Interviews

Say Hello to the Southern Review of Books

An interview with founding editor Adam Morgan.

Today the founding editor of the Chicago Review of Books launches a new passion project. Say hello to the Southern Review of Books, a site dedicated to Southern literature that’s run by an all-volunteer team. The site was launched in partnership with the Queens University of Charlotte’s MFA program, and senior editors and contributing staff are all Queens students and alums–for now. The site’s editors-at-large are novelists and poets living throughout the South.

So just how is Morgan and his team defining the “South?” “We’re using the census definition of the American South,” Morgan told me. “Minus Maryland and Delaware,” he added, since the writers he polled in those states said that not everyone there identifies as Southern. But the site isn’t limiting their coverage to only Southern writers. Like the Chicago Review of Books, the geographical location named in the title will be a focus, but books from anywhere will be considered for coverage.

I spoke with Adam about what inspired him to launch the SRB, who he hopes to feature on the site, and what life for the former Chicagoan is like since relocating to North Carolina.

Amy Brady

What inspired you to launch the Southern Review of Books?

Adam Morgan

The South is blessed with magazines like the Oxford American and Ecotone, but there aren’t many venues for literary criticism beyond the ever-shrinking books section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I wanted to create a place specifically dedicated to Southern-based poets and writers and Southern-set books. I also wanted to foster a sense of community here in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is home to quite a few writers but very little literary infrastructure.

Unlike New York or San Francisco or Chicago, Southern writers, bookstores, publications, and institutions are spread across thousands of miles in college towns like Oxford, Mississippi and cultural centers like New Orleans and Asheville, North Carolina. That makes it harder to foster a sense of community or sustain an infrastructure that extends beyond a handful of people. My main hopes for the SRB are to introduce readers to new books and connect writers with each other.

Amy Brady

What kinds of writers and presses do you hope to highlight at the SRB?

Adam Morgan

I think legacy media publications are too focused on fiction and nonfiction to the exclusion of everything else (just look at the best-of-the-year lists from the New York Times and the Washington Post every year). I want to make sure the SRB covers poetry, comics, and stage and screen adaptations. I want to make sure we cover independent presses and university presses in addition to the big five. Just like the Chicago Review of Books, we want the SRB to cover diverse voices, genres, and mediums. And I want to make sure at least half of our content is focused on Southern-based poets and writers.

Amy Brady

Are there any misconceptions about Southern literature that you hope the SRB will dispel?

Adam Morgan

Many people still equate Southern literature with three white people: William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Harper Lee. And I’d say the same number of people think of the South as a culturally homogeneous region that looks and feels like Mississippi and Alabama. I hope the SRB helps people see how diverse and vibrant Southern literature is today, but also that’s it’s always been more than just white Southern Gothic fictions writers. We’ve got Affrilachian poets stretching all the way from Georgia to West Virginia, we’ve got science fiction and fantasy novelists, we’ve got essayists and memoirists. We’ve got Tayari Jones and Jesmyn Ward and Jeff VanderMeer and Alissa Nutting. The South is big and weird and colorful.

Amy Brady

Tell us about your partnership with Queens University of Charlotte. How will the university and the SRB work together?

Adam Morgan

I knew if I were going to start another literary review, I would need institutional support. Queens has a fantastic low-residency MFA in creative writing with faculty like Claudia Rankine, Ada Limón, Jenny Offill, and Jon Pineda, and alums like Anjali Enjeti, Martin Seay, and Mesha Maren (who will be one of our editors-at-large). They care deeply about fostering an inclusive literary community in the South generally and in Charlotte specifically, so they were the very first institution I pitched. Essentially, Queens will handle the business side of the SRB while I lead the editorial side, and at launch, the entire editorial and contributing staff are made up of Queens students and alums (though we’re open to anyone). We’ll syndicate content from their literary magazine, Qu, and cross-promote events like our forthcoming Charlotte Writers Salon.

Amy Brady

You recently moved from Chicago to North Carolina. What’s the best part about living in the South?

Adam Morgan

The weather. I’m serious. My last few winters in Chicago with a toddler and a dog and a third-floor walk-up were rough! Living here as a writer and a reader has its advantages and disadvantages. I miss the intimate sense of community in Chicago that was a result of so many independent bookstores and writing programs being clustered together in the same city. But I do love the landscapes and the cultures of the South, and I’m excited to continue exploring its literary history.

About Amy Brady

Amy Brady is the Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Review of Books and Deputy Publisher of Guernica Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Oprah, The Village Voice, Pacific Standard, The New Republic, McSweeney's, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @ingredient_x.

3 comments on “Say Hello to the Southern Review of Books

  1. This looks awesome!! Congrats

    Like

  2. We so needed a Southern Review of Books! Thanks!

    Like

  3. In addition to current writing, will you also feature some older southern literature that warrants revival?

    Like

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