The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!
African American & Black
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
Such an important message, beautifully told in Free at Last, A Juneteenth Poem. I hope this picture book depicting such an important part of our history is shared widely in homes and schools.
Free at Last by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, (List Price: $17.99, Union Square Kids, 9781454943747, June 2022)
Reviewed by Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC
Åkerström invites the reader into the complex and dynamic interior worlds of three Black women, with varying levels of privilege and proximity to whiteness, as they navigate the novel’s locations of America and Sweden. By following each of their unique and dynamic journeys, we learn about how our their intimate relationships reflect back the love and care they have learned to believe they deserve through social cues and cultural reminders. A story that paints landscapes of love and loss invites all readers to consider: if home is a feeling, how will you know you’ve found it? An extraordinary and fast-paced novel that I can not wait to recommend both solo and book club readers!
In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström, (List Price: $16.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728253169, June 2022)
Reviewed by Eden Hakimzadeh, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida
Alex Jennings has absolutely burst onto the scene with this vibrant and completely singular work. Image and sound practically leap off of the page via Jennings’ cacophonous, but specific language. The version of New Orleans he’s created is fantastical, to be sure, but also accurately depicts the very real spirit of this complicated city. Plotting is muddled and over-complicated in parts and one can get a little lost, but it’s undeniable that a special mind produced this work. I’m excited to see what he does next.
The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings, (List Price: $28, Redhook, 9780759557192, June 2022)
Reviewed by Carroll Gelderman, Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, Louisiana
Ann Cole Lowe was a dress designer to Olivia de Haviland, Jacqueline Bouvier and other high society women. But she was born a black woman in Alabama whose mother and grandmother sewed for high society and learned her trade from them. Finding a white benefactress in Tampa, Ann begins her own design career that eventually takes her to NY. What a great novel of a talented black woman who succeeds through hard work.
By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley, (List Price: $16.99, William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780063059740, June 2022)
Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina
This is truly a novel for both teens and adults. I’m Gen X and saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the theater back in the day and absolutely loved this plot! R. Eric captures the essence of teen friendship – how it really is your whole world once you start getting ready to fly the nest. His characters all have really interesting relationships with both peers and parents – no one is having the same experience yet they are all listening to and supporting one another. R. Eric is the funniest man on earth, and I knew I’d love this book.
Kings of B’more by R. Eric Thomas, (List Price: $18.99, Kokilas, 9780593326183, May 2022)
Reviewed by Sissy Gardner, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee
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
Ryan Hart is headed to sleepaway camp where she faces some friendship challenges, but even that may be easier than going home to the new baby that’s on its way. Ramona Quimby for a new generation, Ryan Hart is a young, optimistic black girl navigating a changing world with style. This series really has staying power.
Ways to Grow Love by Renée Watson, (List Price: $7.99, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 9781547609963, April 2022)
Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina
Fantastic thriller with a tender narrative running throughout as two ex-convict fathers come to terms with each of their sons’ homosexuality too late. Highly recommended!
Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby, (List Price: $17.99, Flatiron Bookss, 9781250252715, April 2022)
Reviewed by Laura Taylor, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida
"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
About 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.
An April Read This Next! Book
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.
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow, (List Price: $27, The Dial Press, 9780593230480, April 2022)
Reviewed by Lynne Phillips, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas
“I loved these interconnected stories. They are fiercely intelligent, warm in their own way, and absolutely absorbing. Hubbard has a deft sense of character and community and I really enjoyed piecing together the connections between the collection’s characters. Excellent excellent excellent.” -Roxane Gay
The Last Suspicious Holdout by Ladee Hubbard, (List Price: $24.99, Amistad, 9780062979094, March 2022)
The gift of Zora Neale Hurston and her multifaceted works shine beyond decades. You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays covers the timelessness of her work. Zora Neale Hurston’s work holds an essential space in piecing the histories of America and the visibility of the lives of Black Folk. Hurston honors the language, spirit, and progressive movements that are exhibited in our history and heritage. This book gives us a deeper understanding of Hurston and her legacy.
You Don’t Know Us Negroes by Zora Neale Hurston, (List Price: $29.99, Amistad, 9780063043855, January 2022)
Reviewed by Jasmine from Cafe Noir, in Memphis, Tennessee
Readers will be stunned by the force of Kaitlyn Greenidge’s latest novel. Set in Brooklyn during the Civil War era and the turbulent times after, the voice of Libertie Sampson describes her unique childhood as the freeborn daughter of a Black, widowed female doctor. Libertie’s mother has aspirations for her daughter to follow her path and join her in her practice. Two things prevent Libertie from choosing this course: her darker skin tone lessens her level of acceptance in the community and she doesn’t have the aptitude for medicine. Rather than face her mother’s disappointment, she marries a Haitian doctor and leaves the country with him. She finds herself lonelier than ever in this tumultuous island country.This is a highly immersive and unforgettable literary accomplishment.
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge, (List Price: $16.95, Algonquin Books, 9781643752587, February 2022)
Reviewed by Damita Nocton, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, North Carolina