Published by: LSU Press
Published on: March 18, 2011
Page Count: 192
My reading format: Advanced reading copy in Adobe Digital Editions from NetGalley
Available Formats: Print (Hardcover) and Digital (Adobe Reader and Mobipocket Reader)
I love a good road trip, especially if it means at least some of the journey can be made off the interstate highway system and on roads and in towns that show you what things are really like. And if you can learn something about yourself or a family member on the journey, then all the better.
James Twitchell must have had a similar idea when he and his wife, Florida residents but native Yankees, decided to explore Highway 84 from its beginning in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia to Coushatta, Louisiana. The final destination was the town Twitchell's great-grandfather, a carpetbagger, inhabited for about a decade after the Civil War. Along the way, the author hoped to gain a deeper understanding of the Deep South, a journey he describes in Look Away, Dixieland: A Carpetbagger's Great-Grandson Travels Highway 84 in Search of the Shack-Up-On-Cinder-Blocks, Confederate-Flag-Waving, Squirrel-Hunting, Boiled-Peanuts, Deep-Drawl, Don't-Stop-the-Car-Here South.
In the book, Twitchell sets up his planned journey, spends one chapter on each state he visited and summed up the trip and his findings, putting a trip that left him with more questions than answers tied up in a neat package. He started with the question, "Can I find a path across the South that will duplicate enough of the world my great-grandfather and his family experienced so that I can have an understanding of what happened to them?" He finished with the answer, "...quests tend to be better in prospect than in result." However, as he hoped, he learned a lot about the Deep South on his journey. More importantly, he learned more about his ancestor and his life as a transplanted Vermonter in northern Louisiana during a complicated time in our nation's history politically, economically, socially, racially and otherwise: Reconstruction.
It sounds like this trip plus three decades of living in north Florida may not have answered every question he has about Southerners and their preferred ways of life. The answer to the question of Southernness is as clear as Mississippi mud to many of us, even Southerners themselves. This book is an interesting and entertaining read, and might be best read on a road trip.