The latest reviews and recommendations directly from your favorite Southern indie booksellers
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Current favorites of Southern indie booksellers. [FULL LIST]
Three women have shared a bond for decades. When they are reunited for one of their daughter’s weddings, the past comes back in a rush. The story is told in flashbacks and present day in a way that helps them reconcile where they have ended up and where they once dreamed they’d go. A timeless examination of all the dreams you hold for yourself, the dreams your parents and others have for you, and how much you are able to follow your heart.
Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro, (List Price: $27, Knopf, 9780593320297, June 2022)
Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
This book features a young woman who is a translator for an alien species that has come to Earth but that doesn’t have a spoken language. She translates their thoughts into English so other humans can understand them. She finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and she wants to keep her job and stay out of jail. I found this short novel charming and it’s a real love song to the written word and paper books. For lovers of Douglas Adams and John Scalzi.
Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson, (List Price: $26.99, Tordotcom, 9781250807342, June 2022)
Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia
Bazawule swiftly drops you into an immediate and tumultuous love story between Bernadette and Melvin as they escape the States seeking a fantastical refuge in 1960s Ghana. This piece is deeply heartbreaking, yet manages to hold it together through its magical storytelling. “Queen and Slim” fans will love this novel as its deep cinematic influence encourages evocative visuals and sentient understandings of the character’s interiors.
The Scent of Burnt Flowers by Blitz Bazawule, (List Price: $27, Ballantine Books, 9780593496237, June 2022)
Reviewed by Eden Hakimzadeh, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida
While I suppose no book is perfect, I think A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter is about as perfect as they come.
It’s part memoir, part research project, part confessional. The writing is personal, tender, and fierce. I found so much that resonated about parenting in general, the way we love our kids and try to help them find the most joy possible in this life. And, as the wife of a trans guy, I also found kinship in the experience of watching someone transition and find their true selves. It’s beautiful. Sometimes frightening. And often hard for a host of reasons. But ultimately, joyful.
A Girlhood will be my go-to recommendation for anyone trying to understand gender identity or transness. And for parents of gay kids, trans kids, cis kids, gender non-conforming kids–parents of humans. I cannot think of anyone I wouldn’t recommend it to. As a person in the queer community who didn’t have a stellar coming out experience with my parents, I find narratives about parents who support and champion their LGBTQ kids to be a balm. Because I always believed I deserved better than I got–and seeing other kids get that kind of support is healing and hopeful. Because I was right. We do deserve better. And always have.
There’s lots of LGBTQ history mixed in to the narrative. And the writer is Catholic–so there’s also this gorgeous arc of what Catholicism can be. There’s a lot of hype there. But also a lot of realism. The author is constantly acknowledging her privilege and unpacking difficult social construction and religious dogma.
I am 100% enamored of Carolyn Hays’ intellect, compassion, and fierce love for her kid. This is a must read.
A Girlhood by Carolyn Hays, (List Price: $28.95, Blair, 9781949467901, September 2022)
Reviewed by Kendra Gayle Lee, Bookish Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia
The deeply personal story of a journalist and young mother who is given a long-term prescription for drugs (benzodiazepines) that are meant for short time use only. Her descriptions of life as an addict are deeply personal and harrowing.
Blood Orange Night by Melissa Bond, (List Price: $27.99, Gallery Books, 9781982188276, June 2022)
Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in Memphis, Tennessee
Calhoun had a complicated relationship with her famous art critic father Peter Schjeldahl. This book started as an attempt to write a biography of poet Frank O’Hara that her father never finished. Having inherited his obsession with the poet, the author wrestles with creating a narrative with answers when obstacles (time, fire, other people) keep them hidden. I felt the frustration of her and her subjects as it infected me with its incessant whispers of almosts and near misses. Ultimately, the author gifts us with wise lessons of kindness and acceptance. An extraordinary, raw read!
Also a Poet by June Gervais, (List Price: $27, Grove Press Books, 9780802159786, June 2022)
Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia
Powerhouse debater and soccer star TJ is considered one of the most beautiful girls at her school. But when a meme starts circulating comparing her flawless beauty to her Sikh cousin’s natural hairiness, TJ decides to ditch her hair-removal routines to show herself and the world that it’s possible to be both hairy and beautiful. The world, though, seems determined to prove her wrong — except her debate rival Charlie, who doesn’t seem to care at all. A fun, flirty story that couches a cutting criticism of societal beauty standards, handled in a way that will win over readers regardless of personal opinions.
TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo, (List Price: $17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593403396, June 2022)
Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina
A great reminder that our hearts are bigger than our worries. As adults we sometimes forget how kids struggle with big feelings they don’t always understand. This book is great to start the conversation about emotional awareness and other social emotional skills that are important for kids to be successful in school and life.
Brave Every Day by Trudy Ludwig, (List Price: $18.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780593306376, June 2022)
Reviewed by Lupe Penn, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Calling this the coolest most creative young adult book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, just wow! Powerhouse Jason Reynolds teams up with longtime best friend and artist Jason Griffin to bring the most interesting memoir I’ve ever read. Originally published in 2009 as Reynolds’s first book, this tiny but mighty memoir follows the two as they chase huge aspirations in New York City. Worlds, collages, and paint splatters cover the pages rather than paragraphs and it works so perfectly. Almost like a zine nonfiction novella, and if that wasn’t a thing it is now and I want more!
My Name Is Jason. Mine Too by Jason Reynolds, (List Price: $10.99, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 9781534478220, June 2022)
Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia
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This month’s Southern indie bookseller favorites. [FULL LIST]
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