The Deepest South of All by Richard Grant


The Deepest South of All by Richard Grant is a book about Natchez, Mississippi. It’s written in a travelogue format by one of the best travel writers around, even though it’s near the author’s adopted hometown.

It’s a sort-of sequel to Dispatches from Pluto, where he moves to Mississippi. He uses his own experience, research, and journalism to paint a portrait of a complex American place as it struggles to break free from the past and confront the legacy of slavery.

What I Liked

I’m from The South and so many of these stories and cultural practices resonated with me. He finds a way to simply tell what is happening without judgment.

As a Brit, I like how he is able to get a good sense of deep, nuanced American culture while still playing a disinterested 3rd party on demand.

Unlike a “parachute into a place and make notes” – I could tell that he’s lived in Mississippi for several years and has taken time and effort to understand the deeper culture.

I loved the mix of current-day and historical stories, like the insane,, somber and largely forgotten account of Abd al Rahman Ibrahima, a West African prince who was enslaved in Natchez and eventually gained his freedom and returned to Africa.

What I Did Not Like

The topic of the book is heavily constrained and small. While Natchez, Mississippi is an incredible microcosm of the Deep South, it’s still a small town, with all the tedious, small-town problems that show up in Winesburg, Ohio; Crawford, Georgia; or Batac, Philippines.

On that note, I agree with other reviewers that he gets a bit too involved with a few specific characters (like Regina) and moves out of journalist land into gossip-y land.

The book definitely could have used some maps, illustrations, and pictures. Pro reader tip – Google Streetview made the references more interesting.

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