The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

African American

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Well, that was perfect! Whitehead’s character work here is just beyond. A few short sentences and the whole of a person is made clear. There are lines and phrases that are now etched on my brain! Including “Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked.” (which the pub clearly loves too because they quote this everywhere). I would typically expect a noir novel to be significantly shorter, but I enjoyed every moment I spent with Harlem Shuffle.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead, (List Price: 28.95, Doubleday, 9780385545136, September 2021)

Reviewed by Michelle Cavalier, Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, Louisiana

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

S.E Crosby is the real deal. He is rejuvenating the mystery scene in a way not seen since Elmore Leonard during his prime. And his new novel is the perfect example of how. This story of two ex-cons, fathers, seeking answers to the murders of their married sons has it all. Fast-paced and relentless, it is an excellent look at our culture wars through the eyes of a parent who can’t understand his child’s choices. Super smart, incredibly entertaining, and all-around satisfying this is a book no one should skip!

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby (List Price: $26.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250252708, 7/6/2021)

Reviewed by Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

That first day of school can be hard on anyone, but especially if your name is looonnng, AND has two s’s, and if your style is a little more colorful than your new classmates. But no matter what, it is important to be yourself. Stunning illustrations reminiscent of the brilliant Molly Bang bring this important ‘first day of school” book to life This one is a Must-have for rising kindergartners.

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (List Price: $17.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780525582120, 6/15/2021)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

This collection is sharp, strong, and emotional. I found myself incredibly moved by these stories about Black women who refuse to settle for lives dictated by insecurity, family tradition, or religious dogma. And despite being a white woman who will never truly understand the depicted experiences, I saw pieces of my own story reflected in the characters’ struggles to make their own space within and outside of an overbearing religious community, in the yearning for a love that defied familial expectations, and in teenage heartbreak. I saw glimpses of people I’ve known. That personal connection took this book from good to great for me – it got me totally invested. The women in these pages are vibrant and magnetic – they immerse us in their stories and make us feel the pulse of their lives. They also remind us that we have to truly see each other – that making the effort to connect and understand each other is vital to changing the national and global narrative of “everyone for themselves.”

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (List Price: $18.99, West Virginia University Press, 9781949199734, 9/2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Derise, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide

At the start of senior year, Devon and Chiamaka are two high-achieving students–prefects, in fact–with promising futures. But soon, mass text messages start going around the school telling their darkest secrets, and start to drive their friendships and all of the hard work they’ve done over the past four years apart. Are Chiamaka and Devon only coincidentally victims of Aces? Or does the anonymous bully targeting the only two Black students at Niveus Academy have a deeper, more disturbing motive? Àbíké-Íyímídé’s thriller brings the psychological subterfuge and toxic relationships of high school social life to light, as two seniors attempt to figure out whether or not their downfall is their own, or a result of a sinister conspiracy.

Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide (List Price: $18.99, Feiwel & Friends, 9781250800817, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

This collection is sharp, strong, and emotional. I found myself incredibly moved by these stories about Black women who refuse to settle for lives dictated by insecurity, family tradition, or religious dogma. And despite being a white woman who will never truly understand the depicted experiences, I saw pieces of my own story reflected in the characters’ struggles to make their own space within and outside of an overbearing religious community, in the yearning for a love that defied familial expectations, and in teenage heartbreak. I saw glimpses of people I’ve known. That personal connection took this book from good to great for me – it got me totally invested. The women in these pages are vibrant and magnetic – they immerse us in their stories and make us feel the pulse of their lives. They also remind us that we have to truly see each other – that making the effort to connect and understand each other is vital to changing the national and global narrative of “everyone for themselves.”

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (List Price: $18.99, West Virginia University Press, 9781949199734, 9/2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Derise, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins

This was a beautiful book of magic, secrets, betrayal and race in America. I can’t put into words what I just read (in a good way) because the characters are so intertwined with one another and they don’t even know it, which was riveting to read. Sometimes I read so many books that I forget characters names and little innate details, but this is a gripping story that I will never forget. I was so happy about the climax and ending, this is going to be a lot of readers Best Reads of 2021!

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins (List Price: $27.99, Harper, 9780062873088, 4/6/2021)

Reviewed by Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

You say you want liberty, but you can never be free alone. None of us are free until all of us are. To be free of Bassa requires power– power in service of us all. Not for you to derive joy from controlling a beast.

