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Acclaimed Writer, Novelist Explores Rural South from Behind the Wheel;
Finds Pride, Poverty, Discrimination, Faith, and Resilience
All images by Steve McCurry
NEW YORK - August 25, 2015 - Paul Theroux, one of the world’s preeminent travel writers and novelists, has spent five decades crossing the globe, chronicling the people and seeking the rich history of faraway places. Now, Theroux turns his global traveler’s eye and journalistic instincts to a fabled piece of America that has often been fictionalized, overlooked and rarely understood—the Deep South. 
In DEEP SOUTH: Four Seasons on Back Roads (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $30; ISBN: 978-0-544-32352-0; on sale Sept. 30, 2015) Theroux celebrates the freedom and wonders of the American road trip, and rediscovers the unhurried pleasure of immersing himself in the journey rather than a single destination. Theroux avoids the gleaming New South of art galleries, curated Civil War battlefields and posh golf courses to savor the rural South of roadside motels, lively barbershops, diners and barbecue joints. He discovers a paradoxical place, full of vibrant music, faith, community dinners and generous people, and yet also the site of some of the nation’s worst schools, housing, health care and unemployment. 
Theroux visits gun shows and small-town churches, laborers in Arkansas, and towns in Mississippi where residents still call the farm up the road “the plantation.”  He talks to mayors and social workers, writers and reverends, the working poor and farming families—the backbone of the rural South, the people who, despite it all, never left, and those who returned home to rebuild a place they could not live without.
 “This was a road trip of discovery so enlightening and so pleasurable, so full of happy and dramatic encounters, that I intend to repeat it as soon as I can, but widening my itinerary, delving deeper,” Theroux wrote in The New York Times. Evocative full-color images by renowned photographer Steve McCurry chronicle Theroux’s 4,300-mile journey through the region in all weather, through all seasons.
Theroux’s Deep South touches on a range of current social and news topics, including the national debate over gun control; the official use of the Confederate flag; unemployment among African-Americans; Indian hotel entrepreneurs in rural America; and the social tensions behind the recent devastating South Carolina church shootings--and the powerful community of faith that rises up in the aftermath of such tragedy.  Major issues include:
  • Civil Rights: the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act: Theroux examines how the legacy of Jim Crow and slavery still touches the daily lives of rich and poor Southerners alike. He quietly seeks out the derelict ruin of Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi, where in 1955 a young African-American boy from Chicago named Emmett Till was said to have whistled at a white woman. He was later tortured and lynched. “You have to know where we come from,” says Wilbur Cave, an activist seeking to improve housing in the fading town of Allendale, located in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. “It’s hard for anyone to understand the South unless they understand history—and by history, I mean slavery. History has had more impact here.”
  • Third-World Poverty at Home: Theroux takes an unflinching look at the direst poverty of the rural South, and finds it as stark and troubling as any he has encountered in Africa or Southeast Asia. In the Mississippi Delta region and Arkansas, he sees countless shuttered stores and factories, vacant Main Streets, “hovels and decaying trailers,” without running water or indoor plumbing. Carpet mills, textile factories and television-assembly plants that once employed thousands have fled to Asia or Mexico, leaving destitution in their wake. The Clinton Foundation, Theroux notes, has sent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid overseas to Africa, Latin America and India. Yet one in four children in Arkansas is classified as “food-deprived”—in plain English, hungry.
  • Faith and Fortitude: “A church burning or bombing might devastate a congregation, but it was a desperate act,” Theroux writes of the violence during the Civil Rights era. “The church was always rebuilt and was stronger afterward, as a necessity, because people attended church to find hope, dignity, love, consolation, fello
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