The Florida I love is perishing, says Sudye Cauthen. In Southern Comforts, this fifth-generation Floridian blends memoir, oral history, and cultural geography to explore the tensions between community and environment in America today and her own ambivalence about Alachua, the place just north of Gainesville where she was born and reared. Cauthen raises a cry for all that is lost as Florida's--and America's--landscapes and traditions are replaced by interstates, condos, shopping malls, and the new way of life they represent.
Part self-reflection, part meditation, and part social analysis, Cauthen's work threads through the stories of blacks, whites, and Native Americans--men and women--including her own family members. Through their words and hers, Cauthen explores northern Florida's unique history, culture, and geography while she seeks a greater understanding of herself and her surroundings.
Cauthen's journey takes readers down dirt roads and city streets, to her people's tobacco fields and churches. She sifts sand at an archaeological dig for the lost Spanish mission of Santa Fe de Toloca, peers into an aboriginal grave, and everywhere marshals evidence for the primacy of place in determining who we are. One story takes us on a fox hunt; another reveals lingering racial problems. Permeating the book is the ever-present menace of growth and development and what it holds for Cauthen's Florida.
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Sudye Cauthen, founder of the North Florida Center for Documentary Studies, directed Florida's first Folk-Arts-in-the-Schools program. She is also the author of The Salvation of Maggie Rider: Stories from Nokofta. Her awards include two state of Florida Individual Artist Fellowships in Literature. Her work has appeared in such publications as the Chattahoochee Review, Florida Review, International Quarterly, Kalliope, and The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Cauthen lives on the Suwannee River near White Springs, Florida.Review:
"Along the north Florida byways a storycatcher roams. Cauthen returned to her native Alachua County, land of live oaks and longleaf-pine churches, searching for something unnameable. Her book is a personal history told so beautifully, layer upon layer, that even James Agee would be undone. A longing like a wildfire runs through these pages, entwined in stories of farmers and preachers, churchgoers and criminals: Go back, go back. Folkloric and spiritual, this uncommon study is a monument to a place that was."--Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
"To make history—place—beat with the pulse of blood is perhaps the most difficult of all the writer's alchemy and, when it is done well, it is the most rewarding. Cauthen has rewarded us with the eye, ear, and memory of the natural writer. Pick up Southern Comforts and read it all in one sitting, as I did."--Harry Crews, author of A Childhood: The Biography of a Place
"A dot on the map, Alachua is Cauthen's knife in the heart, cutting to the quick of who she is and what she knows. Understanding Alachua—its history and her family's—is at the center of this book. Cauthen calls herself Alachua's heretic daughter, but she's actually its savior: no matter how Alachua develops, readers of Cauthen's book will know how it once was."--Robert H. Brinkmeyer, Jr., author of Remapping Southern Literature
"Cauthen writes eloquently about the loss of the place where she was raised, and which she so obviously loves. At least her cautionary memoir succeeds, on paper, in preserving what once was.”--Booklist
"Sudye Cauthen is a daughter with roots so strongly connected to place that one is drawn into her world of Southern Comforts in a riot of images and words that propels one pell-mell into another universe. I delighted in Cauthen's observations, both personal and universal, that bring a north Florida environment and culture to life."--Dr. Peggy A. Bulger, Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
"Cauthen has created a true tour de force with Southern Comforts. Cauthen has managed to capture the subtle, almost silent, rhythms of the isolated countryside where individuals were recognized as part of the fabric of the whole, while holding at bay the strident cacophony of a busy, growing, and intrusive modern world, where individuals are merely amorphous parts of the larger whole. Cauthen proves you can go home again—and perhaps feel more 'at home' than when you were first there."--Nick Wynne, Executive Director, Florida Historical Society
"Cauthen has composed a beautiful reflection on her small postage stamp of soil in North Central Florida. This is a Florida that few tourists or residents have any notion of. And it is fast disappearing, a condition that Cauthen profoundly regrets. She has done us all a favor by acquainting us with a community and way of life richly worth knowing about."--Samuel S. Hill, Professor of Religion emeritus, University of Florida
"Local color abounds in Cauthen's personal journey home. Here, sandstorms lick the land regularly; here, John Bellamy stayed, went barefoot, and wore a palmetto hat; here, 100 pounds of cotton were picked for one dollar in 1910; here, the boll weevil suddenly appeared and devastated the land; and here, tobacco and vegetables eventually replaced the cotton. By the end of Cauthen's autobiographical journey into her past, it is time to pack a bag and explore Alachua County for ourselves."--Colby Kullman, Professor of English, University of Mississippi
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