DELICIOUS FOODS Perspectives on James Hannaham's 2015 novel

By Jenna Mason

Delicious Foods. It sounds like the next big reality food show, in which a charismatic celebrity chef visits unexpected locales. It’s not.

James Hannaham’s most recent novel, published by Little, Brown in 2015, takes readers to a Louisiana farm where modern-day slavery still thrives. Though this farm is fictional, the novel does ask readers to confront reality. In an interview with Huffington Post’s Anna Bengel, Hannaham explained:

Everybody talks about slavery in the American South as if everybody should have gotten over it a long time ago. Slavery is one of the most hidden and yet prevalent issues facing the world right now.”

John Bowe’s 2007 book, Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy had a big impact on Hannaham. That story of a Florida woman, enslaved in 1992, shocked and disturbed the author and became one of the many catalysts for Delicious Foods.

Hannaham will speak at the 2018 SFA Fall Symposium, set for October 11-13 in Oxford. His Delicious Foods follows Darlene, a mother who unravels after the murder of her husband; Eddie, her young son who bears the brunt of her downward spiral; and Scotty, the magnetic voice of crack cocaine. The protagonists are coerced into back-breaking labor for a nefarious agricultural company.

Below, SFA situates Delicious Foods in the broader narrative of Southern foodways, asking challenging and open-ended questions. How can fiction animate activism against forced farm labor in the United States? What are the dynamics of addiction and trauma that make people targets of exploitation? How does America’s increasing fascination with farms as places of hope, health, and personal redemption square with the realities of our food system?

We invite you to read along, considering these and other questions with us. Grab a copy of the novel from your local bookstore. We’re keen on Square Books here in Oxford. Or if you spend significant time on the road, we highly recommend listening to the audiobook, read by James Hannaham himself.

Meet James Hannaham

James Hannaham uses fiction and dark humor to ease readers into troubling truths. Read more…
For a taste of Hannaham’s sense of humor, visit his website.

The Farm

Our food chain is so complex, and consumers are so disconnected from farms, that we are often ignorant of the unsavory labor practices that drive economies. Read more…

Meet Eddie

In Delicious Foods, James Hannaham explores the generational effects of slavery and systemic racism. Read more…

Meet Darlene

Instead of playing by the rigged rules of the American Dream, Darlene carves out her freedom piece by piece. Read more…

Meet Scotty

Scotty, the voice of crack cocaine, broaches topics that courteous characters might sidestep and delivers much of the dark humor in Delicious Foods. Read more…

Cover art by Kara Walker