I (heart) Mississippi: A book review

Published 12:44 am Sunday, March 2, 2008

“Delightful, charming, and a quick and easy read” are all words being used to describe Daisy Karam-Read’s new book From Manhattan to Mississippi: A New Yorker Falls in Love with the South. While the book is all of these things, this autobiography of sorts, is also Read’s poetic ode to living in the South, and Mississippi, from an outsiders point of view. The book highlights all the reasons why the south is a great place to call home. “This book is my Valentine to Mississippi,” said Read.

Culture shock is the term most commonly used to describe the experience of moving from a big city, to pretty much anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line. Adaptation to your environs depends on whether you are glass half full, or a glass half empty personality. The same could be said of moving in the other direction, but, at least for Read, her glass half full adjustment to Mississippi was so overwhelming, she has dedicated her first book to the experience.

Originally Austrian born, Read hails from Salzburg, a city of culture, Mozart, and festivals — a German speaking town with Italian Baroque architecture.

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At the age of six, Read moved from Austria to the states, and spent her formative years growing up in Manhattan. In 1982, she moved with her family to L.A.

Back in New York, Daisy earned bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts, from Queens College, and spent her young adult life traveling between New York, Los Angeles, and Munich working as an actress.

The bi-coastal life afforded Read the opportunity to meet lots of people, but when she met Barbara and Jimmie Lewis, her life took a dramatic turn. These two friends introduced her to the man who would eventually become her husband. It was Jerry, a southerner, who ultimately moved her to Ocean Springs. The couple now resides in Gulfport.

Her journey from the north to the south, and her new life in Mississippi is cleverly outlined in the book. Read’s imagery and accurate portrayal of the places, people, food and mannerisms, all come together to make this book inventive and sweet. She manages to capture the essence of the differences between the divide without being condescending to either lifestyle.

While Read did experience some hardships, like so many others following the storm, she did not want to write another book about Katrina. Yes, there is a very, very short chapter on her experience post Katrina, but Read says, “I wanted to create a positive, uplifting book. This is not a Katrina book.”

For her first attempt, From Manhattan to Mississippi has already earned Read tremendous success. It has been on the best sellers list five times, and was nominated for a SIBA award from the Southern Independence Book Sellers Alliance. She has already begun work on her next book.

Read will be available to sign copies of From Manhattan to Mississippi: A New Yorker Falls in Love with the South, from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., on April 12, at Bell, Book and Candle in Picayune.