A Red State of Mind Helps Readers Understand Mama Grizzlies


While this book was published in 2006, I just discovered it recently while sorting through the gender politics section at a used bookstore in Chattanooga.

Immediately upon starting A Red State of Mind by Nancy French, I realized that the author was a kindred spirit. Not only was she also from Tennessee, but she had encountered the struggle of living as a conservative in coastal metropolitan areas. Her memoirs and views of life, politics, religion and pop culture are laugh-out-loud funny for anyone from the South. Sometimes, we really do live on a different planet.

While French got married early and started a family, her experiences of discovering that she's the only Republican that her friends knew closely mirrored my experience in grad school. Her trials as a philosophy student at NYU were like my encounters at the job that drove me to study feminism.

What transplanted Southerner hasn't experienced the Walmart hate? While I only shop there when absolutely necessary because of awful customer service, French points out that it's the definition of "white trash" to Yankees. To the upwardly-mobile city dweller, anyone who shops at Walmart must live in a trailer, wear a wifebeater and drive a truck. They don't understand that many times, it's the only retailer around, or it's simply convenient. In the area of town where I grew up, everyone shopped at Walmart. It didn't matter the income level. While Chattanooga has nice stores, it's just the way of life. French writes:

After all of our moves, I've noticed the red/blue divide is most accurately characterized not by city versus country or lox versus grits, but rather by how people regard Wal-Mart.

She later adds:

I guess the difference is that we grew up believing that working at Wal-Mart, the gas station, or a fast food joint was a privilege not an embarrassment. In fact, a rite of passage for Southern kids rich and poor was donning a paper hat and upsizing people's fries.

While French writes much more on politics and religion (her chapters on surviving the 2004 election in Philadelphia are hilarious), I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It combined the right amount of Southern sass, politics and humor to be a light-hearted read on serious topics. If you want to take a break from whatever political book that everyone is reading on the Metro, read A Red State of Mind. You may start to understand that new elusive creature ... the Mama Grizzly.

Adrienne works in the conservative movement and blogs at Cosmopolitan Conservative.


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