In Son of the Storm, Suyi Davies Okungbowa introduces readers to a complex and fascinating new world. One with a complex cast system in which power is isolated in the bloated elite, the truth is hidden even from scholars, and anyone who looks different is exiled to the dangerous fringes of the continent. As a secret power from the time of a mad emperor reemerges and a sunken nation reappears, a young scholar and his intended follow two very different paths to save themselves and their people. I was completely entranced by this story. While he pulls no punches, Okungbowa does not need to lean into the grotesque to make his world compelling. I yelled, I cheered, I felt conflicted about my loyalties, and I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens next. Content warnings for harm to children and pregnancy in addition to violent fantasy elements.

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (List Price: $16.99, Orbit, 9780316428941, 5/11/2021)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Sparrow Envy by J. Drew Lanham

I found myself underlining something on nearly every page of this slim volume—Lanham’s distinctive voice sings with awe of the natural world and clear-eyed candor of the obstacles a Black man faces in engaging this awe. Here is a writer who can perfectly express the emotive effect of a wood thrush’s 3-part song, someone who finds joy the exuberance of wrens, someone who finds solace in (and solidarity with) winged beings. This is a beautiful, necessary book.

Sparrow Envy by J. Drew Lanham (List Price: $16, Hub City Press, 9781938235818, 4/13/2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor’s book of short stories, Filthy Animals, is a bright shining explosion of beautiful writing. Six of the eleven stories are linked and dipping back and forth into Lionel’s relationship with two dancers, Sophie and Charles, which is hypnotic. These stories about human relationships range from those between lovers, friends, and family. How is it that Taylor can write so that we can see the interior crevices of these character’s souls?

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (List Price: $26, Riverhead Books, 9780525538912, 6/22/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé

A fantastic new novel from an incredible writer. I loved every moment of Creatures of Passage and was hooked from the first page. Full of myth and mysticism, this is a complex web of stories that intersect in a way that slowly and gracefully unfolds. Complicated family relationships, systemic poverty and privilege, the transformative destruction of abuse, all of these themes and more create a beautiful and tragic look at the Anacostia neighborhood of DC.

Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé (List Price: $25, Akashic Books, 9781617758768, 3/16/2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib
Random House, April

Anything new by Hanif Abdurraqib is something to celebrate. He’s quickly become one of my favorite writers. This book, which highlights some of the many, many black performers in American history, is my favorite so far. It made me laugh, it made me angry, it made me think, and it made me look up old clips from Soul Train on YouTube. I am grateful that his book made me do all of those things. Hanif Abdurraqib is a writer I feel evangelical about. I cannot wait to press a copy of this into people’s hands.

– Chelsea Bauer, Union Ave Books in Knoxville, TN

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Historical fiction based on the real life story of the daughter of the first black female doctor, Libertie, and the freedom she searches for. Not just from race, but also gender and heritage.

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge (List Price: $26.95, Algonquin Books, 9781616207014, 3/30/2021)

Reviewed by Laura Taylor, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

I have been waiting for this book since it was announced and I have to say–it is even better than I was hoping it would be. This follow up to The Hate U Give tells the story of Maverick Carter in his teenage years. Starting when he finds out he’s a father and going until just before Starr’s birth, Thomas takes us back to the Garden and once again shows us how to walk in someone else’s shoes. Mav is trying to be the best man and father he can be. He finds a “straight” job at a local store to get away from the world of drug sales and gangs but the money isn’t enough to support him and his growing family. Will he be able to get out from under the thumb of King, his friend turned leader of the King Lords and provide for his family? You won’t be able to put this down until you see how it ends and even then you will wish for more stories from this universe.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (List Price: $19.99, Balzer +Bray, 9780062846716, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

King of Ragtime by Stephen Costanza, Stephen Costanza (Illus.)

This book about Scott Joplin is beautifully written and even more beautifully illustrated. I loved the historic details, like the inclusion of the real 1911 sheet music cover of “Maple Leaf Rag”! Scott Joplin is an iconic part of American music history and every child deserves to know his story.

King of Ragtime by Stephen Costanza, Stephen Costanza (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781534410367, 8/24/2021)

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

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett is a master storyteller who has created an intergenerational tale full of place, relevant commentary, the complexities of human nature, and life’s unexpected turns. I was sucked into the story from the beginning and absolutely loved how the idea of a “vanishing half” kept presenting itself in the storyline. Wow, this was just so smart and effortlessly crafted. I didn’t want my reading experience to end!

