Born in the Delta


Reflections on the Making of a Southern White Sensibility
Margaret Jones Bolsterli
978-1-55728-616-1 (paper)
July 2000


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In this gracefully written memoir, Margaret Jones Bolsterli recounts her experiences as a lively, observant girl coming of age on an Arkansas cotton farm during the 1930s and 1940s. The Mississippi River’s broad, flat floodplain provides the setting for her vivid strokes of memory and history each portraying key elements of the “southern sensibility.”


Bolsterli’s themes include the southerner’s strong sense of place, the penchant for stories rather than true dialog, a caste system based on formality and race, the underlying current of violence, and the repressive function of evangelical religion. She also examines manners, the patriarchal family structure, the “southern belle” concept, and the persistence of the memory of the Civil War. A fascinating chapter on food indicates how African and European customs are melded in southern cuisine to include chicken, pork, “cracklin’ bread,” gravy and biscuits, field peas, turnip greens, butter beans, devil’s food cake, and dill pickles.


Comparable to Shirley Abbott’s Womenfolks, Born in the Delta is a valuable resource for those interested in southern history and culture, as well as readers who just enjoy a good story, well-told.

Margaret Jones Bolsterli has also authored The Early Community at Bedford Park and edited Vinegar Pie and Chicken Bread and A Remembrance of Eden. She is professor emerita of English at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and owns a cattle farm in Wesley, Arkansas.

“Bolsterli’s work is both that of the Southerner native-born and of the cosmopolitan richly experienced with contrasting ways of knowing.”

—Gayle Graham Yates, University of Minnesota

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