My ancestors fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War; I was raised in Natchez, Miss.; I performed in the Confederate Pageant for a decade; I dug ditches and loaded trucks with black men who taught me more than any book ever could; and I graduated from Ole Miss. Anyone who survived that is a de facto expert on the South.
My mother, a teacher, encouraged me to use my creativity as an actual way to make a living, and my father, a Mississippi physician, did two things. First, he taught me that all human beings should be treated equally because no one is better than anyone else, and he never pressured me to become a doctor.