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (List Price: $27, Riverhead Books, 9780525536291, 6/2/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

I find that I’m very hit or miss with short story collections but The Office of Historical Collections is a total gem. It’s full of captivating stories and characters; there wasn’t a single story that didn’t suck me in! Evans tackles topics like race, womanhood, and the human condition with nuance and grace. So good!

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (List Price: $27, Riverhead Books, 9781594487330, 11/10/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Having grown up in a Mississippi Southern Baptist church, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I saw the secret double lives of some of us. Rebelling against the submit-to-authority messages on Saturday night, but sitting pious and submissive come Sunday morning services was de rigueur. Deesha Philyaw’s book The Secret Lives of Church Ladies gives voice to secret lives that I know for sure are lived and true. The need for acceptance, for absolution, for grace is ever-present in familiar relationships as well as those in the church. These short stories are divine.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (List Price: $18.99, West Virginia University Press, 9781949199734, 9/1/2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib’s exploration of Black performance in America is a cultural keystone that is chillingly relevant. Whether discussing the fact that a knowing look or advice on a route from a cashier is a form of a living Green Book that still exists because there are places Black people are not safe, to the origin of the card game spades or the difference between showing out or showing off, at the heart A Little Devil in America circles back to the fact that Black Americans have been forced to survive in places they were not welcome. The section on Black funerals pierced my heart. This book needs to be read, taught, underlined and discussed.

A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib (List Price: $27, Random House, 9781984801197, 3/30/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (Illus.)

A 2021 Southern Book Prize Winner!

I just cannot stop talking about this book. And I am dead-serious when I claim I am on a mission to get this in the hands of EVERYONE. I Am Every Good Thing is a book that encourages readers to celebrate everything that makes them the person they are. Kids learn they can be a leader, an explorer, the life of the party, and an undisputed champion. They also learn it’s okay to make mistakes, to get back up when they fall down, and to be a shoulder to cry on when needed. It is also story that celebrates joy – specifically Black joy. We need more stories that feature Black children being celebrated and feeling joyful. This affirming book will leave kids (and adults) feeling like they can achieve anything. . And the illustrations are gallery worthy creations on every single page. A beautiful message with stunning images that help all children remember how special and truly loved they are.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Nancy Paulsen Books, 9780525518778, September 2020)

Reviewed by Ashley Bryan, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (Illus.)

A 2021 Southern Book Prize Winner!

I AM EVERY GOOD THING written by Derrick Barnes with illustrations by Gordon C. James is a beautiful book that celebrates Black Boy Magic and it is spectacular. It is a celebration of all that Black boys are and can become. Highly recommend.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Nancy Paulsen Books, 9780525518778, September 2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

2021 Southern Book Prize Winner!

Incredible. Stunning. Poetic. Shattering. Frightening. Beautiful. I cannot imagine how painful it must have been for Natasha Trethewey to tell this complicated story.

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey (List Price: $27.99, Ecco, 9780062248572, July 2020)

Reviewed by Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

2021 Southern Book Prize Winner!

Heartfelt and vulnerable memoir of a daughter searching for meaning in her mother’s life that was cut too short. Trethewey is looking for closure and trying to piece together her memories as she looks back through the years at a difficult and transient childhood, at abuse and the many ways it can manifest itself, and trying to heal. It’s a beautiful story of love.

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey (List Price: $27.99, Ecco, 9780062248572, July 2020)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Smoke by Joe Ide

Dodson’s back. Back again. Dodson’s back. Tell a friend. Or two. Or ten. My apologies to Eminem and to you, dear reader, for the possible ear worm I may have just planted but, THANK YOU Joe Ide! I’ve not laughed that loud, while reading, in some time. Truth be told, my wife tired quickly of me barging into her reading time to say, “Honey, wait until you have hear this bit”. Yeah, too much coffee and great writing so that to me. I’ve enjoyed all of the IQ series and, if I’m being honest, I was fairly sure this would be another solid run of the series but, probably not exceptional. Wrong. Just. Plain. Wrong. I love where Joe is taking us. The depth of the characters continues to develop at a wicked pace. The plot lines are becoming even more ferocious. And IQ keeps getting… smarter? Yep. And the ending? YIKES. Book six Mr. Ide? Bring. It. ON!

