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autumn/winter 2018

Letters to the South

Bernice L. McFadden

An Open Letter to The Southern States of America,


You may not know me, but I know you. In fact, I feel you, under my skin, pulsing through my veins. You may very well be the very drum of my heart.  My maternal great grandparents were born in Georgia, as were their parents before them. My paternal grandfather was born in Kentucky, and his father before him - South Carolina. Yes, I have Yankee sensibilities, but I do enjoy cheese grits and the occasional tall, cold glass of sweet tea. I may have grown up with blacktopped highways and the scream of sirens in the night, but I prefer oak shaded back roads and crooning katydids.

Oh, you may think my adulation is less than genuine, but believe me, what I say is true.  My decades long enchantment and longing is evident in my writing. My very first novel (SUGAR) was centered in Bigelow, Arkansas. Till this day, I’ve not set foot in Bigelow or the Wonder State. Years later, I discovered that after emancipation, my triple-great grandfather, Mingo McFadden, made his home as freeman in Ozan, Arkansas a mere 2.5 hours drive from Bigelow. 

I could have chosen to set this story anywhere in the United States, so why did I choose Arkansas? The truth is I didn’t choose Arkansas, Arkansas chose me generations ago.

You see, that’s the depth of our bond.


Sending Love,


BERNICE L. McFADDEN is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including Sugar, Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, The Warmest December, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), Glorious, and The Book of Harlan (winner of a 2017 American Book Award and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Fiction). She is a four-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the BCALA. Praise Song for the Butterflies is her latest novel.

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