The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Nonfiction

Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald

Darkly funny and brutally honest, this memoir about surviving a chaotic childhood is a page-turner. The author is a natural storyteller who also offers insight into his motivations and those of his parents. (And I can attest to the accuracy of his descriptions of high school, since we attended the same one, though at different times!)

Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald, (List Price: 27, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635573978, July 2022)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia

The Crane Wife by CJ Hauser

A July 2022 Read This Next! Title

This book! I loved it! Hauser made me feel less alone in the world, with her wit and frank yet conversational tone, she lets the reader know that life is messy and doesn’t always go as planned, and not only is that ok, it can be wonderful.

The Crane Wife by CJ Hauser, (List Price: $28, Doubleday, 9780385547079, July 2022)

Reviewed by Jessica Osborne, E. Shaver bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

A Girlhood by Carolyn Hays

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

Blood Orange Night by Melissa Bond

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

Also a Poet by Ada Calhoun

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

Boys and Oil by Taylor Brorby

A searing meditation on identity and place, Boys and Oil captured my heart and opened my eyes. My husband is from North Dakota, and I thought I understood what it meant to have grown up in that state, but Taylor Brorby’s memoir showed me a different perspective. His writing on place is some of the most evocative I’ve read since Terry Tempest Williams; his love for his home state is evident despite the pain of growing up gay in a community that didn’t understand or welcome him. An important book and a must-read!

Boys and Oil by Taylor Brorby, (List Price: $27.95, Liveright, 9781324090861, June 2022)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Learning Korean by Peter Serpico

Born in South Korean, Peter Serpico was adopted by an American family when he was two, and only started to discover the cooking of his native country as an adult. Full of practical home cooking for American families, this cookbook is a great introduction to one of the world’s most wonderful cuisines.

Learning Korean by Peter Serpico, (List Price: $35, W. W. Norton & Company, 9781324003229, May 2022)

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

Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life: Bookmarked by Pamela Erens

A modern-day writer’s engaging appreciation of George Eliot’s Middlemarch and what she’s gained both as a writer and a woman from reading the iconic 19th-century novel over the years. Pamela Erens argues that Eliot’s sophisticated insights into human nature, her boundless compassion for her characters’ frailties, and her acceptance of their inevitable contradictions make her an especially wise guide to the struggles we face today. Erens is most thoughtful in discussing Eliot’s belief in the central role of community in society and of the responsibilities required of its members, and persuades us of its practicality today.

Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life: Bookmarked by Pamela Erens, (List Price: $14.95, Ig Publishing, 9781632461315, April 2022)

Reviewed by Clara Boza, Malaprop’s in Asheville, North Carolina

My America by Kwame Onwuachi

Kwame Onwuachi went from Top Chef Kwame to Author Kwame for me with Notes from a Young Black Chef, one of my favorite books of 2019. My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef blends chef and author to create a rich exploration of the food that influenced Onwuachi and he has been inspired to create. Featuring not just recipes but family history, travel stories, and anecdotal tales, My America is a celebration that deserves in place in everyone’s cookbook collection.

My America by Kwame Onwuachi, (List Price: $35, Knopf, 9780525659600, May 2022)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Child by Judy Goldman

In her lovely memoir, Judy Goldman reflects on what it was like to be a young Jewish girl raised by a Black nanny in the 1940s and 50s south. Mattie Culp became a part of the Kurtz family: sleeping in young Judy’s bedroom, using the family bathroom, celebrating holidays with them—things unheard of in the Jim Crow south. Now in her 80s, Goldman reflects on what Mattie had to give up—including her own child—in order to make the Kurtz family’s life so much easier.

Child by Judy Goldman, (List Price: $28, University of South Carolina Press, 9781643362830, May 2022)

Reviewed by Linda Hodges of Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Ma and Me by Putsata Reang

Filled with incredible nuance, beautiful writing, and deep sympathy; Putsata Reang’s stunning memoir Ma and Me is sure to be one of the best books I’ll read this year. Tracing her mother’s story – escaping the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and surviving an abusive marriage – to her own experience; growing up as a gay Khmer-American pulled between to cultures – Reang’s deeply personal book and explores the depth of a mother/daughter relationship and the weight of expectation placed upon future generations. Both full of light and sadness, Ma and Me is a wonder; holding life’s beauty and heartbreak in tandem. I cannot recommend this memoir highly enough

Ma and Me by Putsata Reang, (List Price: $28, MCD, 9780374279264, May 2022)

Reviewed by Caleb Masters, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Someone Other Than a Mother by Erin S. Lane

In a society that puts mothers on a pedestal (no greater love than that of a mother!), even if they’re quick to mommy shame them (she lets those kids have too much screen time!), it can be tough and disheartening to navigate the world as a child-free woman. Erin Lane breaks down the Mother Scripts, tackling the origins of what it means to be a mother from biblical times, to the rise of modern motherhood (thanks, Teddy Roosevelt). She interviews women from all backgrounds- women who don’t want kids, can’t have kids, became step-parents, or are raising kids through the foster system. It’s a fascinating insight into the way society perceives women and an important discussion of moving beyond the boundaries of those expectations.

Someone Other Than a Mother by Erin S. Lane, (List Price: $26, TarcherPerigee, 9780593329313, April 2022)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Essential Labor by Angela Garbes

Essential Labor is incredibly timely, but it opens up a timeless approach to mothering as catalyst for change. Speaking from both her experience as a daughter of Filipino immigrants and as a mother, Garbes explores the small, gentle ways we can nudge the dominant narrative, opening a wider world to our children. The Covid-19 pandemic brought down capitalism’s illusory curtain separating labor and the home, yet little changed in societal terms. Garbes argues that the invisible labor that women, mostly BIPOC women, do in the home is the most essential work there is—and that if we embrace a more communal, interdependent, caring way of living, we can make this work not just pleasurable but revolutionary. This is an essential book—it’s challenging, it’s bold, it’s a call to action.

Essential Labor by Angela Garbes, (List Price: $25.99, Harper Wave, 9780062937360, May 2022)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Wired for Love by Stephanie Cacioppo

Wired For Love is part neuroscience and part memoir… but it is ultimately a love story between the world’s foremost authority on the brain’s response to love/loss and the world’s foremost authority on loneliness. Cacioppo includes a lot of scientific information and hard data pulled from years of her research, but she also guides the reader through her own personal story of falling in love and eventually her grief surrounding her husband’s death. She has a way of getting the reader to thoughtfully reevaluate the “common beliefs” surrounding incredibly complex (but purely human) emotions. This book is fantastic.

Wired for Love by Stephanie Cacioppo, (List Price: $28.99, Flatiron Bookss, 9781250790606, April 2022)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon from Novel in Memphis, Tennessee

The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón

A May 2022 Read This Next! Selection

A eulogy of sorts to things we are always going to lose, and to the things that are taken from us, this is a beautiful body of work that trembles with hurt, but asks also for its due attention- a wounded thing not yet surrendering. Poems of movement, of worry, of a recognized grief and the subsequent small joys that can bloom out of dirt like small flower heads…Limón never, ever disappoints when it comes to understanding the great and terrible spectrum of emotions that is our cross to bear. It’s as if this newest collection is a honed and finely tuned string of metal hewn from her previous work, singing its own loud and new sound, ever reminding us that she belongs alongside Sontag, Lorde, James Welch, Oliver- the heralds of the Word that have come before and whose worlds will remain long after.

The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón, (List Price: $22, Milkweed Editions, 9781639550494, May 2022)

Reviewed by Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

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