In Confederates in the Attic, award winning, author Tony Horwitz travels through the lower South, visiting historical Confederate landmarks. On this journey he interviews the locals that he encounters about their connection to the Civil War and their thoughts of its effect on present-day America. Horwitz sectionalized the book by certain places, deciding to explain his entire visit to a state in one section, finishing out one before shifting into the next chapter along his expedition. Also, while many writers of nonfiction will often have a central argument that the author is trying to reason and prove, Confederates in the Attic does not. The text is more of an investigation of a places and its people, delivering a presentation of what he found along the way.
Though Horwitz spent the majority of the text interviewing only white Southerners, Horwitz does not neglect the views of southern African-Americans. In doing so, Horwitz briefly addresses the continued racial tension and conflict that is present in the South today. A few topics discussed where: debates over Confederate Memorial displays in public places, the flying of the Confederate Flag, and the legacy of integration and the Civil Rights Movement. Horwitz’s varied subjects do not shy away from confessing their honest opinion, ignoring however blunt or politically incorrect answers may have seemed. Nonetheless, this gives the book a sense of honesty and imminence where readers feel as if they, too, where in the room listening to the interviews.
Confederates in the Attic is split into fifteen chapters in which each focuses on specific places. Horwitz highlights the difference between the cultures among different Southern states and the people who reside in them. The common idea of “The South” being a singular mass, Horwitz details that the area is really a vast pool of southern individuals that each have their own distinct beliefs, backgrounds, and cultures. He adds, that these distinctions may vary from those of their neighbors. Nevertheless, what eventually transpired from Horwitz’s studies are the themes that serve to bind and create Southern Culture including: nostalgia, family, land, loss, heritage, and displacement.
Overall, Horwitz argues that the Civil War is still very much alive in the hearts of some Americans in the South. Also, the author is trying to demonstrate how these shapes the way many southerners perceive themselves and the world around them. He concludes the book with many conversations many white southerners who cherish the memory of the Confederacy. Also, he expands on how the Civil War plays a role in modern racial violence in the South. Confederates in the Attic is a must read for those interested in the Civil War and its influence on the past and the present.
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