Archive for June 13th, 2017

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southern hollows podcast

When I imagine a southern hollow, my mind takes me to a sunken clearing in the mountains or the woods… a good spot to build a bright campfire — and tell a story. But the more I explore the history of my part of the world, the more I come across a new kind of southern hollows: men and women missing that bit of conscience or soul or whatever you want to call it that lets us see, and feel, somebody else’s humanity. And though many of the stories are little known, they often have shaped history, and are definitely stories we ought to remember. –Stinson Liles

My cousin Stinson grew up in Jackson, MS later than me. After college he moved to Memphis, TN. He lives there now with his wife and two teenagers and runs his own advertising agency. I was taken by surprise about a month ago when I saw in a Facebook post that he was embarking on a podcasting adventure called Southern Hollows. You will read about how this came to be in my interview with Stinson, but until you listen, you will not know the deep, unique voice he inherited from my uncle, a strong tenor the memory of whose solo of Oh, Holy Night still gives me chills today.  Not only is Stinson’s voice appropriate for the telling of these stories, his writing is intriguing and inspiring.

When did you come up with the idea of starting Southern Hollows?

History and non-fiction are my favorite to read, and for a long time I’ve thought about a book project—writing one—and even had some outlines going. I’ve been listening to more and more podcasts as the number of them have grown – and have discovered some great history ones. As I listen, I constantly have found myself thinking of stories that would be great topics for these shows. Then, after the election, when I needed a hiatus from current events for a while, I set out to find more shows like these and realized there wasn’t anything out there that combined those two approaches – covering formative periods of American History in a more thoughtfully written way with some slightly higher production values. There are lots of people out there doing interviews and conversations — but not many who are wrapping historical moments up in an impactful tight little story package. So that’s when I got the idea, late last year, for Southern Hollows. 

And why?

So that’s an interesting one that I’ve even asked myself. I’m not sure why I’ve become increasingly interested in Reconstruction and Native American removal and all these times when we as a country weren’t our best selves. As I got going on the podcast, (my wife) Patty asked the same question. She said the listeners need to know what it is and why it is. So I went back and added the intro (found in the quote above).

To tell you the truth, I think we’re at a moment when we have a lot of trouble with history. Confederate monuments, voting protections… I’m not sure why we are so eager to intentionally misunderstand the past. We as Southerners, especially, have trouble knowing what to do with it. As humans, we all need ancestral lore. But when our ancestral lore is slavery and Jim Crow, we only have two choices – confront it or reject it. I think it’s hard to say segregation and the Civil War and the Night Riders were abominations because that means Grandpa was an abomination and – even harder – we lose our ancestral lore. We become unmoored from our own identities. We take on guilt not only for loving our family heritage, but for loving sausage gravy or linen suits or Great Aunt Gussie’s quilt. You’ve got to be very intentional to separate them, and I don’t know that a lot of people can or do.

And when we don’t allow ourselves to see and feel the horrors of our ancestors, we run the risk of repeating our worst history.

While Southern Hollows is a history hobby project for me, it’s also got some importance, I think. I hope we all can benefit from a white Southerner owning and sharing these stories of inhumanity.

How do you research the stories?

Since the goal is to do two a month, I can’t do the kind of primary research I’d like. So my general approach is to find a story that fits the bill, then read a well-researched book or two that aggregates a lot of the primary research. I try to give lots of credit to those authors, and even share links to their books.

How is writing a podcast different from other types of writing? Or how is it the same?

It’s funny you ask, because I didn’t think it would be that much different, but it turns out is very different. For obvious reasons, it’s a lot more like writing a script than an essay. I love to write in long complex sentences – those Winston Churchill type structures that a lot of times don’t resolve until the end. But while that kind of writing is useful in a history text, it’s both confusing and unnatural when spoken. So I’m writing them more and more with a storyteller’s ear, with fragments and interjections and lots of em dashes. I don’t want to lose the polish and intensity of the content that makes it different, but I don’t want the distraction of an overly academic or inauthentic voice.

Any advice for teachers for using podcasting in the classroom?

Part of the vision for Southern Hollows emerges from the evidence that people allow themselves to be desensitized to inhumanity – laying it out there naked is the work.

As long as students are old enough to be exposed to inhumanities like lynching (and the holocaust and other comparable historical human tragedy) I think mine would be appropriate.

As a marketing executive, incidentally, I read a lot about podcasting as an emerging advertising medium, and one of the key reasons is that millennials (and younger) have grown up consuming multiple media simultaneously. It’s why they get bored with documentaries and have huge trouble with books. Podcasts are a medium being embraced by younger people because they can listen as they do other stuff. It’s the preferred way to consume information-rich content. 

I highly recommend Stinson’s podcasts for many reasons.  The stories are interesting.  The content is forgotten or lost history.  And the style of Stinson’s writing and speaking are well-crafted.  You can subscribe to Southern Hollows on Stitcher and iTunes or directly from Southern Hollows website. 

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