I have just completed reading Paul Theroux’s book Deep South, one of a few books I’m reading in preparation for moving to Alabama in the summer.
The book is a collection of descriptions of hundreds of short encounters with people and places in the Deep South of America, some of them mundane, and several deeply disturbing for their stories of hatred and racism. Lynchings took place no more than fifty years ago, in fact within the lifetime of Paul Theroux. Each of the anecdotes is like a piece of a puzzle and together they paint a vivid picture of life in the southern states. I love that Paul Theroux meanders between the states in the book and goes back to visit the places he sees in different seasons. He picks up the stories of those he meets and observes the gradual changes that take place.
The book has really made me think and wonder what I will find when I get to Alabama; Theroux describes such poverty and deprivation, the like of which he has only seen in parts of Africa and Asia. It seems racism is still entrenched and outsiders on a mission to ‘do good’ to the communities are viewed with suspicion. I’ve been assured by many people that Huntsville, where I will be living, isn’t like the rest of Alabama and in many ways it exists in a bubble – I’m not sure if I am pleased or disappointed by this – I’d like to get to know the real South, but perhaps I would never fit in.
No matter what I find in Alabama, I am determined to pray for the state and I hope that my time there is used for good. I have a lot to learn.
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