One of the truest phrases a Southerner can faithfully utter is that he is “Southern by the grace of God.” The bright sunny South is a beautiful land with a beautiful people. We have amazing traditions, a rich history, and a strong faith against the neverending onslaught of the world. Originally published in 1989, Southern by the Grace of God by Michael Grissom highlights this beautiful culture and offers insight into its culture and people and why us Southerners should be proud of who we are.
I must say, this book was certainly one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve come across. Using first-hand experience and anectdotal stories, Grissom tells stories that almost every Southerner can relate to. Hot Sundays in church before air conditioning was so common, having every door and window open, struggling to her the pastor preach as bugs and the heat harass the congregation. The book is designed to ignite and kindle pride in a Southerner’s heart, a task it does very well. There are many Southern youths that sadly know too little about what it is to be Southern. They don’t know their own traditions and usually characterize their kin that uphold them as backwards rednecks. Most are apolitical but do hold clear views on Southern culture and it isn’t always favorable. Typically though they had a somewhat Southern upbringing but have never really thought twice about it. I can just imagine giving this book to such a person.
It begins by giving an overview of our culture, language, and traditions, before taking a more historical route and tracing the outlines of the War and subsequent reconstruction. Grissom takes care to debunk the revisionist history surrounding this era, showing Lincoln for what he is and reconstruction for what it was. Additionally, the book features many pictures from this era, showing the common man and woman as they lived with photos of camp meetings, soldiers, regular everyday people, and Confederate reunions.
Since it was written in 1989, the last three decades’ cultural genocide are not mentioned and some aspects of the book are outdated, but not terribly so.
Southern folklore and poetry are also touched on, giving the story of the Bell Witch and similar stories, as well as tales from the war. Since it is only meant to be an introduction to Southern culture, Grissom helpfully includes many extra resources to stores, books, resources, and organizations to help the reader further explore their heritage and get more involved in its richness.
As stated before, I would highly recommend this book for every Southern patriot but also for those that are just beginning to understand what it is to be Southern. Giving this book to a lost youth would set quite a few things straight regarding the pessimistic view many have toward the traditional ways, if not bring them back to it entirely. How one could read this and profess that it is not by divine intervention that they were blessed with the honor of being a Southerner is beyond me. Truly, we are Southern by the Grace of God.
Let none among us disparage our southern ancestors. Let us only hope that even a trickle of the revolutionary blood that flowed in their veins has remained in ours. It is ironic that the very code of honor, which the Yankee thought four years of cruel war had eradicated, was the same standard that silently sustained us through Reconstruction. It’s that inner faith and stamina, particularly southern in nature, that makes us what we are — Southern by the grace of God.