Smoke by Joe Ide (List Price: $28, Mulholland Books, 9780316531061, 2/23/2021)

Reviewed by Berkley McDaniel, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

I opened this book’s beautiful cover to sample one story from the collection, but I couldn’t stop until I had read them all. Each piece packs a different sort of power, examining the subtleties of relationships—between friends, parents and children, husbands and wives, mothers and unborn children. The writing is raw and visceral, just as the title “Milk Blood Heat” suggests, and the characters’ feelings and bodies often can’t be contained, no matter how hard they might try. This collection will dazzle and unsettle you at the same time, and I highly recommend it!

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (List Price: $25, Grove Press, 9780802158154, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley

I loved this short but intense detective novel. For me, it doesn’t get better than Leonid McGill for a P.I. protagonist. Morally ambiguous, wily and cunning, he is instantly likable and someone I hope to see in future Mosley books.

Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (List price: $24.00, Mulholland Books, January 2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

Lyrical prose, a love story too long untold, and exquisitely rendered characters too long ignored make for a haunting debut. The forbidden love story between Isaiah and Samuel pierces every page, their lives reverberating across the plantation, through the ancestors, and history itself. Infused with agony and love and joy and rage, every character’s story within these testaments acts as a spark, a collection of embers that sets fire to historical record and ignites a more complex history of enslavement and the Deep South.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. (List Price: $27.00, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780593085684, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard

A brilliant exploration of class, race, and exploitation in early 20th century New Orleans. Mr. Sitwell runs the house in all but name. Like all great houses, there are many secrets inside and all of Hubbard’s characters are well-drawn with complex pasts. Hubbard studied under Toni Morrison and you can really tell with the way she treats her characters–normal people with complicated lives — drawing you as a reader deep into their minds and feelings. It’s a fantastic book and I’m so excited to share it.

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard (List Price: $27.99, Amistad, 9780062979063, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

She Persisted: Harriet Tubman by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Chelsea Clinton, Gillian Flint

Harriet Tubman was one of my favorite people to learn about as a child, so I’m thrilled to have a new book to share with my nieces and the young readers at Bookmarks! In She Persisted: Harriet Tubman, Andrea Davis-Pinkney shares an inspiring portrait of the life of this American legend: daughter, slave, Underground Railroad conductor, nurse, spy, wife, and advocate for women’s rights. Gillian Flint’s illustrations bring the story to life, helping share Tubman’s story with a new generation.

She Persisted: Harriet Tubman by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Chelsea Clinton, Gillian Flint (List Price: $14.99, Philomel Books, 9780593115657, 1/5/2021)

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

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite

Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite have done it again, and more, with their sophomore novel, One of the Good Ones. This book kept me up into the early morning hours, furiously flipping pages, needing to know where things would end up for the Smith sisters. The story takes you on a real journey, jumping through history and back again, dissecting race relations in America with an unflinching eye; it is beautifully written, heartbreaking, disturbing and yet, ultimately, hopeful. I can’t recommend it enough.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite (List Price: $18.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335145802, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

Grace and Box by Kim Howard, Megan Lotter (Illus.)

Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes they come in the mail! Grace and Box is the perfect read-aloud for every child who has enjoyed a long afternoon with a cardboard box, a pack of sharpies and some tape.

Grace and Box by Kim Howard, Megan Lotter (Illus.) (List Price: $18.99, Felwel & Friends, 9781250262943, 1/26/2021)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

Many of our favorite historical fiction novels move us to tears, compel us to turn pages, and tie us in knots over the fate of characters. All of these emotions are in play as we read Yellow Wife, based on the notorious Richmond slave jail known as the Devil’s Half Acre and its cruel master. We follow Pheby’s life, from her earliest years as a plantation slave, her journey to the jail, and her years as mistress and slave to the master of the jail and mother to their children. We watch as her desperate choices and will to survive and protect those she loves draws her evermore into dangerous situations. Her dreams of freedom, passed down to her by her mother, drive her and at times sustain her while living in such close proximity to the jail where she was witness to the depths of human cruelty. A powerful story not soon forgotten.

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson (List Price: $26, Simon & Schuster, 9781982149109, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, Virginia

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

Henri relies on his charm in all aspects of his life, but that charm doesn’t extend to his classmate Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honorable dog-walking business, she blackmails him into extending some of that charm into helping her social life. Philippe has once again written a cast of characters that readers will love and puts them in realistic dilemmas that will make readers laugh and cringe in solidarity.

