A poem from the Fall 2018 issue. It is such a tragedy, all this Working. The vacation I need is on your mark, Get set, go. It’s been years Since I’ve seen the light by Alex Lemon | Oct, 2018

A poem from the Fall 2018 issue. The girl born at the edge                   of a copper-colored river returns, prefers her wrists                          … by Sandy Longhorn | Sep, 2018

Notes on the songs from our 20th Southern Music Issue Sampler featuring North Carolina. The profiles, eulogies, and essays herein boast of remarkable achievements of North Carolina’s musicians across eras and genres: from unassailable legends (High Point’s John Coltrane, Tryon’s… by Oxford American | Nov, 2018

Sarah Winchester and the legacy of living with guns  It’s difficult to understate how the repeating rifle revolutionized killing, of both animals and man, as it brought the world from the single-shot muzzle-loaded rifle to a gun that could hold multiple… by Sara A. Lewis | Sep, 2018

A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue. One morning in the summer of 1996, Damian Hart was standing naked on a pier in the Aegean Sea. The sun was bearing down on Mount Athos, one of several craggy peninsulas… by Nick Tabor | Sep, 2018

A poem from the Fall 2018 issue. None of this surprises you now, does it? I’m not sure I can know that, I responded to myself. Or I think I did. I should have.  A friend told me to embrace my disorientation here, to attend to… by Curtis Bauer | Sep, 2018

A Points South essay from the Fall 2018 issue. The dock at Mountain Lake is everything a dock should be—whitewashed clapboard, punctuated by an airy pavilion with a red roof—but if you jumped off it, all you’d hit is earth.… by Nell Boeschenstein | Sep, 2018

A Points South story from the Fall 2018 issue  In the evenings, after the day’s rain, my grandfather drove through Starke counting cars in the lots of other motels, doing the math and feeling like a winner. For guests visiting… by Scott Korb | Sep, 2018

A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue. Prine radiates a sense of well-being, along with a sort of amused nonchalance toward potential disaster. This is a good thing, because the Coupe, as it turns out, has no passenger-side safety… by Tom Piazza | Oct, 2018

The By and By

The By and By

Weekly dispatches on OxfordAmerican.org


The Oxford American is a creature of print, a magazine to sit down with, flip through, read forward and back, pitch across the table to a friend, take along, set upon the shelf. We publish quarterly, we like to say, to give readers just enough time to digest each issue before the next one appears. But three months is a while, and, always, more stories want to be told than will fit into four issues—really good ones, too. Stories bind us together; they are the way communities have found their form for centuries. And in the South, they are the way neighbors have loved and laughed and forgiven each other, each night, on that open air stoop.

A weekly online series, The By and By features essays by some of the South’s most gifted and promising talents. In 2017, Tift Merritt, Sandra Gutierrez, Matthew Neill Null, Will Stephenson, and Ronni Lundy regularly published dispatches covering cultural beats from unique Southern perspectives. The By and By also inaugurated an exciting new editorial partnership between Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies and the Oxford American

The Oxford American is proud to continue the series in 2018. Every Thursday, The By and By will feature new works by Leesa Cross-Smith, William Boyle, Meghan Plummer, Julien Baker, Frederick McKindra, and Bárbara Renaud González, as well as dispatches curated by Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.

Leesa Cross-Smith (whose debut novel, Whiskey & Ribbons, will be published on March 6) made her Oxford American debut in the Kentucky Music issue; her column, called “The Glimmering Hush,” will explore her yearning for quiet in our noisy world. William Boyle, an Oxford, Mississippi–based crime novelist (his new novel, The Lonely Witness, will be released on May 1) will write a series of essays about work and inspiration titled “The Accompaniment of Trashcans and Ashtrays.” Alabama writer Meghan Tear Plummer will send dispatches from South Africa, where she moved last year; her series is called “Mzansi South.” Memphis-based singer-songwriter Julien Baker will write “Getting Out of the Way,” a column about what she learns from encountering others on her journeys, musical and otherwise. Frederick McKindra, a 2017 BuzzFeed Emerging Writer Fellow and Little Rock native, will write “All Around Us,” on the ways Southerners inhabit and shape the space around them. Chicana novelist and journalist Bárbara Renaud González’s column will focus on the people who represent the wars, migrations, cultures, and conflicts of San Antonio; her column is “The Alma in the Alamo: Stories from San Antonio’s 300th year.”

