Nan Graham is a lifelong Southerner who has lived in almost every corner of the South. She was born in Tallahassee, Florida, and spent her childhood there and in Columbia and Summerville, South Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She spent her freshman year in college at what is now Rhodes University in Memphis (where she saw Elvis perform), her sophomore year at the University of Alabama, and a summer session at Florida State University, before graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a cheerleader, a Dean’s List student, “Miss Beat Dook,” and the May Queen representative in Esther William’s court at Wilmington’s Azalea Festival. She has also lived in New Orleans, Houston, and Arlington, Virginia. She holds a master’s degree from the Citadel in Charleston. She has been a writer-in-residence at the University of West Alabama in Livingston and teaches at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She lives in Wilmington with her husband.
In a Magnolia Minute: Secrets of a Late Bloomerby Nan Graham
For the past decade, listeners of WHQR-FM, the NPR affiliate in Wilmington, North Carolina, have heard Graham regale them with stories of the South and
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If by some chance you don’t already know the highway-cleaning witches; the Sign of the Goo-Goo Cluster; or General Beauregard Lee, the Georgia groundhog, then you should get to know Nan Graham.
For the past decade, listeners of WHQR-FM, the NPR affiliate in Wilmington, North Carolina, have heard Graham regale them with stories of the South and Southerners, subjects she knows as well as anyone. Best-selling author Pat Conroy—no slouch himself at navigating the cultural byways of Dixie—said Graham “is so relentlessly Southern she makes me feel that I was born in Minnesota.”
In a Magnolia Minute, Graham’s second collection of humorous essays, introduces Graham’s notes and observations to those unfortunates who live outside the WHQR listening area.
“A major change born of this late-blooming career is that I have become a bottom feeder,” Graham writes in her introduction. “The pressure is on. I am always on the lookout for loony stories, nutty characters, and unique aspects of Southern life.”
She’s found them. From the fellow who eats Vicks VapoRub for dessert to her mother’s refusal to acknowledge time zones, Graham’s anecdotes display a keen eye and a finely tuned ear for the absurd and amusing.
“Southerners are noted for their exceptional gift of language,” Graham writes. “Even in death, we like to have the last word.”
Not all the essays offer belly laughs. Graham writes about watching news broadcasts of soldiers returning home from overseas and remembers when her husband was fighting in Vietnam. She commemorates the death of musicologist Alan Lomax and describes his work with Ruby Pickens Tartt in Alabama’s Sumter County, where Graham spent her summers as a child. She exhorts her readers to collect and record their family’s stories while they still can.
From the deepest Delta to Dreamland Barbeque, from the Florida Panhandle to the Research Triangle, In a Magnolia Minute offers a tour of the South unlike any you will find in a travel guide. Along the way, Graham touches on subjects near the heart of any Southerner, such as family, growing up, and growing old.
“I consider this book an essential field guide for all the newcomers to our South,” Graham writes. “It will give you a real sense of who and what we are.”
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- Blair, John F. Publisher
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