PBS Books, in collaboration with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), is pleased to host a conversation with award-winning Imani Perry, author of South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation, winner of the 2022 National Book Award for Nonfiction. For anyone who enjoys learning about how nation, this author shares thought-provoking stories, facts, and personal narratives and takes readers on a fantastic journey throughout the South to understand our nation. Imani shares about her work with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., including her role in Making Black America: Through The Grapevine, and the important work of Zora Neale Hurston, whose new documentary will air on PBS AMERICAN EXPERIENCE in January 2023. Don’t miss this incredible conversation.
ABOUT THE BOOK
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Imani Perry is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University where she also teaches in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Law and Public Affairs and Jazz Studies. She has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a Ph.D in the history of American civilization from Harvard University. Perry is the author of South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation, winner of the 2022 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, winner of the Bograd-Weld Biography Prize of 2019 from the Pen America Foundation. She is also the author of Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation, and May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem, which was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Nonfiction. Perry, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, who grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Chicago, lives outside of Philadelphia with her two sons.