August 26, 2013

The Editors are spiking most of my copy now, unread. One has described it as “hopeless crap.” My master’s degree means nothing to this pack of half-wits at the Blade. My job is hanging by a thread. But Frankie, an assistant city editor, is not such a bad boss and it was she who, out of the blue, gave me this choice assignment. I was startled. A last chance to make good?

March 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue

My family has laid claim to a variety of nationalities and regional affiliations, yet there are still questions I reflect on from time to time regarding my own claim to my current home. Am I a Southerner, and do I have a right to call myself a Southerner? Will others recognize me as a Southerner, despite my lack of accent and because of my Asian face? And what does it mean to take on this identity—what does it mean for me to claim Dixie?

March 17, 2020

A Points South essay from the Spring 2020 issue

When we weren’t whizzing through intersections, I was trying to read road signs, thinking that their letters, dimly lit by our headlights, would give me some kind of orientation on this ground, relative to other places I knew. The signs were not helpful; this was ground you had to feel to know. I don’t think I could find it again.

June 12, 2018

A Points South story from the Summer 2018 issue

One summer during an electrical storm, Mama Rubie turned off the power in her house and we huddled on the stairs until the weather calmed. One day this will be yours, she said, as we sat on the staircase. I imagine your father will give this house to you when I’m gone. I nodded although I didn’t understand. 
March 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue

Listen to the first two notes Raphael plays on his solo on Nelson’s “Georgia on My Mind” and it’s impossible not to hear Mickey singing the word “Georgia” through the instrument, the second syllable bending upward, just the way Willie sings it. Raphael’s harmonica grounds the song in its call-and-response gospel impulse: one voice means little without the other’s ghostly affirmation.

June 11, 2019

A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue

Much of what they’d tell me next was legend—tall tales, rumors, exaggerations. Perry Martin adopted an orphan girl he found on the riverside, raised her up as his own, paid her way through college. He killed nine people, or eleven, or a dozen. One of his alleged victims was his own stepson: the younger man had rocked a boat they shared too violently, which angered Martin. Apparently, despite his life along the river, this outlaw did not know how to swim.

March 17, 2020

A Points South essay from the Spring 2020 issue

As sea levels rise, there’s more water than ever coming down the Atchafalaya. Shrimp are being pushed offshore, farther into the Gulf, emptying the bayous that Kermit Duck, Douglas Oleander, and their ancestors have fished for generations. On top of that, the water is polluted. On top of that, the shrimpers have to pay for fuel and ice, and they have to pay for a lot more of it when they’re chasing shrimp into the Gulf.

March 01, 2010

An essay originally published in the Oxford American’s Spring 2010 Southern Food issue, guest edited by John T. Edge.

I come from a family of cake fundamentalists. No mixes, no faux cream, no margarine, no imitation vanilla, no all-purpose flour. You should use Swans Down or some other cake flour: It’s made of soft winter wheat with a low protein content, which makes the cake finer and airier. If the recipe says fresh coconut, don’t you dare use that stuff in the bag. Suffering for your cake builds character.

October 05, 2016

I kept returning to the subject of the Nuwaubians, unable to let it go. Even a cursory amount of research showed that the group was a strange phenomenon of the modern age—a true American religion, sworn to a proto-hip-hop preacher sworn to nonsense, that attempted a takeover of a small Georgia town in the late 1990s before a joint federal-local raid brought down its leader. Beneath that historical account was a tangle of details bizarre and bottomless.

June 12, 2018

A Points South story from the Summer 2018 issue

In our collective memory, this land made it possible to take from so many. Now, I want it to give something back.