Nestled in the North Central Hills region of Mississippi, just more than an hour’s drive south of Memphis, Oxford has long been a haven for writers. Oxford was named after the university town of Oxford, England, reflecting the townspeople’s early desire for a university. The culmination of that desire came with the founding of the University of Mississippi (affectionately called “Ole Miss”) in Oxford in 1848.
The town’s literary legacy began with William Faulkner, who used the town as the inspiration for the county seat of his fictional Yoknapatawpha County. Rowan Oak, home to Faulkner and his family for more than 40 years, was built in 1844 and is now maintained as a literary landmark by the University of Mississippi. Faulkner’s final resting place is located in St. Peter’s Cemetery near Oxford’s historic town square (referred to locally as “The Square”). Other notable authors that have called Oxford home include John Grisham, Jesmyn Ward, Julie Cantrell, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, Willie Morris, and John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
Founded in 1979, legendary independent bookstore Square Books, located on The Square, hosts more than 150 author events per year and features a large selection of Southern literature. Among the hosted authors who have appeared for readings and book-signings are Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.