The Bitter Southerner (Meleana Cabales and Beck Smith)

The Bitter Southerner is a magazine publication that was originally published on the night of August 6, 2013 and is based in Atlanta, Georgia. It all began when Chuck Reece, one of the magazine’s co-founders, and his wife spent a week in New Orleans. They experienced the many amazing qualities of the city, one of which being the bar scene and its unique barkeeps. Soon after their return home, Drinks International released their list of top 50 bars in the world and not only was there not a single bar in New Orleans on the list, but there wasn’t even a single bar in the South. Reece states that after reading this he “felt a familiar twinge of bitterness” and planned to find the South’s best barkeeps and recruited a group of designers, photographers, videographers, and many more to help him tell their stories. And that was what started it all and how Reece decided there was a far larger story to be told. The South is a mystery to everyone who doesn’t live in it, it’s an enigma to the rest of the world. This is why the magazine describes itself as having an aim to uncover the true complex American South and to begin to break widespread stereotypes about the region as a whole.

Chuck Reece – Co-Founder and current Editor of the Bitter Southerner

The magazine is currently edited by Chuck Reece, but he will soon be leaving the publication to support his wife’s business. It still has not been confirmed who will be taking his place but it could be very likely that one of his co-founders will fill his role. The Bitter Southerner is a very interesting magazine because most of its stories are written by anyone who wants to submit a story to the magazine. The website lists its writers as people with careers ranging from musicians to bakers to actual writers, but what is clear is that the magazine accepts stories from anyone with something important to say about the South. Their messages don’t even need to be written, as the magazine publishes images as well as videos, allowing for a wide range of contributors and an immersive experience.     

The Bitter Southerner’s mission is to share the South that not many outsiders know or understand. It was written for Southerners who felt misrepresented and those who were willing to see the region from a different perspective. Today, the publication is read in all 50 states and in at least 105 countries. It’s accessible to a very diverse demographic because it is a primarily online publication. Weekly articles are written for the Internet so that it may attain its goal of educating a larger population about the true stories of the South.  However, the publication also produces podcasts, videos, and folklore projects. By the end of 2013, four months after its launch, The Bitter Southerner had about 27,000 visitors to their site and 5,200 subscribers. It quickly grew in popularity and attracted many more people over the years. By the end of 2017, they reported having 700,000 website visitors (that year) and 25,000 weekly subscribers. In addition, their social media presence became more significant and every platform experienced a robust increase in followers/likes.

The Bitter Southerner is more popular than scholarly in its nature. It is written by common, everyday people from the South and intended to reach a wide, general audience. The language and rhetoric used is easy to understand and relate to. The focus of the publication is to showcase true, albeit lesser-known, stories of the South, so it is meant to have a more popular character. The Bitter Southerner is unique in the way it portrays the South. It doesn’t seek to represent the South as everyone else in the country seems to see it. The publication’s mission is to debunk myths and outline a brighter, more progressive future for the region. It is a bit more unorthodox, and maybe a bit controversial to some.

Featured image from the article “The Last Earthy Sweetness”.

The publication’s website is sleek, modern, and to-the-point. When scrolling through feature articles, you see bold and eye-capturing fonts superimposed on a striking visual. The aesthetic of the digital platform is appealing and attractive. Each post also includes supporting images that keep the article from being only text. They aim to involve the reader and keep them engaged. Featured articles include stories based on anything from food to music. A recent article, “This Last Earthy Sweetness”, discusses how to grow sorghum. It was written in second-person so that the reader can put themselves in a sorghum farmer’s shoes and see the process from their perspective. Instead of a step-by-step instructional manual, this article described typical experiences one might have if they were to raise sorghum crops. It accomplished the publication’s goal of informing others about Southern lives.

Professor Harriet Pollack (English) (Edited)

Professor Harriet Pollack is an affiliate professor of American Literature at the College of Charleston. Professor Pollack received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and Haverford College and her PhD from University of Virginia. Before coming to the college, Professor Pollack lived in Senegal with her husband, who was doing field work, taught at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, and then taught at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

Though Professor Pollack was born and raised in Pennsylvania, Pollack has a long and deep connection to the South, and Southern literature. Most of her work revolves around the idea of the South as a narrative written on symbolic bodies – the “lady’s” body, the “black” body. As she explains, “rules of social order and the body politic are written on flesh, figuratively and literally, a fact particularly evident in U.S. history and literature, thick with traumatic recollections of black bodies transported, displaced, sold, and brutalized, and white female bodies guarded, protected, restrained, and punished.”  Her book, Eudora Welty’s Fiction and Photography: The Body of the Other Woman considers a recurring pattern that pairs a sheltered young “lady” and an “othered” woman—underclass, foreign, or black. Pollack explained, “The othered woman, who is not a ‘ lady’ models ‘making a spectacle of herself’ for the girl character who is fascinated while she herself considers escaping cultural protections in favor of self-exposure.”

Today, Professor Pollack is off campus at her home in Mount Pleasant, SC. Right now, Professor Pollack is publishing a book series, “Critical Perspectives on Eudora Welty,” and for it, is creating a volume tentatively titled Eudora Welty and Mystery. For that collection she is writing an essay about Welty’s civil-rights-era novel Losing Battles, in which a comic mystery leads to sudden murder confession, and a black man hung for a white man’s crime, without consequences.

Aside from her many accomplishments, Professor Pollack is a friendly and humorous individual, who I very much enjoyed interviewing. My favorite moment of the interview came when I asked Professor Pollack how she’d like to be addressed, and I listed off options including Doctor, Professor and Ms. Professor Pollack responded with a smile and said, “just Harriet.”