A New Novel Describes Life in a Southern Town in the Early 1900’s

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An entertaining and convincing account of local tensions before 1914

Southern Families, by historian Michael V.C. Alexander, is a moving and heartwarming story about several rival families who live in and around the imaginary town of Perquimmons City, North Carolina (roughly forty-two percent black at the time). Lucy Summerlin, the most important and colorful character in the novel, is a “feisty little woman” who works at her brother’s drugstore, the hub of the town’s social life. A spinster and precursor of the later civil rights movement, Lucy speaks out on issues of race and politics from time to time and is loved by the local blacks because of her unwavering support of them.

Most of the tension in the novel is caused by Lucy’s former employers, the Merritts, a snobbish aristocratic family whose forebears dominated the town until the 1890s, when newcomers with greater education and technical skills arrive and indirectly challenge their leadership. Because the Merritts are determined to preserve their social and political position, several bitter confrontations occur after 1901, when Lucy moves out of her dingy attic room at the Merritt House, one of the state’s few surviving antebellum mansions, and rents a cottage of her own after taking a job at her brother’s drugstore. A hurricane and gruesome murder in 1910 bring the novel to a stunning climax and end the Merritt’s domination for good.

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About the Author
A native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Michael Alfred Van Cleave Alexander received an B.A. (artium baccalaureus Bachelor of Arts) in history from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1960 shortly after being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Alpha Theta (national history honorary society). He then received a graduate fellowship and earned his M.A. (Master of Arts) and Ph.D. (philosophiae doctor or Doctor Philosophy) degrees there. He twice did extensive research in England, first on a Fulbright-Hays Grant in 1964–1965 and then on a Junior Humanists’ Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1970–1971. Meanwhile in 1967, he obtained a tenure-track position at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg where he taught until his early retirement in 2001. In 1971, he married Ann Barton Field of Richmond, Virginia, who received a Ph.D. in history from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, in 1974. They have two sons: Mike, a financial analyst and the senior vice president of his company in New York City, and Peter, who, after receiving a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Texas Southwestern Medical University in Dallas, accepted a two-year postdoctoral research grant from Duke University where his wife Krista is a resident at Duke Hospital.

Southern Families * by Michael V.C. Alexander
Their Friends, Servants, Rivals, and Affairs 1901–1911
Publication Date: July 21, 2011
Trade Paperback; $19.99; 259 pages; 978-1-4628-8793-4
Trade Hardback; $29.99; 259 pages; 978-1-4628-8794-1
eBook; $9.99; 978-1-4628-8795-8

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