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Sitting up with the dead : a storied journey through the American South
Petro, Pamela
Adult Nonfiction GR108 .P47 2002

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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. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


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