The Southern Bookseller Review 2/22/22

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of February 22, 2022

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February 22, 2022

PB&J, Cake from a Box, and Cool Whip.

Black History Month 2022

On Friday The Southern Bookseller Review sent out a special edition for Black History Month, "Celebrating Black Voices." The issue received more reader responses and praise than any other newsletter we’ve sent.

There are only six books featured in a single newsletter, but there are currently about a hundred books reviewed on The Southern Bookseller Review website tagged African American & Black. That is enough to let readers celebrate Black voices all year long, which is how it should be.

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman


The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman
Clarion Books / January 2022

More Reviews from Bookmarks

Families are hard to live with, even more so when it seems like everything you do tears you apart further. The Ivory Key opens with a family torn asunder, tossed to four separate lives, yet they’re still as connected as ever, and they need each other, even though they refuse to admit it. I loved every single second of this book, but mostly, I loved the realistic nature of every relationship. I loved that the true backbone of this story was a family, that even though the plot was something much greater than them, they were the most important thing. Raman has a gift for storytelling, and it shines brightly from within the pages of The Ivory Key.

Reviewed by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang


Lan Samantha Chang

"Even the food we ate growing up was interesting, and I put that into The Family Chao. When our parents arrived in the U.S., Americans were eating peanut butter and jelly, and cake from a box and Cool Whip. My parents couldn’t buy the ingredients they needed to make Chinese food, and so they improvised. They made stir-fry out of iceberg lettuce. After the Vietnam War, supermarkets became more diverse. My parents couldn’t believe their good fortune! We ate bean sprouts for weeks. "—Lan Samantha Chang (via The Washington Post)

The Family Chao

What booksellers are saying about The Family Chao

  • The three brothers Chao are brought back to their small Wisconsin hometown to deal with a falling out between their parents and long simmering secrets soon bubble to the surface. Chang’s novel centered on the Chao family and their Chinese restaurant is a sprawling, uproarious, and deftly crafted exploration on family, greed, and the darker side of the "American Dream." Wonderfully written with countless passages to savor, written with equal parts biting humor and deep empathy; The Family Chao is a nearly perfect novel and one of my favorites of 2022.   ―Caleb Masters from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks
  • The three grown sons of a dysfunctional Chinese family gather at their Midwestern home for the holidays, and become embroiled in series of mishaps, misunderstandings, and misbehavior. An epic family drama wrapped around issues of race and class. ― Anne Peck from Righton Books in St Simons Island, GA
    Buy from Righton Books

  • The Family Chao is a true pleasure! A hard to put down who dunnit family drama and mouthwatering delight! I do recommend you eat before reading…. This is great for bookclubs who enjoy topics on obligation, family dynamics and the seemingly picturesque front that often hides the truth. ―Laura Taylor from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL
    Buy from Oxford Exchange

  • Lan Samantha Chang hooked me from the beginning with this tale of three brothers and their difficult father set in the backdrop of their Americanized Chinese restaurant. Chang walks a tightrope in her storytelling, pushing away, pulling in, and ultimately implicating the reader by shining a light on the kinds of lives we are willing to ignore and the ones we care about.   ―Fisher Nash from Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, KY
    Buy from Carmichael’s

About Lan Samantha Chang

Lan Samantha Chang is the award-winning author of the collection Hunger and the novels The Family Chao, Inheritance and All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. A recent Berlin Prize Fellow, she also has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Chang is the first Asian American and the first female director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Iowa City.

I Love You Because I Love You by Muon Thi Van


I Love You Because I Love You by Muon Thi Van
Katherine Tegen Books / January 2022

More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

I Love You Because I Love You is a sublime psalm to the ways in which love manifests and changes us for the better. Love’s soft, expressive illustrations are a perfect match for the heartfelt text, displaying a beautiful variety of relationships in which love abounds. A perfect gift for baby showers, weddings, graduation, Valentine’s Day, or any day—because every day is a good day to say, “I love you.”

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Xstabeth by David Keenan


Xstabeth by David Keenan
 Europa Editions / February 2022

More Reviews from Square Books

David Keenan joins serious fabulists and metaphormen Kundera, Coover & Co. with this perverse and metafictional novel. We follow the rise and falling-out of a pseudonymous musician, Xstabeth, with critical “essays” about the “deceased author” and the novel we’re reading in between. Herein: experimentation that succeeds.

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad


White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad
Catapult / October 2021

More Reviews from Cavalier House Books

White Tears/Brown Scars is an eye opening book for anyone like me who has not experienced racism on a daily basis. As a white woman, I felt I was the perfect audience for what Ruby Hamad had to say. While discussing race and racism is an uncomfortable topic for many people, Ruby shows us the importance of remaining calm, seeing, and hearing the concerns of our BIPOC colleagues, friends and neighbors. I truly appreciated this book.

Reviewed by Sophie Giroir, Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, Louisiana

The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart


The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart
Ballantine Books / February 2022

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

A crazy time-travel novel that is also a meditation on loss. The main character is mourning the loss of her lover as she tries to hold on to her job as “time cop” that is also frying her brain. I really loved this story with its many and varied villains and exploration of what regular time travel would do to the human brain. The protagonist keeps up her work to catch glimpses of the woman she loves in the form of kind of time-ghosts in the hotel where she works for wealthy people who go back in time and try to mess it up for sport and profit. Sometimes our biggest villains are ourselves as she learns while pushing away the people remaining in her life who wish to help.

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake


Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
Berkley / February 2022

More Reviews from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

A February 2022 Read This Next! Title

This is a truly lovely and joyful romance between two women that weaves together conversations of sacrifice, family, and friendship in such a beautiful way. Delilah and Claire are true champions of queer joy, and it was wonderful to read a story where queer women were the only characters. With a focus on second chances in a small town, reckoning with your past, chosen family, and of course, the way falling in love can turn you inside out, folks who enjoy Louise Miller’s novels or Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop will fall in love with Delilah and Claire.

Reviewed by Gaby Iori from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

The Magnolia Palace South to America Verity
ow the South Won the Civil War Love You By Heart

[ See the full list ]

sbr shelf

Parting Thought

“Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.”
– Louis L’Amour

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
Advertising: Linda-Marie Barrett /
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