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe (List Price: $18.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062824141, 9/8/2020)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Red Island House by Andrea Lee

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Red Island House by Andrea Lee
Scribner, March

Beautiful, evocative writing propels a familial narrative through a journey of self-discovery and identity. The book follows Shay and her complicated relationship with her husband as they build and vacation in a sprawling estate in Madagascar over several decades. It is a novel of betrayal and class and colonialism, of race and culture and the social dynamics that underpin and threaten their marriage (and human society as a whole). As the clash of cultures and identity careens closer to Shay, she can no longer avoid making a choice about who she is and wants to be. With tinges of A Woman Destroyed, this is a story of finding your own foundational dignity in life’s wreckage.

– Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, January

An incredible debut novel filled love, light, suffering, pain, and deep beauty – sure to be one of the year’s best. Jones has penned an astoundingly well-written debut about a relationship between two enslaved young men in the American Deep South. With beautiful, vivid prose and a narrative that keeps expanding and surprising, The Prophets is a truly special novel and one that will long have a place on my shelf.

Caleb Masters Bookmarks Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Root Magic by Eden Royce

Root Magic is an own-voices magical realism story about two Gullah Geechee twins, Jezebel and Jay, who start to learn rootwork from their uncle after their grandmother’s passing in 1963. A perfect blend of historical fiction, supernatural fantasy, and a classic story of family and friendship, ROOT MAGIC will capture readers, teleporting them to the mysterious marsh inhabited by supernatural beings. Scarier than hags, though, is a local white police officer who has taken to threatening the Turner family. Luckily, Jezebel’s growing affinity for rootwork may save the day. This magical book is sure to be one of my favorites for young readers!

Root Magic by Eden Royce (List Price: $16.99, Walden Pond Press, 9780062899576, 1/5/2021)

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

Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose by Nikki Giovanni

A Read This Next! Fall 2020 Title

I would not call myself a poetry reader, but there is something about Nikki Giovanni’s poetry that speaks to me so deeply. Sentimental and comforting, Make Me Rain covers a wide range of topics from quilts and rising bread to the social change we so desperately need in our world. Giovanni’s wisdom and understanding once again prove why she is such a poetic powerhouse – and leave the reader wanting to explore her past work again, too.

Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose by Nikki Giovanni (List price: $24.99, William Morrow, 9780062995285, October 2020), recommended by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Tordotcom | 9781250767028
October 13, 2020

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror

IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS.

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South edited by Cinelle Barnes

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Hub City Press | 9781938235719
October 6, 2020

This fierce collection celebrates the incredible diversity in the contemporary South by featuring essays by twenty-one of the finest young writers of color living and working in the region today, who all address a central question: Who is welcome?

Kiese Laymon navigates the racial politics of publishing while recording his audiobook in Mississippi. Regina Bradley moves to Indiana and grapples with a landscape devoid of her Southern cultural touchstones, like Popeyes and OutKast. Aruni Kashyap apartment hunts in Athens and encounters a minefield of invasive questions. Frederick McKindra delves into the particularly Southern history of Beyonce’s black majorettes.

Assembled by editor and essayist Cinelle Barnes, essays in A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South acknowledge that from the DMV to the college basketball court to doctors’ offices, there are no shortage of places of tension in the American South. Urgent, necessary, funny, and poignant, these essays from new and established voices confront the complexities of the South’s relationship with race, uncovering the particular difficulties and profound joys of being a Southerner in the 21st century.

Luster by Raven Leilani

Painter Edie–black, twenty-something, and precariously employed as an editorial coordinator for a children’s imprint–is in a new relationship with Eric, an archivist whose wife has recently issued guidelines for how to appropriately open their marriage. Emotionally enfeebled by a toxic and lonely childhood and anchored only by her art, Edie veers frequently between genius levels of self-awareness and a stubborn tendency to make the optimally self-destructive choice in spite of that. Luster is sad, sexy, and hypnotically paced, better binged than nibbled. There’s a stream-of-consciousness quality to Edie’s narration that made me linger too long in a no-longer-warm bath, turning page after page, not to outpace cliffhanging chapters, but to absorb her complete thoughts, scrape up every last bit of observational savvy, to go back and check one more time to be sure I didn’t overlook any emotional clues in Edie’s self-portrait. Luster is a best-of-show caliber debut.

Luster by Raven Leilani (List price: $26.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by novel., Memphis, TN.

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