For the second consecutive year, the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) will showcase work by its faculty, students, and affiliated artists; last year’s CDS contributors included Timothy B. Tyson, Abbie Gascho Landis, Lauren Pond, Steven M. Cozart, and others.

The By and By will publish at OxfordAmerican.org on Thursdays from February 15 through the end of December 2018.

— The Editors 

Image: Trustees’ House Stair. Shaker Village, Kentucky. © Guy Mendes


 

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Her mother was characterized by her resilience but also her harshness; she had lived in a holler nestled in the East Tennessee mountains, worked on an assembly line in a shirt factory, and been a divorced woman at a time when divorcées were ostracized. When my relatives reminisce about her, they remark often about her stubbornness, her confrontational tenacity. Neither sentimental nor delicate, her affection manifested in stoic devotion rather than fawning tenderness.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I couldn’t tell if my total transparency meant I was improving or that I was becoming completely unmoored, with no understanding of my words’ effects—especially on Luke. I was still so far away from understanding the pain I’d caused him. The nearest I could come was a vague worry that I could no longer experience that empathy.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

As I listened, going first through What Would the Community Think again and then switching to Moon Pix, I felt the loneliness leave me. I watched it dance in front of me, saw it swimming against the light from the music.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I listened to “Just Like You” by Keb’ Mo’ over and over again the same way I did when I was working at a coffee shop when I was in college. Keb’ is singing, “I feel just like you and I cry just like you and I heal just like you and I break down just like you,” and I'm wondering if people would actually live their lives differently if they listened to that song every morning before they went out into the world or interacted with other people.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

My first full hurricane season in the Bahamas in over twenty years found me struggling to ensure we were storm ready while adjusting to our family’s new normal.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

San Antonio is the patron saint of lost causes, and Rolando created a statue of him in faux-marble white with the Alamo perched like a hat, except that the saint is upside down, so the Alamo is at his feet. When you want something, Rolando says, you flip the statue upside down.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I’ve long struggled with my feelings toward the South End, having never loved the place the way I thought I should. Both my parents rhapsodize about the segregated black communities of their origins. But whereas their tales communicated the wills of their neighbors to persevere, my community seemed intent on trumpeting its hardship.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

“Be careful you’re not romanticizing it,” my husband said a few days later as we talked through the experience. I knew what he meant, but it made me feel lonely that he and I did not agree; I thought this could be the moment when my beliefs allied with a South African’s, but it wasn’t.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I felt many days like I was no one and like nothing mattered and that I couldn’t write myself out of it. I wanted to be someone or something that I couldn’t be. Now I was a guy from Brooklyn in Mississippi. When I sat down to write Gravesend, all of that came into play. I thought of the way we bring the place we’re from with us, no matter where we are. I could’ve called the book Gravesend and not had a single scene set in my neighborhood. I carried the streets with me.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Because of her story, I’ve seen the way that wars secure land at the cost of great violence, hate, and marginalization. Sometimes the so-called losers win. Like the Alamo that the Mexicans won, whose descendants lost everything. What about the downtown real estate? Mary Lou doesn’t know what happened to it. Apparently, not all heroes die rich.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

In the early episodes of MEN, co-host Celeste Headlee and I dive into history and science to explore questions like, How and when did men seize for themselves the top spot in the gender hierarchy? (Spoiler: It happened long after “cave man” days.) How did the patriarchy survive Enlightenment ideas about universal human rights? What is gender, anyway, and what does the latest research say about the old nature-nurture question—that is, are the differences that we think we see in male and female humans partly biological or are those differences entirely socially constructed and learned?

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

From the moment I heard the song, the repetition of “more time, more time” got stuck in my head—as I was washing my face at night, as we were driving home, as I was unpacking. I listened to the song over and over again the way I always listen to Justin Vernon’s music, attempting to decode the lyrics and to let his voice ribbon through the quiet spaces.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Writing is lonely work—because of the solitude, but also because it does not quiet the mind the way physical toil does. Instead, as I exert myself at my desk, the clamor of my internal voice and thoughts grow more and more voluble. In that restlessness, I’ve begun to survey the landscape, all the possessions my friends have amassed, and I’ve begun to think of my page counts and word counts as flimsy by comparison.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

The pilgrimage to The Store is a ritual exercise of re-centering that anchors me in something common and universal; strangers converge at a single nexus for that unavoidable suburban rite, the completion of errands, and I happily join the other shoppers wandering through rows of soda, dog food, and detergent like a sleepy school of fish.


