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spring/summer 2019

Letters to the South

Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Hey South,

I was telling you how the funniest is thing is when I break bread up north in New York or Boston, or Portland. I speak with the throat you gave me. The host smiles at the lilt of my tongue as if to say, “this is the best exchange ever because I have a Negro spirit in my very room.” They imagine mud on my boots or crooked teeth in my mouth, and pat themselves for being from the right side of the line. But I clap back. I tell them of Tanisha Anderson and Mya Hall and Michael Brown and Laquan McDonald. I tell them and I tell them. I tell them of the time the south bled across the whole country like spilled communion. I tell of the time the north knew it was down below. They stop smiling then.


I hated you, Dear South, before I matured to recognize myself in you. I needed to love myself better than I did before. The only way to do that was to love you. So here I am.


Maurice Carlos Ruffin

MAURICE CARLOS RUFFIN is the author of We Cast A Shadow (Random House, 2019). His work has appeared in Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, AGNI, Kenyon Review, Callaloo, Massachusetts Review, the Bitter Southerner, LitHub, Pacific Standard, and the Los Angeles Times. He is the winner of the Iowa Review Fiction Award, the Soto Speak Journal Short Story Award, and the William Faulkner Competition for Novel in Progress.

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