SouthBound: These are some of the most interesting voices from the South in 2021
If there’s a theme to this year’s SouthBound episodes, it might be how people dealt with challenges — all the normal human obstacles in life, with the pandemic laid on top of all of it. The conversations I remember most are about resilience — how people found a way through, somehow or other.
You can find SouthBound on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts. It’s also available here.
I think of Shea as a bit of a superhero – not just a bestselling author (his latest is “Hip-Hop (and Other Things),” but a Twitter philanthropist who will just pop up one night and start raising money for scholarships or paying off people’s power bills. We spend some time in this conversation talking about his origin story – how he took a tough circumstance (trying to make extra money during his wife’s difficult pregnancy) and hustled his way into a new career.
The host of the “Death, Sex & Money” podcast is used to confronting challenges, and this year she published a whole book about it – it’s called “Let’s Talk About Hard Things.” Anna opened up about a lot of the hard things she has dealt with in her own life, including figuring out how your friends are during COVID, and living with a chip on your shoulder when you grow up in the South. Anna is from West Virginia and damn proud of it.
Kent’s book “Across the River” has lingered in my mind ever since I read it this summer. It’s about a high-school football team in Algiers, part of New Orleans but separate from it — it’s literally across the Mississippi River from the New Orleans most of us know. Most of the players are from poor families and live in dangerous neighborhoods. Death can be just around the corner. But their coach, a hard-edged but loving guy with a brilliant football mind, tries to hold them together. Kent comes from his own fractured family and I think that was a huge part of what gave him such empathy and insight in this book, and in the stories he does for the Washington Post.
Adia grew up a Black girl in a nearly all-white evangelical church in South Carolina. As she left the church to look for meaning in other ways, she found it in the blues. Her new record “A Southern Gothic” somehow sounds modern and fresh while at the same time calling up the ghosts of the bluesmen and blueswomen of the past. Adia lives all kind of dualities, and that made her especially interesting to talk to.
I can just about guarantee you’ll see a movie of “Razorblade Tears” one day, because Cosby’s book is a hell of a story: Two fathers, one black and one white, set out to avenge the murders of their gay sons — and to find some kind of redemption for themselves. Cosby doesn’t mind poking at stereotypes and prejudices, sometimes three or four at once. He’s just now breaking big as a writer in his late 40s, after working a bunch of blue-collar jobs. He’s earned his voice.