A native of Greenville, Julia Reed is a well-known journalist, commentator, and humorist. She is a contributing editor for Elle Décor and Garden and Gun and has written for Vogue, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications and has appeared on MSNBC and CNN. While she does not write exclusively about Mississippi or the South, much of her work uses the South either for subject matter or for comparison. The daughter of Greenville’s Clarke Reed, “a smiling, silver-haired kingpin of southern Republicanism” and chair of the state’s Republican Party in the 1960s, Julia Reed writes from a leftist perspective. She seems particularly drawn to topics that involve food, women’s fashion, politics and politicians, stereotypes and people who abuse them, and the interactions of violence, manners, and justice. Reed loves both to hear and to tell entertaining stories. She has written, “In the Mississippi Delta, where I’m from, entertaining yourself is a high art. There isn’t anything else to do.”
Reed has published multiple books in an array of genres, including Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena (2004), a collection of previously published magazine essays; Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties: An Entertaining Life (with Recipes) (2008); The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story (2008); But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!: Adventures in Eating, Drinking, and Making Merry (2013); One Man’s Folly: The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood (2014); Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High Style Fun All Year Long (2016), and South toward Home: Adventures and Misadventures in My Native Land (2018). Reed has lived in both New York and in New Orleans, and they, along with Greenville, constitute the sources of many of her observations. She seems irked at some academics who have argued for the decline of southern distinctiveness, and she offers in rebuttal stories of the outlandish South—women who earn juries’ sympathy and get away with murdering worthless husbands, dinner parties that are so terrible that everyone who attended them tells stories about them for years, and the State of Mississippi’s long experiment with taxing alcohol while also prohibiting its sale. Reed amuses readers even when they may not expect it: for example, she began a New York Times review of a Miss Manners book by apologizing for not writing thank-you notes after her wedding two years earlier. She was a particularly appealing commentator about events after Hurricane Katrina, offering compassion and some humor. She has also served as a member of the board of the Eudora Welty Foundation.
- Joseph Crespino, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (2007)
- HarperCollins Publisher website, www.harpercollins.com; Macmillan Speakers website, http://www.macmillanspeakers.com/juliareed