.

From Publishers Weekly:

Petro, a travel writer based in Northhampton, Mass., embarked on four meandering trips through the South to explore the "place-bond" that particular, mysterious nexus of identity, geography and history that she imagines defines Southern culture. Doggedly pursuing a diverse group of both black and white professional storytellers, she wanders from Appalachia, Louisiana bayous and Selma, Ala., back to the Atlantic seaboard. Folktales and their tellers serve as her maps and guides; her travelogue is peppered with transcribed stories she hears on the way. The resulting chronicle is an impressive piece of cultural conservation, reportage and memoir that subtly mourns the passing of a rural way of life. Petro revels in the folksy and whimsical stories of mule eggs, plat-eyes, kudzu, rattlesnakes and singing turtles revealing as much about her sensibility as about the eccentricities of her subjects. Not all of the stories retain their power in written form, however, and Petro sometimes offers obvious lessons and characterizations: that elderly people are wise, for instance. On the other hand, she generally resists an academic penchant for overanalyzing, trusting readers to interpret the racial, ethnic, environmental and socioeconomic conditions that shape the stories. The strength of the book lies in the fine balance between the individual voices of her storytellers and her own observations and commentary. In searching out these speakers, Petro discovers her own narrative voice.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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