An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

When I arrived, about thirty students—ages six to fifteen—were heavily bundled against the cold and standing on a low, concrete stage built into the side of a small hill in the middle of the playground. They sang happy birthday to Madiba twice before the cameraman was satisfied with their volume.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Even when Ridley pans a movie, he does it with heart. His takedown of Luc Besson’s The Messenger is written as “a short story that imagines a film executive in purgatory summoning Carl Theodore Dreyer [director of the ethereal and perfect The Passion of Joan of Arc] to his office.” Haruch says this is “a doff of the cap, of sorts, to Godard’s notion that one should make a movie to criticize a movie.”

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

In the spring and summer, I make a habit of sitting on our deck in the mornings and as far into the afternoons as the Kentucky sun, heat, humidity, allergies, and mosquitoes allow. I also like to sit up in the treehouse in our yard that my husband built for our children—but he and I love and use it too—with my books and my fizzy strawberry pop.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

“Point d’eau” gives viewers an unusual vantage on the difficult and improvisational lives of these migrants by focusing closely, respectfully, on one specific issue, water. A court ruling in June 2017 obliged the city of Calais to provide them with public water access, but there are still approximately “1,300 to 1,500 exiles in northern France who are being denied access to safe drinking water and sanitation services—basic human rights,” says Kantorowicz Torres.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

My father was not so different than Gerty. He was a King Ranch man through and through. He spoke English and Spanish as one language, making one body of words from the branchy rivers of South Texas.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Going to a gay bar was an expedient, in that presumably most patrons would be available. I hoped that meeting someone would be easier there. I managed two solo voyages to the same gay bar in town, a slick, modern dive where I mostly sat and swiped messages on my phone apps while flirting with the straight bartenders, two ringers planted because of their willingness to be ogled and their very legible masculinity.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Violence as a concept is easy to oppose, but it is harder to condemn human beings tangled in the various machines of violence that permeate our world. I’m unable to clear the hurdle of invalidation it takes to dismiss a person completely; I find myself more dismayed than critical. My opinions about violence, war, and guns, however deeply rooted, are predicated upon second-hand knowledge of others’ experience.


An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Soon I understood that when South Africans asked what I thought about South Africa, they expected me to make big-picture generalizations about my country and theirs, but I was focused on literal scenery—birds and trees and flowers—that did not much matter to them.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

For me, toothpicks—like Zippo lighters and typewriters and vinyl records—have always signified classic coolness. My grandfather, a Brooklyn car mechanic and TV fix-it guy, chewed them compulsively and I fell in love with toothpicks because of him.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Within the span of one month, our children had stood on the front porch of the house that Martin Luther King Jr. was born in and also stood in the parking lot looking up at the balcony where his life was so cruelly snatched from him. Beginnings and endings. Life and death. Happiness and sorrow. Ebb and flow.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

Speculation is delicious. Meditating on half of a cake, pondering its varieties and iterations, contemplating its value as an edible commodity and a social comestible . . . that is pure pleasure. An answer is satisfying, but speculation is limitless.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I was consciously conquering trials from my personal history, reforming established truths I’d carried for years about my body’s capabilities. I’d begun to think that my aging body was incapable of such discoveries. I had been resigned that the fault lines of my life would remain with me resolutely. And yet.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

It is easy to dismiss a person as ignorant; it is hard to recognize the ways in which I am still ignorant. My ego retaliates violently against this possibility because it threatens my self-image as a Good Person, the moral superiority that enables me to pity those with whom I disagree from the relative safety of higher ground.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Across two lanes of traffic—an alarmingly short distance—he executed a round-off, back handspring, and back flip. He was so high in the air I could see him over four rows of cars in front of me. The heat shimmered up off the pavement and broken glass around him. He fetched a cup from the curb, and I watched him pass every car window, including my own, without collecting anything. The light turned green.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

For me, obsession with art is also about survival. I’m after the next thing, the next moment that will give shape or purpose to existence. It’s always been important for me to fill my days like this, to give definition to who I am and who I will be by engulfing myself in what I’m watching and listening to and reading. Getting lost in art that moves me just makes things make sense.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I quickly identified a mockingbird in the branches above us. And it was close, low, singing and calling its tiny bird heart out. I was instantly de-stressed, instantly at ease and felt blessed to be standing so close to the mockingbird at that moment because the song, the calls, the beauty felt like secrets, gifts I shouldn’t ignore.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

