At the same time some southern studies scholars are positioning the U.S. South in a larger cultural, historic, and economic region that encompasses the Caribbean and Latin America, some southern environmentalist writers, such as long-time essayist and novelist Wendell Berry and activist-turned-memoirist Janisse Ray, are finding a pressing need to focus on smaller bioregions and the locatedness of the human subject. These writers believe that agribusiness and consumer ignorance are driving small farmers out of business and that clear-cutting timber and farming practices dependent on chemicals are threatening local ecosystems. Best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver has joined their ranks. With her most recent novel Prodigal Summer (2000), Kingsolver returns to her home region and her academic roots to explore both the crucial ecological issues that most interest the South's environmentalist writers and some of the transitional questions that currently preoccupy literary critics. Setting her novel in southern Appalachia, where she grew up and where she now owns a cabin, she fictionalizes problems that she has since published impassioned essays about; failing family farms, fragmented communities, ecosystems out of balance, and rural-urban, insider-outsider tensions.

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Copyright © 2006 University of North Carolina Press. This article first appeared in The Southern Literary Journal 39:1 (2006), 83-97.

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