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September 24, 2013

Avoiding The American South, Then Finding It

When Wilton Barnhardt graduated from high school in North Carolina, he left for college with no plans to return. He went on what would become a two-decade tour of New York City, Oxford, New Orleans and Los Angeles. Then, even though he’d bet he’d never go back home, he ended up teaching in Raleigh, N.C.

Barnhardt, a writer, produced three well-regarded novels – none of them fully straying into the American South. But this year, he dove into the stories of his home state with “Lookaway, Lookaway,” a novel about the rise and fall of a prominent family in the state’s largest city, Charlotte.

“About the time that I began writing this book I also began dealing with that deep, dark secret that I am a Southerner,” Barnhardt says. “And I really do love it here, and I really fit in better here than I did probably in any of the other places that I lived.”

In this conversation with host Dick Gordon, Barnhardt talks about growing up visiting an aunt in a tony neighborhood of Charlotte, and hearing all the secrets about her wealthy neighbors’ affairs and indiscretions, and about other ways his own experiences inspired his writing.

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