Severance, Katherine Yungmee Kim’s ongoing exploration of one of the world’s most dangerous geopolitical borders, is a visual “novel” that incorporates text and archival and family photographs to trace a personal and political history of the Korean peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

My mother saw the border as a metaphor for possibility. To her, the border wasn’t geography, but poetry. Sometimes the border is a crisscrossing, with some children born here and others born there. Not a river, but a poem filled with words waiting to be written down. A brave new music.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Newly returned to Little Rock, this year I will attempt to catch the Southern vernacular on the air—the sounds that warp my senses and have conditioned me to experience this place in a particular way.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

It was devastating to find how much I enjoy quiet. For a person whose life is consumed by music, it felt like blasphemy. The first time that I sat down to play guitar and nothing came out, I was terrified.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Up above, the electric Vodacom sign flashed through its paces of red and white, red and white, tingeing everything with pink light and unnatural shadows. It was strange to be in a place that looked so dystopian but that smelled like something as domestic as kitchen trash.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Songs: Ohia is the name under which musician Jason Molina—Ohio-born and bred, with deep West Virginia roots—performed and released his first records. Didn’t It Rain was his sixth studio album but my first exposure to him. It’s an album that I folded into immediately, that buckled my blood. I’d never heard something that sounded exactly like how I felt.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I think often of escaping from noise. Wherever I am, I like to sit by windows, doors. I like knowing how to get away when I need to get away.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

Less than two months before C.D. Wright passed away, the Center for Documentary Studies had the honor of welcoming her as a featured panelist at their twenty-fifth anniversary celebration and national documentary forum, where she gave a powerful reading from One With Others.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I am grateful to the feminists who came before me and who made it possible for me to be where I am today. But mostly, I am tremendously grateful to the women who are speaking up now. 

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

From the Janiculum, you can see the dull red cells that look like arcades, the two squat watchtowers, and the closest buildings laid out in cruciform, recalling Regina Coeli’s religious past. You wouldn’t necessarily perceive it as a prison unless you knew—even the razor-wire is rendered mere decoration by distance—though the cells’ countless black eyes do recall Foucault’s Discipline & Punish. I often took my binoculars but couldn’t see much else: certainly not people. Prisons and asylums, convents and poor farms, halfway houses and nursing homes: these institutions have always drawn my eye. I think, If nothing else works out for me, I can always go there. 

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Music enters us unmediated by the intellect. Every other form of art goes through the brain on its way to your heart, your gut, your soul. We don’t “enter into” music, the way we do with a book, a movie, a piece of visual or tactile art; it enters us. And it enters whole.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

Stories of sin and salvation are plentiful in serpent handling communities, and over the years, I’ve heard dozens of tales of Signs Followers backsliding into different vices and leaving church, only to repent later and rejoin the congregation.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

My greatest, greatest fear: to be a hobbyist, an artist on the side. I’ve prided myself on being a working artist for my entire adult life, as if it were the very backbone holding me upright. But the artist hustle written on my face isn’t working. 

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Important conversations are taking place around the Southern table—frank discussions on culinary appropriation and whether anyone can truly claim ownership of an entire cuisine. Southerners and Latinx in both academia and the food writing sphere have continued to expose racism in more than a black-and-white framework, and they exposed the festering wound of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. I am hopeful that we will no longer feel silenced from discussing openly these painful and important issues.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

The problem of pain is one that has long troubled humans in general, but dentists, perhaps, in particular. The issue has vexed the field for centuries. By the late 1950s, general anesthesia in the dentistry community had come under intense scrutiny, given the widely reported numbers of unnecessary deaths. There was the sense that something else—something safer, less toxic, simpler—could be the answer.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

It’s pretty common knowledge, though, that when chattel slavery was being practiced in the United States, light-skinned people—often the offspring of land owning men and the women they held enslaved—were more likely to work in the house or have some other form of privileged status, while those with darker skin labored outside, doing demanding physical work in the fields. This caste system is one of the many ways that white supremacy rooted itself in American culture at large; colorism persisted well into the twentieth century, and a residue lingers even today.

