Southern Sin

True Stories of the Sultry South & Women Behaving Badly

Edited by Lee Gutkind & Beth Ann Fennelly

In the steamy South, temptation is as wild and plentiful as kudzu.

Whether the sin in question is skinny-dipping or becoming an unlikely porn star, running rum or renting out a room to a pair of exhibitionistic adulterers, in these true stories women defy tradition and forge their own paths through life—often learning unexpected lessons from the experience.

As Dorothy Allison writes in her introduction, “The most dangerous stories are the true ones, the ones we hesitate to tell, the adventures laden with fear or shame or the relentless pull of regret. Some of those are about things that we are secretly deeply proud to have done.”

A diverse array of contributors—mothers, daughters, sisters, best friends, fiancées, divorcees, professors, poets, lifeguards-in-training, lapsed Baptists, tipsy debutantes, middle-aged lesbians—lend their voices to this collection. Introspective and abashed, joyous and triumphant (but almost never apologetic), they remind us that sin, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Sin Dorothy Allison ... read more
Editor's Note: Running from the Lord Beth Ann Fennelly
Editor's Note Lee Gutkind
What Was Left Molly Langmuir
Circles of Light Sheila Raeschild
The Renters Chelsea Rathburn
White Noise Sarah Cheshire
Love in the Worst Way Aaron Gwyn
Mad Love: the Ballad of Fred & Allie Sonja Livingston
No Other Gods Sarah Gilbert
In-Training Ellen Hagan
The On-Ramp Amy Thigpen
Out of the Woods Gail Griffin
Rum Running Queen Louella Bryant
Sportfucking in the South Suzanne Roberts
A Lesson in Merging Rachael Peckham
Tongues, Lust, and a Man from Indiana Adriana Paramo
Trouble Elyse Moody
Matinee Mendy Knott
Do I? C.W. Kelly
Nude Study River Jordan
A Country Where You Once Lived Sheryl St. Germain
Porn Star Elane Johnson
The Search for the Perfect Sidecar Kendra Hamilton
Rahab's Thread Katie Burgess


Dorothy Allison

Dorothy Allison was born in Greenville, South Carolina and makes her home in North California, with her partner Alix and their son, Wolf... read more

Louella Bryant

Louella Bryant is the author of While in Darkness There Is Light: Idealism and Tragedy on an Australian Commune and Full Bloom: Short... read more

Katie Burgess

Katie Burgess lives in South Carolina with her husband, mother-in-law, and various cats. She holds a PhD in creative writing from Florida... read more

Sarah Cheshire

Sarah Cheshire is a radical debutante, poet, satirical writer, and collector of postcards and ghost stories. Three years ago, she moved... read more

Sarah Einstein

Sarah Einstein teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is the author of Mot: A Memoir (University of... read more

Sheryl St. Germain

Sheryl St. Germain has published six poetry books and two collections of essays, and coedited two anthologies. The Small Door of Your Death... read more

Sarah Gilbert

Sarah Gilbert’s writing has been published in Oregon Humanities, Water~Stone Review, and others, and has been named ‘Notable... read more

Gail Griffin

Gail Griffin is the author of three books of nonfiction, most recently “The Events of October”: Murder-Suicide on a Small... read more

Aaron Gwyn

Aaron Gwyn was raised on a cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma. He is the author of a story collection, Dog on the Cross (Algonquin Books, 2004... read more

Ellen Hagan

Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. She has received grants from The Kentucky Foundation for Women and held residencies at... read more

Kendra Hamilton

Kendra Hamilton’s poetry and essays have appeared in Callaloo, The Southern Review, River Styx, Obsidian III, and others, as well as... read more

Elane Johnson

Elane Johnson’s nonfiction has been anthologized, featured in college creative writing curricula across the United States and... read more

River Jordan

River Jordan is the critically acclaimed author of four Southern literary novels filled with mystery and mystical suspense. Her most recent... read more

C.W. Kelly

C.W. Kelly is a Kentucky native and holds an M.A. in English from the University of Louisville. She teaches high school and university... read more

Mendy Knott

Mendy Knott lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Her work reflects her experiences as a former police officer, military veteran, and Southern... read more

Molly Langmuir

Molly Langmuir is a reporter in New York. She has written for New York magazine, the Village Voice, Salon and The Hairpin. read more

Sonja Livingston

Sonja Livingston’s first book, Ghostbread, won the AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction and has been honored with awards from the... read more

Elyse Moody

Georgia native Elyse Moody has written about books, travel, and culture for Elle,, The Daily Beast, BBC Travel, Publishers Weekly... read more

Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo is a cultural anthropologist and writer of women's issues. Her book Looking for Esperanza, winner of the 2011 Social... read more

Rachael Peckham

Rachael Peckham is the author of Muck Fire (Spring Garden Press) and the recipient of the 2010 Robert Watson Poetry Award. Her essays have... read more

Sheila Raeschild

Sheila Raeschild has a Ph.D. in American Literature from Tulane University and post-doc fellowships in 20th Century British Literature from... read more

Chelsea Rathburn

Chelsea Rathburn is the author of two poetry collections, A Raft of Grief, recently released by Autumn House Press, and The... read more

Suzanne Roberts

Suzanne Roberts is the author of the memoir Almost Somewhere (Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award), as well as four collections of... read more

Amy Thigpen

Amy Thigpen is a native New Orleanian, whose work has appeared in The Best Travelers' Tales 2004, Hot Flashes: Sexy Little... read more


A mostly sexy, sometimes terrifying, exceptionally-crafted read


March 24, 2014

Southern Sin: True Stories of The Sultry South and Women Behaving Badly cleverly plays with this connective tissue between the immoral and... read more

What's Southern about sin? Read this book to find out

Deep South Mag

March 21, 2014

As Fennelly points out in her editor’s note, rarely do we see a story or film about a woman who goes “bad” and isn’t punished. In each of... read more

You'll find yourself rushing through the pages

WOW Women on Writing

March 19, 2014

You'll find yourself rushing through the pages, wondering what's next. But aside from giving you a bit of vicarious thrill at witnessing... read more

Stories about women learning, surviving, and thriving

Dew on the Kudzu

March 21, 2014

These are not stories about women sinning - they're about women growing into themselves, learning, surviving, thriving. read more

Surprising in detail, stylish, self-interrogating, memorable

The Washington and Lee University Review

April 5, 2014

"Intensity and surprise twists, confession, regret, relief and triumph. After all, it’s all about the garter belt and the Bible belt,... read more

At every turn, these essays full of surprises

Chapter 16

May 12, 2014

"Whether the essays are humorous or chilling, they all contribute to the book’s sense of cumulative purpose. Taken together, the cycles of... read more

You don’t have to be a God-fearing southerner to relate to these true tales

Hippocampus Magazine

September 1, 2014

You don’t have to be a God-fearing southerner to relate to these true tales. Though many are sultry, as the title conveys, the real... read more

23 observant writers


February 15, 2014

Attach the word sin to any other region of the country--Pacific Northwest, Midwest, even the Mid-Atlantic--and it not only sounds wrong, it... read more


Sin Dorothy Allison

When I was a girl one of the many games my... read more