Dr. Jim Brown to speak February 18 On His New Book, Distracted by Alabama: “Tangled Threads of Natural History, Local History, and Folklore”

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TUSCUMBIA-Dr. Jim Brown will discuss his new book, Distracted by Alabama: Tangled Threads of Natural History, Local History, and Folklore, during the quarterly meeting of the Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation on Sunday, February 18, at the Helen Keller Public Library in Tuscumbia.
The event is free and open to the public. 

A gateway to Alabama for the omnivorous mind, Distracted by Alabama is a collection of twelve captivating essays about Alabama and the South by Brown, a Samford University writer and scholar. He is a former president of the Alabama Folklife Association.


During his decades living and teaching in Alabama, Brown followed his curiosity down myriad pathways about Alabama and the region, including the state’s majestic landscape, plants and animals found nowhere else, history, and rich folkways. In the tapestry of Alabama culture, Brown traces the threads of Native American, African slave, and European settler influences, woven over the centuries into novel patterns that surprise and fascinate.  


Writing in the voice of a learned companion, Brown reveals insights and stories about unforgettable facets of Alabama culture, such as Sacred Harp singers and African American railroad callers, the use of handmade snares and stationary fishtraps to catch river redhorse and freshwater drum, white oak basketmaking and herbal medicine traditions, the evolution of the single-pen log cabin into the impressive two-story I-house, and a wealth of other engrossing stories.


An instant classic, Distracted by Alabama is a keepsake that readers who love, visit, or are curious about Alabama and Southern culture will return to again and again.
Brown, a native Tennessean, earned his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt in European and Asian history in 1971. That same year he was hired at Samford University, and spent his entire career there, retiring from full-time teaching in 2016. Early in his teaching career he became interested in the folk consciousness(es) behind the creation of most modern European states, a pattern that proved to be as exportable to the rest of the world as the railroad. Over the years, Brown won Samford’s two top teaching awards, the Buchanan as voted on by students, and the Macon as voted on by faculty members. In 2014, shortly before retiring, he published his modern world history based on that pattern he had explored over the decades: Fairy Tales, Patriotism, and the Nation-State: The Rise of the Modern West and the Response of the World (Kendall/Hunt, 606 pp., thousands of Google Earth references instead of footnotes  . . .). But from that first year in Alabama his interests in natural history and folk culture led him into encounters with some most interesting people, crafts and traditions in a state new to him. He was involved with the creation of the Alabama Folklife Association and served a term as its president. His only other University of Alabama Press book came out some 40 years ago, an edition of the “life histories” from the Depression-era Federal Writers Project titled Up Before Daylight. His recent Distracted by Alabama: Tangled Threads of Natural History, Local History, and Folklore, which is part memoir and part history, will be the main subject of his presentation to the Colbert County Historical Association.
Media Release/Lorie Johnson/Colbert County Historical Association
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