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

For all we romanticize the notion of “work” in America, and as much as the politicians shill for it, the daily life of a laborer is the first thing to slip the collective memory. Instead, our children are taken to visit the mansion, the cathedral, or the art museum where the dirty money was poured. The factories corrode. The roof falls in. The weather comes.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

If you are unfamiliar with Texan Kevin Russell, the singer/songwriter and guitar, mandolin, and ukulele player who lately goes by the nom de pluck Shinyribs, as does his brilliant funking, picking, and punking band, it is totally misleading for me to introduce you, as I just did, as if he were a man of constant sorrow. In fact, Russell—clad in his pistachio green, or orange plaid, or lip-blotting pink/red booty-shaking suit, and backed by a core of ticking, riffing sidemen, the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns, and the Shiny Soul Sisters—leads one of the finest party bands around and, when called for, a heckuva crowd rousing conga line.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

Collectively, the students’ work forms a nuanced, intimate portrait of communities as they struggle to survive. The completed videos are presented to local residents—there have been screenings in municipal buildings, town commons, baseball fields, churches—and hundreds of people attend. Feedback is near universal: In listening to the stories of their fellow residents, audience members have gained a deeper understanding of the impact of political, social, and cultural issues on their family, friends, neighbors, and fellow community members.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

From the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University: To introduce our first story for The By and By, a writing-and-audio narrative around the new book The Blood of Emmett Till, we asked its author, Timothy B. Tyson, to reflect on the overwhelming response to the book since its release, why the story of Emmett Till continues to resonate so profoundly.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I was prepared to talk about the food that Southerners and Latinos have in common and the blending of our cultures at the table. My presentation focused on the very real culinary movement showcasing harmony among different peoples. My “call to forks,” if I may, is one of unity and community, one that proves we’ve already come together at the table, one that invites us all to understand each other better while we share meals.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

One of the strangest and rarest books in Hannah’s catalog, Power and Light is worth the trouble of seeking out, not only because it is the only tangible artifact of the author’s adventures in Hollywood, but also for its humor and formal uncertainty—a “novella for the screen” is an accurate description.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

Since 2001 Christopher Sims has been “investigating, with a profound and insistent curiosity, American military ventures from the perspective of the home front.” For ten years Sims photographed staged Iraqi and Afghan villages on the training grounds of U.S. Army bases deep in the forests of North Carolina and Louisiana.

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

Why are some places cursed and others blessed? The blessed never ask this question. They don’t have to. This has been the concern of my work. A small plea, now, for a dying town.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

It became impossible for me to jibe the romanticized South with the reality of what that war was actually about, and what it cost. And as I put away childish things, I came to understand that the monuments weren’t there to remind us of history. They were, in fact, its cover-up.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

As James Taylor puts it, “These images of our dear friend and native son, Reynolds Price, are precious reminders of a lovely life, fully lived and generously shared with those of us lucky enough to have known him. Every page summons the memory of that indomitable spirit and wry conspiratorial humor. How could he be both compassionate and wicked? It is even good to miss him.”

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Music is a mystery that does not want thinking. The act of doing anything with feel—writing, making love, playing freely—requires something beyond thinking and eclipses the need for even talking when done right. What I tell myself when I sing: Listen and Give. As far as I can tell, that’s the whole shebang. Annie Dillard is correct—my feelings about my work are pretty unimportant and beside the point; mosquitos to be slapped down.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

We all have an emotional connection to eating—anyone who has ever soothed hurt feelings or mended a broken heart with food will agree. Food can appease sadness, albeit only temporarily, and sometimes be a silent companion while we try to come to terms with loss. Food can also bring back a memory of a loved one and revive long-passed moments.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I am lying in bed on the Fourth of July. The apartment is empty. A box fan is propped on the dresser, blowing cool air, though I can’t hear it. I’m wearing headphones and listening to Bohannon: Speaks from the Beginning. This is the audiobook memoir of Hamilton Bohannon. Not the audiobook of the memoir, in other words, but the audiobook memoir—it only exists in an audio format. He didn’t find it necessary to write down the details of his life. Sound is his medium, always was. So he speaks.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

I cannot tell you how exciting it is to see this surge of young people saying, “We’re pretty clear on what our values are. We’re pretty clear on what we want our futures to look like, and here are some ways we’re getting there. And we’re not asking permission. We’re just doing it.” 

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

As soon as we entered the town, a warren of stone houses perched on a ridge, maybe home to five hundred, I got the feeling of something vaguely sinister ahead, as you do before entering a particularly violent bar or a house party in meth-land. 

