I’ve never been to the South. In fact, the most contact I’ve had with the region is through Paula Deen’s show on the Food Network, and even that, I tend to flip past quickly. All in all, I know nothing about what living there is actually like, and I’ve had little interest in ever visiting … until now.

New Stories From the South 2009 is the 23rd installment of this annual compilation of short stories from authors living in the South. Because there are 21 stories by as many authors, it’s hard to talk about the book as a whole unit. As with all story collections, there are some stories that are better than others, and there’s a wide range of genres represented in the narratives.

None of them is completely unreadable, although some feel a little too Toni Morrison symbolism heavy for my tastes. All of them are powerful, told with real presence and identifiable characters in familiar situations. Most of the stories are absolutely moving, with the fallout from Katrina playing a recurring role in many of them, and the glory and horror that is humanity showing through.

Grade: A-

New Stories from the South 2009 is currently available.