Issue 114: Fall Southern Literature Issue

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The Oxford American’s Fall 2021 issue is dedicated to an exploration of Southern literature. 

In short stories, flash fiction, and essays, our award-winning lineup of writers reorient and reimagine the literary landscape of our region. From meditations on pillars such as Toni Morrison and Yusef Komunyakaa to a revival of works by Arkansas native and Afrofututurist innovator Henry Dumas, the pieces in this issue engage a range of questions about Southern identities, aesthetics, and relationships—their histories, the ways they’ve changed over time, and the ways they continue to evolve.

This issue features new fiction by PEN/Faulkner Award winner Deesha Philyaw, whose short story about a suburban couple takes an alluring turn. Dawnie Walton playfully muses on the complexities of aging, while Mary Miller’s characters offer a critique on gender and autonomy during the infamous blackout of 2003. 

Mary Kay McBrayer blends fantasy and reality through her miniature work, reconstructing scenes  from famous Southern Gothic texts. Rutgers professor Carter Mathes delves into the mystical omniverse of Henry Dumas, the issue’s featured poet. West Virginia state folklorist Emily Hilliard revisits writer Breece D’J Pancake’s hometown of Milton, while S. J. Kim explores Southern Gothic themes through the lens of Korean drama.

Danielle McKinney’s Blue Room covers the issue, part of the artist’s intimate survey of women protagonists. McKinney, an Alabama native, paints “with an acute awareness of the female gaze,” emphasizing “hidden narratives” and “dreamlike spaces” in her work. This issue also includes art by Lorna Simpson, GaHee Park, and David Huffman, along with stunning commissioned pieces by Atlanta photographer EWANG and illustrator Isip Xin. 

“This issue aims to reveal the literature of the South as prismatic and dynamic,” Danielle A. Jackson writes in her editor’s letter. “We wanted to reimagine the canon, revisit classics in new and striking ways, and introduce a new vanguard of literary adventurers, soothsayers, and prophets.”

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