5 Southern novels that aren’t Gone with the Wind

Who needs Scarlett O’Hara? Here’s a few other significant novels of the early 20th century.
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Scarlett O'Hara
Photograph by Everett Collection

When Gone with the Wind was published in 1936, Margaret Mitchell became the most famous writer in Georgia. At the same time, though, other lesser-known authors were writing significant novels that didn’t include plantations and hoop-skirted Southern belles.

Lightwood
by Brainard Cheney
Land was the only thing that mattered to Scarlett, and it’s also a source of obsession in this 1939 novel. Based on real events in South Georgia, the book describes a violent struggle between local landowners and Wall Street timber barons in the post–Civil War era.

Cane
by Jean Toomer
Published in 1923, this critically acclaimed account of rural African American life in Hancock County is a bold examination of race and sex in the early 20th century. A new edition includes an afterword that examines Toomer’s complex feelings about his own mixed-race identity.

The Hard-Boiled Virgin
by Frances Newman
A young female writer in Atlanta tries to come to terms with Southern culture’s sexism in this semiautobiographical satire. The 1926 novel was banned in Boston—likely because of Newman’s scandalous references to sexual arousal and birth control.

Swamp Water
by Vereen Bell
This 1940 coming-of-age story reflects Bell’s love of the Georgia landscape. The protagonist is Ben Ragan, a rebellious young man who befriends a fugitive in the Okefenokee Swamp, sparking a series of events that wreak havoc in Ragan’s small town. A Hollywood film version was released in 1941, with a remake in 1952.

Lamb in His Bosom
by Caroline Miller
The backwoods characters in this 1933 novel never owned a slave or even a fancy gown. Married two decades before the Civil War at just 16, Cean Carver struggles to survive the deaths of her children, the loss of her husband, a panther attack, and other tragedies.

For the GWTW die-hards On June 11, Learn more about Margaret Mitchell and other Oakland Cemetery residents who may have inspired characters in her novel during the Gone with the Wind anniversary tour.

This article originally appeared in our June 2016 issue.

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