Friday Top 5: Holiday Gifts for Southern Progressives

Ho ho ho, the Holiday Season is here! If you're still looking for that perfect gift for your favorite Southerner or South-watcher, here are some ideas:

Great Music: Drinkhouse to Church House Vol. 1
Bring the blues home for the holidays with this "expertly filmed and recorded documentary that explores both secular and sacred musical traditions from the American South." The 12-song CD and hour-long DVD features interviews and performances by Captain Luke, Whistlin Britches, Little Freddie King, Alabama Slim, and others. Proceeds benefit the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which helps the "true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern music gain recognition and meet their day to day needs." ($25)

Great Reading (Non-Fiction): Blood Done Sign My Name
This riveting, award-winning work by Tim Tyson (a member of the Institute board -- no, we don't get a cut!) is a "must read" book about the South. Using the murder of Henry Murrow, a veteran in Tyson's hometown of Oxford, NC as the main plotline, Tyson tells a deeper story about race and history that makes it nothing short of a classic. ($12.60 from the excellent independent Regulator Bookshop in Durham, NC, where Tyson now teaches)

Great Reading (Fiction): New Stories From the South: 2006
The 6th annual collection of the South's best short stories combines seasoned writers like Tony Earley, Wendell Berry, and George Singleton with gifted newcomers, including Keith Lee Morris, Erin Brooks Worley and J. D. Chapman. Their stories range from "a communal love poem for a hunting dog, to a tale of a newly rich retiree trying to micromanage a Hollywood movie and losing his trophy wife to each new young screenwriter, to a harrowing work about a Virginia slave-woman burned alive for witchcraft." The opening missive by Alan Gurganus is almost worth the cost of the whole book. ($13.46 at the indy Regulator Bookshop)

Great Cause: Support a Grassroots Group in the Gulf Coast
New Orleans, Mississippi and Hurricane Katrina aren't in the headlines anymore, but thousands of people are still struggling from the aftermath of the storms. Some 200,000 people still haven't made it back to their homes in New Orleans alone due to barriers to housing, schools, health care and other basics. This holiday season, make a gift on someone's behalf to a community-based group in the Gulf. Here are a few we've seen first-hand that are doing great work:

New Orleans Network: Helping coordinate the grassroots response in New Orleans.
People's Hurricane Relief Fund: A leading voice for a just reconstruction.
Louisiana Environmental Action Network: Tackling environmental threats.
Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance: Advocating for immigrant workers.
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee: Supports various grassroots groups.

Great Reading and a Great Cause: Gift Membership in the Institute for Southern Studies
Want to help spread the good news about progressive change in the South? Sign up your friends and family with an Institute Gift Membership. All members will receive the Institute's Facing South email newsletter and award-winning reports from Southern Exposure, and your support helps build a strong progressive voice in the South. If you're not a member yet, treat yourself to a membership, too!

Any other great holiday gifts you'd recommend?