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I wrote once about a close friend of mine who celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas alone. She described the simple joy she had in preparing her special breakfast on those sacred days; the hours she spent poring over fat newspapers on the floor, savoring the decision of what movie to go to later; the ease of coming home to make a candlelight meal, with fine wine, alone.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

From the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University: It’s not easy to stand out and get noticed in the existing sea of podcasts, but Scene on Radio grew its listenership at a steady, respectable rate. Then, earlier this year, John rolled out a new series of episodes—and things got crazy. An example, among many: one of the world’s leading radio production companies tweeted, “Currently the best thing coming out of the U.S. podcast scene.”

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

The flight attendant stopped and pointed to the safety card’s picture of a woman cradling a child in her arms. “Do you understand? You will hold her like that, alright?” It seemed utterly useless, the fragile creature in my arms against the speed and heft of this giant metal bird throwing itself with such velocity back at earth.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Our shared experiences as Latina women in the South and all that this entailed—our search for belonging in a society that was weary of new immigrants, the desire for sustainable change that would further the understanding between Latinos and Southerners, and the discovery that we were in fact able to catapult such change—sealed our kinship and guided our conversation.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

When Cash Money was started several years before by the brothers Baby and Slim Williams, Kilo G had been its flagship artist. He was only fourteen when he met Baby and Slim, too young to sign a contract; they’d had to take a ferry across the river to find his grandmother, so she could sign in his place. Before Mannie Fresh, before Lil Wayne—before the fleet of Bentleys and yellow Hummers that roamed the streets of New Orleans like an occupying army—there had been Kilo G.

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By.

In the forest, we are enveloped by a magical darkness. We are afraid and fearless at the same time: fighting for our existence, fighting to be seen as human. So there is magic and strength, but there is also fear. The woman will become enveloped by a darkness of her own in this most magical of places. I hope you are afraid for her. I hope you are afraid of the forest, too, but I also hope you understand: Black people can fly. Just look, as she runs into the darkness, she is ready. One more step and she will fly.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

The Kentucky I knew looked verdant and sun-dappled as my family drove through the palisades and then the gentle bluegrass on our way to the mountains from the city of Louisville. And even when we reached the mountains themselves, which so physically display the significance of shadow and mystery, I was still in a place that all the grownups around me treasured for its nurturing, its sustenance, its mothering. Even those who’d lived away for decades, in other states, in other countries, still called the mountains “home” because that was what they believed.

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

Beneath all I’m a low-church Protestant, splinter spit from the door when Martin Luther nailed up his paper at Wittenberg. I remember being warned as a child not to attend a church with cushioned pews: insufficiently austere.

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By.

Freshwater mussels live mostly buried. Their shell edges are parted like a surprised gasp, exposing two apertures. One intakes and the other releases water, which is how mussels eat, breathe, and even gather sperm to meet their eggs. Those apertures actually look like Georgia O’Keefe paintings—flower, female anatomy—elegant ovals decorated with variously shaped and colored papillae. Apertures, papillae, curve of a shell.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Toni Tipton-Martin, Ronni Lundy, and I hope to offer a set of shoulders upon which the next generation of women—of many different colors and cultures—can stand. We ended our morning with a call to action: to fill our Southern tables with Southern food and use it to bring different people together. Go to the uncomfortable places, talk about your truths, and agree to disagree if you must—but break bread together, with respect.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Touring is not for the faint of heart. Without a child, it is an animal exercise in mileage, calories, and sleep, which leaves me plagued with thoughts about what my karma must be that I have landed in a sickly-colored motel in this or that middle of nowhere. Touring with a child is more pleasurable, a true exploration, but frankly, tiring.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

One of the paradoxes of George Ellis’s career, in hindsight, is that alongside his run of cheap exploitation films, he maintained a parallel career as Atlanta’s first great arthouse film exhibitor. It adds a layer of complexity to his work, to know that his own taste was impeccable—he understood the full range of cinematic possibilities and would have seen exactly where his films fit into that spectrum. Around the time Demented Death Farm Massacre was hitting theaters, Ellis was introducing Atlanta to the French New Wave and the New German Cinema, hosting retrospectives of Chaplin and Bergman.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

In the West Virginia of long ago, when it was a place with work that lured people, rather than spitting them out into the world, the Calabrians came to mine the coal, the Sicilians to lay the rails, the Abruzzese to chisel lovely stonework on the railroad tunnels and passes—you can still find that abandoned work in places, overgrown in ivy and filth, the names of its artisans lost to history.