Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Crooked Letter I: Coming out in the South

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Crooked Letter I: Coming out in the South

Article excerpt

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South. Edited by Connie Griffin. (Montgomery, Ala.: NewSouth Books, 2015. Pp. 208. Paper, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-58838-313-6.)

Over the past decade southern studies scholars have produced compelling reassessments of space and place in relation to queer identities. Those reassessments might, for example, be institutional, as Michael P. Bibler has demonstrated through his conceptualization of the southern plantation as a fundamentally queer space in Cotton's Queer Relations: Same-Sex Intimacy and the Literature of the Southern Plantation, 1936-1968 (Charlottesville, 2009); be archival historiography, as in Brock Thompson's The Un-Natural State: Arkansas and the Queer South (Fayetteville, Ark., 2010); or be through rural stylistics, as evidenced by Scott Herring's Another Country: Queer Anti-Urbanism (New York, 2010). Other publications, including James T. Sears's Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South (New Brunswick, N.J., 2001) and E. Patrick Johnson's Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South (Chapel Hill, 2008), have drawn from literary studies, oral history narratives, and critical performance ethnography to structure LGBTQ sociality in the South. Mississippi native John Howard emerged as an authority in southern sexuality studies with his research on the intersections between queer identities and southernness in Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (Chicago, 1999). Howard identifies race, religion, and rurality as holding a central place in structuring those two identities.

Connie Griffin's edited collection of personal essays illustrates the extent to which region and rurality continue to influence and shape understandings of coming-out narratives. As Dorothy Allison movingly writes in the foreword, "Most of these people's deepest struggles were with themselves, their families, and their faith, their most personal convictions" (p. 11). Retro self-examination and the feminist movement's aphorism "speak truth to power" generatively propel this volume's insistence on writing and speaking against open-secret sexual politics and practices, for "[t]he courageous step of sharing one's personal story, an act at the heart of cultural visibility and engagement, is a powerful way to shatter the silence within which . …

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