REDNECK MOTHERS, GOOD OL' GIRLS AND OTHER SOUTHERN BELLES: A Celebration of the Women of Dixie by Sharon McKern

REDNECK MOTHERS, GOOD OL' GIRLS AND OTHER SOUTHERN BELLES: A Celebration of the Women of Dixie

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Notes of a native daughter on the regulars and ""superstar eccentrics indigenous to Southern soil"": the stereotypes and exemplars of each, renowned or routed out in McKern's travels; and how much the types, so different in style, share in substance--with some over-simplification, too much. McKern does belabor her synthesis of Southern woman as survivor and matriarch, whose superficial femininity allows her to exercise masked strength: boss on a pedestal, she has the best of both worlds and no use for the feminist movement. Yet the same culture that places ""a premium on social conformity prizes individualism even more, and all but guarantees eccentricity as a feminine prerogative""--and ""The women who people the pages of this book. . . have seized imaginatively on the idiosyncracies"" of that culture. McKern introduces an eclectic group of memorables, among them an unlikely born-again Christian; a practitioner of the esoteric art of fasola or Sacred Harp singing; country music's Stella Patton; canny Atlanta book-buyer Faith Brunson, one of several (nonstigmatized) spinsters here; Betty (ex-Mrs. Senator) Talmadge, entrepreneuse and rare Southern ERA advocate (effective became ""she does not threaten so much as she inspires""). ""Whatever role they choose--rhinestone cowgirl or backroads rebel, up-country aristocrat or Appalachian redneck--Southern women play with style and total commitment, for they understand better than most that roles well-played will carry them nearer their personal goals."" That goes for black and white alike, although the former are under-represented; indeed, vis-à-vis racism on the whole, McKern does little more than lament its residue or applaud its dissipation among her respondents. Her interview reports and transcriptions come across with an authenticity that her commentary at large, variously coy and repetitive, dilutes; McKern is a partisan analyst who sometimes protests or persists too much, but her approach to social history is creative and enriched by the contributions of the subjects she very much celebrates.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Viking