69 pages 2 hours read

Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2016

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Cultural Context: The Rough South

A subgroup of Southern writers identified as “Rough South” or “Grit Lit” artists focus their narratives on marginal groups and lifestyles, often impoverished or disenfranchised communities. Rough South art refrains from judgment or justification, instead focusing on depicting lives deemed unworthy of representation. These works often use settings like trailer parks, government housing, decrepit farms, or other places in states of decay and neglect. Characters may be suffering through violence, abuse, drug addiction, being unhoused, lack of education, and severe poverty. The genre often resists political or social statements, allowing the reader a window into a world inaccessible to middle-class people.

In these works, characters make bad choices because the only options they have are bad ones. Rough South outlaw characters rarely fit the antihero model. At best, they demonstrate a kind of resilient humanity persisting under extraordinarily dehumanizing conditions. They survive; they forge lives out of what joy or beauty they can create out of nothing. Often the sources of their happiness seem puny, incomprehensible, or obscure. Other characters lose their humanity altogether, but without becoming cautionary moral examples. Their separation from society never appears as quirky or fetishized. Instead, these works depict the reality of poverty, alienation, and ignorance in the American South without gloss, sentiment, or even justice in most cases.