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Great Books Set in the Wiregrass

The characters and events featured in the four-part series Wiregrass Chronicles take place primarily in Southeast Alabama. The first book, Wiregrass Chronicles – Long Rows to Hoe, ranges from the Seminole Wars of the 1830s through the Great Depression one hundred years later. The second book, Wiregrass Chronicles – Bluebirds, Sharpshooters, and the Lure of Faraway places, begins in the post-Depression era and extends to the buildup to World War II. The final two books in the series, set in World War II and the post-war era, scheduled for publication next year, also have numerous Wiregrass scenes.

The Wiregrass refers to a geologic region where Aristida stricta, a stiff-textured grass, flourishes. While the Wiregrass series is set in Southeast Alabama, the Wiregrass, or Wiregrass country, is part of three states. It stretches from Macon, Georgia, west to Montgomery, Alabama; south to the Florida Panhandle; east to the Okefenokee Swamp; and back north to Macon.

While it has not garnered the attention of other parts of the country, the Wiregrass has been the setting for at least two classic books, published decades ago, which remain popular.

In 1934, a pre-Civil War novel set in the Georgia Wiregrass was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The author, Caroline Miller, was a 30-year-old Georgia native who spun the novel out of her family’s history in the rural South. Lamb in His Bosom details the life of a poor white woman growing up in the mid-1800s. The author memorably describes the daily struggles she and her family faced and incorporates the vernacular dialect and charm of her characters without glossing over their cultural bias. Lamb in His Bosom is as engrossing a read today as when it was fresh off the press.

Another Wiregrass classic is Jubilee, published in 1966. It is set in Georgia and the Alabama Wiregrass before, during, and after the Civil War. Margaret Walker was the author of this semi-fictional novel about the life of her mixed-race great-grandmother, Margaret Duggans Ware Brown. Calling her Vyry Brown, the author creates powerful, touching scenes depicting Vyry’s life from early childhood to adulthood. Vyry is a strong, compassionate woman, skilled as an herborist, a cook, a seamstress and a midwife. These skills helped her to survive the many hardships she faced, even after being freed from slavery.

Lamb in His Bosom and Jubilee are rewarding reading for anyone who not only appreciates southern fiction, but also enjoys exploring a seldom highlighted region of the country.

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