A Review of the book Dixie Rising: How the South is Shaping American Values, Politics, and Culture, by Peter Applebome

In Dixie Rising, Peter Applebome explores the level to which the South is affecting, as the title so clearly articulates, the values, politics, and culture of the entire nation. In a time when it seems that a national homogeny is erasing the regional distinction of our nation, Applebome paints the South as a unique cultural region possessing its own character and identity. After first establishing this unique identity, to which Applebome ascribes conservatism as its most important facet, Applebome takes the reader on a journey throughout the South to locations that manifest a unique cultural feature which is beginning to spread throughout the nation.

Such Southern cultural features include religion, segregation, education, unions, and music. Applebome begins in Cobb County, Georgia, the home of Newt Gingrich. In this venue, he focuses on the effect to which Southern conservative politics, defined by Gingrich, have swept the nation. Using the Republican Revolution of '94, southern control of Congress, and the growth of the pseudo-PAC Christian Coalition as evidence, Applebome demonstrates well the political influence of the South on the nation. Yet it is Applebome's grasp of the smaller cultural issues, such as white flight to suburbia and religious revival in Cobb County, which better serves to drive his point that the South is unique and that this uniqueness is spreading. Furthermore, it is these smaller and less visible cultural nuances that Applebome predominantly addresses in his literary journey throughout the South.

Applebome next takes the reader to historic Selma, Alabama, unveiling racial problems that have crept upon the South and the nation as a whole since the civil rights era. Applebome first discusses the history of Selma and then reveals how closely contemporary Selma resembles the Selma of old. It is this technique, comparing the distinct past to a distinct future, that Applebome uses in every location visited, which demonstrates the unique nature of the South today. For, by comparing the past, a time when the nation clearly saw the South as a separate entity, to the present, Applebome makes a clear and persuasive argument that southern culture still exists. In this manner, Applebome takes us from Columbia, South Carolina, a location where neo-confederatism is growing to Nashville, Tennessee, where country music thrives, demonstrating how the cultural features of these cities have become microcosms to the nation as a whole.

In Dixie Rising, Applebome presents his cultural argument in a narrative form which provides both the enjoyment of reading and a vivid demonstration of his argument. While Dixie Rising supports its premise with many objective facts, it is clearly a journalistic piece, in contrast to a more typical analysis of history. Applebome's subjectivity in addressing the South is overtly present throughout the narrative, slanting the issues discussed to the prejudices and beliefs of the writer. Yet it is also clearly this journalistic touch which makes the book a very interesting and enjoyable read. In the end, despite his unconventional approach to the history and present state of culture in the South, Applebome has presented his argument well, demonstrating the many effects which the present day South has created for the nation as a whole.