Richard Grant is the author of Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta. From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: You write of Mississippi that "no state is more synonymous in the rest of the country with racism, ignorance, and cultural backwardness." How did living in Mississippi affect your views on that image of the state?--Marshal Zeringue
A: Most everything here leads into what looks like a contradiction or a paradox, and is better described as layered complexity. Parts of Mississippi are indeed terribly racist, ignorant and mired in a kind of self-protective lie that you might call backwardness — a fear that change will bring terrible disaster.
But Mississippi also understands racism on a deeper, more nuanced level than most of the country. It has thought about it more, and come further, if only because it had so far to go. Not until you live here is it possible to untangle and understand these things, because they don't conform to standard-issue Northern/liberal/Yankee protocols of logic.
Q: You also state, "Mississippi is the best-kept secret in America." Why is that?
A: There's a genuine love of life here that I don't see in most places, and a talent for enjoying it under difficult circumstances. It is a place of...[read on]