Featuring unforgettable songs and stories from South Carolina, the issue includes voices ranging from the Upstate to the Lowcountry, highlighting icons like Dizzy Gillespie and Eartha Kitt, as well as contemporary artists such as Shovels & Rope and Ranky Tanky.
Our cover star is NASA astronaut Ronald McNair, who became a physics (and music) pioneer when he brought a soprano sax into orbit in 1984. A native of Lake City, South Carolina, McNair died tragically in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster two years later. In a revelatory and thoughtful feature in the issue, Jon Kirby speaks with McNair’s family, friends, and colleagues, who remember him not only as a famous astronaut but also a devoted, one-of-a-kind musician.
Order the South Carolina Music Issue & Sampler today. The issue comes packaged with a CD compilation and digital download card.
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Eliza Borné is the editor of the Oxford American.
Food for thought from the Oxford American
When the pandemic upended our work and personal lives at the Oxford American, we were in various stages of launching a number of new digital initiatives, including a series of themed newsletters written by editors and inspired by our ongoing project of surfacing gems from the magazine’s archive. Now that we’re all spending so much time in the kitchen (and longing to dine with those we love most), we have decided to press on with our newsletter centered on food and cooking.
A Letter from the Editor, Spring 2020.
Over the years, I have come to admire a certain kind of story that the Oxford American, as a quarterly magazine untethered from the demands of a rapid news cycle, is especially well suited to publish. With love, I call it the “OA special,” though “passion project” works just as well: stories that writers have been chasing for years, often to the point of obsession, hooked by a question or a place or a character.
A Letter from the Editor, Fall 2019.
As a nonprofit, independent publication, the OA exists in an undefined space between literary journal and glossy general-interest magazine. We can embrace the best of both traditions as we see fit: publishing multi-page poems and longform reportage, fine artwork and photojournalism.
A Letter from the Editor, Summer 2019.
At the Oxford American, we receive many pitches for stories in the category of “pilgrimages,” or “literary road trips,” or “retracing X’s steps.” I understand the appeal: the traveler can see with her own eyes what inspired her heroes, place a work of art or literature in its proper context, imagine an artist’s life were he still living today.
A Letter from the Editor, Spring 2019.
Though I don’t believe new parents must be homebound, another truth of my current season is that my movements are mostly limited to house and office and places in between. So more than ever in my life, I am compelled to travel via stories. It’s been a pleasure to join the perceptive, intelligent guides who contributed to this issue.
A Letter from the Editor, Fall 2018.
I was struck by a phrase written by Jelani Cobb for the New Yorker, which characterized our former president as “a man who grasps history as the living context of our lives.” This is a seemingly obvious principle, perhaps one many of us learned in grade-school social studies. It’s a theme President Obama has returned to throughout his years in public life. During his 2008 “race speech,” he memorably invoked Faulkner’s famous line: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It’s a theme that resonates across this issue.
A Letter from the Editor, Summer 2018.
Sometimes we go on journeys just for fun, and sometimes we go because we have to, even when it’s hard. In our third annual Southern Journeys summer feature, five writers travel far and near in search of understanding: about their personal histories and roots, about our neighbors and changing landscape. Lucas Loredo, a Texan whose family escaped Castro’s regime in 1960 on the second-to-last boat allowed out of Cuba, visits Havana and the town of Nicaro in an effort to heal a painful feud. On the Cumberland Plateau, Lisa Coffman trails an infamous historical fugitive as she forms an unlikely friendship born from a love for “the peculiar character of the land itself.”
A Letter from the Editor, Spring 2018.
This issue is packed with other luminaries: Nikki Giovanni, Lolis Eric Elie, and Wendell Berry express the tenderness of our closest relationships. Randall Kenan and Thomas Pierce, contemporary masters of Southern fiction, offer new otherworldly short stories. Lauren Groff pens an essay mourning the depletion of Earth’s resources and ponders the possibilities of the next frontier. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s death, Benjamin Hedin goes to Memphis, where its citizens—like so many of us in the South—still bear the burden of history: mourning the sins of our racist past; attempting to atone, however imperfectly; and finding a way to move forward.