The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!
African American & Black
What a beautiful cookbook! It’s the perfect blend of stunning visuals, original and well-written recipes, dynamite prose in the talky bits, plus a strong social-justice mission. Broussard presents her sweet and savory recipes from the point-of-view of a Black, hearing-impaired, small business owner who has been giving back to her Chicago community through teaching, donating, and empowering others. Between the recipes (and inspiring many) are profiles of people she calls "Stewards": others who strive for equity. If that’s not enough inspiration, how about Salted Caramel Peach Pie, Chicken & Biscuit Pot Pie, Churro Whoopie Pies! Honoring her public defender late father’s memory, this book also makes a great family gift.
Justice of the Pies by Maya-Camille Broussard, (List Price: $30, Clarkson Potter, 9780593234440, October 2022)
Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia
Elementary school. Ruby tells her story, as she experienced it, when she was just six years old. Adapted for the youngest readers, this edition has beautiful illustrations that demonstrate Ruby’s words. There is a glossary to help children learn key terms. For older readers, the author and illustrator have included their own personal notes of what inspired this version. This is an excellent book to help encourage family discussions about America’s history of education. This is a children’s book. It is told from the eyes of a child. It is illustrated showing the world through a child’s eye. It is beautiful! I loved Ruby’s sass, especially when it came to her very old name. I loved her innocence and her spunk. She is, indeed, Ruby Bridges, the First!
I am Ruby Bridges by Ruby Bridges, (List Price: $18.99, Orchard Book, 9781338753882, September 2022)
Reviewed by Nicole McManus, My Sister’s Books in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina
I loved the characters in this book especially Civil Townsend. She was my hero! I remember reading about the true story this book is based on and feeling what a tragedy that something like this could happen. This story brought to life the real-life trauma of the two young girls the story is based on. I loved the way Civil championed their cause, and I felt her pain when things would go sideways. I recommend reading this book to anyone who is interested in justice.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, (List Price: $27.00, Penguin Random House, 9780593337691, April 2022)
Reviewed by Cheryl Lafaye Lee, 44th & 3rd Bookseller in Atlanta, Georgia
Alive at the End of the World might not save my life, but it’s perfect company here between the rock and the hard place. Saeed Jones’ poems mold my daily depressive spiral into a crystalline mobius strip, looping endlessly back around to how we are harmed and do harm as this planet slouches towards Bethlehem. By turns grievous and grieving, this collection is a much-needed snapshot of coping mid-apocalypse.
Alive at the End of the World by Saeed Jones, (List Price: $16.95, Coffee House Press, 9781566896511, October 2022)
Reviewed by Terrance Hudson, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm reads like smooth jazz music, with a full cast of interlocking characters creating a complex harmony that I could not get enough of. Circus Palmer is our main character, an aging and floundering jazz musician who charms and cheats on the women in his life. Never have I wanted so badly to grab a character by the shoulders and shake some sense into him! The women truly take center stage in this story, loved and abandoned by Circus in turns. The narrative was full of angst, but the ending was sweet and redemptive. Fans of Luster and Red At The Bone will love this one.
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell, (List Price: $28, Pantheon, 9780593316443, September 2022)
Reviewed by Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina
Vivian tries to live her dream of becoming a star through her three daughters, who’ve become a local sensation as a singing trio. She’s spent years training them vigorously on the roof top of her home and booking performances at nearby venues, when one day she gets a promising offer that could change their lives. But the girls have dreams of their own, and one by one each unfolds, threatening the vision Vivian has built for them all. At the same time, and the neighborhood is about to change as developers descend on Vivian’s community to buy up homes and business properties. Set in 1950’s San Francisco, I enjoyed this family drama and each member’s search for individual fulfillment, in the midst of their collective struggle to keep their community together. Intimate, emotional – a pleasure to read!
On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, (List Price: $28.99, Ecco, 9780063139961, September 2022)
Reviewed by Cathy Graham, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida
A September 2022 Read This Next! Title
Jonathan Escoffery’s debut If I Survive You chronicles an American immigration story full of hope, heartbreak, promises broken, and most importantly the constant struggle. Told in interconnected stories, If I Survive You addresses class, race, and economic disparity but is also funny. Mark my words, Escoffery is a rising literary star.
If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, (List Price: $27.00, MCD, 9780374605988, September 2022)
Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia
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