The Southern Bookseller Review 4/5/22

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The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of March 29, 2022

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April 5, 2022

Make the stories sing.Tara Stringfellow Photo Credit Zara Visuals

The first book spotlighted from the April list of "Read This Next!" titles is a debut novel called Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow. The term "debut" here deserves an explaination, however, because Tara Stringfellow is a well-established poet who has been writing since she was ten years old, making her a fitting author to feature for the first week of Poetry Month.

Memphis is her first novel. The first time, as she says in her interview with Book Pipeline, that she could think in terms of stanzas instead of chapters, sentences instead of lines. She called it freeing. And daunting.

"I grew up with devastating, grief-laced stories about gorgeous and unknown Black folk," she writes, "All I had as proof were quilts and stories. But I knew, instrinsically, that it would be my lifelong duty like my mother in our kitchen, to make those tales sing."


Origins: A Prose Poem in Apogee Journal

My Ex-Husband, in Jet Fuel Review

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire


Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire
Random House Trade Paperbacks / March 2022

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

I cant put into words how much this poetry collection affected me, and how I am completely infatuated with every word on every page. Shire truly left me speechless with her prose and poems centering around being a refugee, maternal relationships, and what it means to be a woman. It’s poetry that’s so full of emotion you feel every word she says, and it’s impeccable.

Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Song for the Missing by Pierre Jarawan


Song for the Missing by Pierre Jarawan
World Editions / March 2022

More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

I’m still on a globetrotty search for coming-of-age stories set in the 1990s (specifically 92-96) to hold up my bland high school soft-serve experience-machine. This one here is a perfectly paced and passionate ode to Lebanon, family drama and young friendship, served up like a mystery.

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow


Tara M. Stringfellow

"With poetry, your entire message, the duende of the poem, the catharsis of the readers all needs to fit in the space of a few lines. I spent years—years—trying to master this and will spend many, many more.

With prose, I felt the freedom of the entire page, of entire chapters to speak my truth. I was no longer confined to the space of a stanza. I found it incredibly liberating and refreshing. But also incredibly daunting. "–Tara M. Stringfellow, interview in Book Pipeline

What booksellers are saying about Memphis

  • Tara M. Stringfellow’s Memphis raises the bar for family sagas. Based on her own family’s history, this debut novel explores multiple generations within a Southern Black family. The city itself becomes an identity within this powerful story; Stringfellow traces not only the impact of each generation’s choices and traditions but also the impact of the iconic city’s history on the family. I love nothing more as a reader than a powerful family saga, and Memphis has stayed with me long after finishing it–undoubtedly this will be at the top of my Best of 2022 list! ―Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Memphis opens with a beautiful poem dedicating the book to Gianna Floyd, saying, “I wrote you a Black fairy tale.” Centering Black joy above all, Stringfellow’s life-affirming debut follows three generations of unforgettable women in a gifted but tested family in the author’s and my hometown. Readers will cry, laugh, and sing along to this book, which focuses on the Black female experience that has always given Memphis its soul. I hope we’ll be reading Stringfellow for a long, long time.   ―Katie Williamson, Square Books in Oxford, MC
    Buy from Square Books

  • A gorgeous take on Memphis over the years. A celebration of Douglass. An ode to black womanhood, to community, to identity, sisterhood, strength.The writing is savory and entrancing, and the characters are true, my highest praise for fictional people. A fantastic debut   ―Becca Sloan, Novel. in Memphis, TN
    Buy from Novel

Tara M. Stringfellow

Poet, former attorney, Northwestern University MFA graduate, and semifinalist for the Fulbright Fellowship, Tara M. Stringfellow has written for Collective Unrest, Minerva Rising, Jet Fuel Review, Women Arts Quarterly Journal, and Apogee Journal, among other publications. After having lived in Okinawa, Ghana, Chicago, Cuba, Spain, Italy, and Washington, D.C., she moved back home to Memphis, where she sits on her porch swing every evening with her hound, Huckleberry, listening to records and chatting with neighbors.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth


The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
St. Martin’s Press / April 2022

More Reviews from M Judson booksellers and storytellers

The twists, the turns, the traumas! A family tale of suspense that hooks the reader from page one. Hepworth creates a world of privilege and ease where nothing is what it seems including your own perceptions.

Reviewed by Susan Williams, M Judson Booksellers and Storytellers in Greenville, South Carolinaa

The Modern Proper by Holly Erickson


The Modern Proper by Holly Erickson
 S&S/Simon Element / April 2022

More Reviews from Righton Books

A chapter devoted to dips, spreads, and dressings… and a chapter on meatballs? We were instantly smitten! And we continued to return to this collection of unfussy, from-scratch recipes designed for family meals or entertaining (but definitely scalable down: I’m talking about you, Saucy Grilled Cheese with Asparagus.) The Modern Proper will bring fun, imaginative food into your world.

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St Simons Island, Georgia

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir


All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Razorbill / March 2022

More Reviews from Main Street Books

Once you are captured into this story, you cannot help but ache for these characters. This is a beautiful story about two teens who are trying to balance the weight of the world on their shoulders, and Sabaa Tahir delivers their stories with poignance and grace once again. At this point, there is nothing she could write that I would not read. Seemingly able to traverse from fantasy into fiction, Tahir delivers a novel that is at times a stunningly accurate description of teenagers and their grief, while at others touching on relationships and the sway they hold over us. Bravo to her for being able to write such a gorgeous story.

Reviewed by Hallie Smith, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Hundred Years of Happiness by Thanhhà Lai,


Hundred Years of Happiness by Thanhhà Lai,
HarperCollins / March 2022

More Reviews from Bookmarks

Hundred Years of Happiness is a remarkable picture book. Teeming with stunning illustrations and storytelling, this book tugs at the heartstrings. I adored the mixture of family, culture, and food at the center of this story. The inclusion of the recipe at the end of the book was such a fun surprise!

Reviewed by Lauren Kean, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi


The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
Tor Books / March 2022

More Reviews from Wordsworth Books

An April 2022 Read This Next! Title

Memphis is a wonderful, intriguing book about a family of black women in Memphis. Primarily centering on two sisters, both with much tragedy but amazing resilience, and one of their daughters. They carry on the strong tradition of their mother. Skipping around between different years and various characters, it weaves what undoubtedly is the story of so many black women in Memphis. Beautifully written.

Reviewed by Lynne Phillips, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

French Braid In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss The Vanishing Half
Between Two Kingdoms Knight Owl

[ See the full list ]

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Parting Thought

“Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.”
– June Jordan

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