The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Coming of Age

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

A compelling book about how our family shapes how we are seen and who we become. Touching on themes of generational trauma, poverty, a feeling of belonging and family conflict, this story focuses on the life of Ever, told through generations of his Cherokee, Kiowa and Mexican family members. Honest and powerful, great storytelling.

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah, (List Price: $27.00, Algonquin Books, 9781643751474, July 2022)

Reviewed by Jennifer Privitera, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Slip by Marika McCoola

I love a good metagenre work, so Slip, a graphic novel about visual art, is right up my alley. Slip’s artwork is emotional and striking in its roughness; it’s very reminiscent This One Summer by the Tamakis (which I love). A particularity of Slip’s art I adored is the agelessness of the human drawings, which makes the narrative’s themes feel universal even as the book focuses on young adults. The book is about defining oneself as an individual, particularly when your friends seem to need you. It’s a difficult and necessary topic, and McCool does really well with it.

Slip by Marika McCoola, (List Price: $17.95, Algonquin Young Readers, 9781616207892, July 2022)

Reviewed by Akil Guruparan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

Vera grew up in a picturesque town along the mountains where girls become women who become mothers with the caveat that some will vanish. Desperate to determine who is going to encounter this affliction, gossip consumes the small town of who loves their child too much or too little, who hugs their child too long or short, and much more. Eventually, Vera encounters motherhood and begins to question the affliction and her future. Will she be able to watch her daughter grow up or will she disappear? Throughout this book, I was glued to the pages, desperate to decipher Vera’s future, engrossed in the town gossip, and basking in the setting as if I were there. Alexis Schaitkin does a marvelous job bringing readers into this story and feeling as though the affliction could reach them. A beautiful tribute to motherhood and the trials it bears.

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin, (List Price: $26.99, Celadon, 9781250219633, June 2022)

Reviewed by Stephanie Carrion, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

Beautiful and unsettling, Elsewhere is a novel I can’t stop thinking about. Not usually one for dystopian fiction, I started and soon was captivated by this haunting, cloud-covered place and close-knit community from which women occasionally disappear. The families who live here wonder about the world beyond, known only as "Elsewhere," especially when a stranger comes to visit. But, no matter how uncertain the future is for mothers in this place, they wouldn’t consider leaving. Why, you’ll wonder, as you’re drawn in by the mystery of this place and its people. How deep is devotion, and much should motherhood require of a woman? I can imagine book clubs debating this one at length!

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin, (List Price: $26.99, Celadon, 9781250219633, June 2022)

Reviewed by Lady Smith, Snail on the Wall in Huntingdon, Alabama

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

I loved Saint X so when I saw Elsewhere I knew it had to go home with me. This book is masterfully done in her hands. With a similar tone to Handmaids Tale you will follow Vera through her little town where mothers go missing for no reason. It is just the way things are. What happens when she goes? So good!

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin, (List Price: $26.99, Celadon, 9781250219633, June 2022)

Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Spotlight on: Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

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Douglas Stuart

I think when you’re talking about queerness at that time and you’re also intersecting it with class or with poverty or social mobility, then the stakes are very different for the characters. You know, they can’t just up and leave and go find a different place where they belong in the world. They really have to face the world outside their door because that’s the only world they know.” –Douglas Stuart, interview, NPR

 

 

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

What booksellers are saying about Young Mungo

  • Douglas Stuart has done it again with this heartbreaking, breathtaking, and hopeful story of young love between two boys in working-class Glasgow. I will patiently wait for Middle-Aged Mungo and Old Mungo…I want more! ―Gaël LeLamer from Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL
    Buy from Books and Books

  • From Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart, this often bleak coming-of-age story shares some of the themes of his winning novel Shuggie Bain, including the darkly lyrical descriptions of a working class childhood at the mercy of an alcoholic mother. A heart-breaking story, with vividly drawn characters, dangerous situations, and forbidden love.   ―Anne Peck from Righton Books in St Simons Island, GA
    Buy from Righton Books

  • This is beautiful and hard, a gem hewn from the harshest pressure of Scottish discord and weather. Catholics vs Protestants, children vs adults, adults vs drink, all of them trying to survive under the apathetic Glaswegian skies. Young Mungo drags you down in the mire, and holds your face to the ruin of this community, but also reminds that no matter how dark, there is always love. A brutal, brutal read, but staggeringly empathetic and wonderful. Mungo is our hero, our baby we want to shield, our man we want to see grow up and conquer. He is our queer king whom we want love to keep and to make him greater. I can’t recommend this book enough, I understand know why Stuart won the Booker for Shuggie Bain. This too, deserves the praise it will get, a classic in the making.   ―Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC
    Buy from Main Street Books

  • Douglas Stuart novels have a particular ache to them…you cannot help but love and be in pain for his characters. Poor, alcoholic, living in dire, drab straits, isolated in their worlds, their will to live and love takes my breath away. “Young Mungo” is a tough read, but Mungo himself will tear at your heart…along with lovely James, caring Jodie, violent Hamish and selfish Mo-maw. A sad Romeo and Juliet story for modern times. Violent, tough and absolutely beautiful.   ―Andrea Ginsky from Bookstore Number 1 LLC in Sarasota, FL
    Buy from Bookstore 1 Sarasota

About Douglas Stuart

Douglas Stuart is a Scottish-American author. His New York Times-bestselling debut novel Shuggie Bain won the 2020 Booker Prize and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It was the winner of two British Book Awards, including Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the National Book Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, Kirkus Prize, as well as several other literary awards. Stuart’s writing has appeared in the New Yorker and Literary Hub.

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Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair by June Gervais

This book felt like it was written just for me. As a queer female artist with some basic tattoo experience, I immediately identified with Gina – her initial timidity, her frustration with being talked over and manipulated by men who should have guided and protected her, and especially her love of the weird. The description of her wild flash and her love for drawing gave me goosebumps. The book’s pacing and tension-building are excellent – the stakes kept getting higher and higher for Gina, until I was ready to leap into the pages and go to war for her. That steady turn of the screw kept the story feeling fresh and dynamic, and the characters kept me invested. Gina is relatable, likeable, and has some great emotional growth. Her brother Dominic is endearing and frustrating. Her mom is a heartbreaking mix of maddening and manipulative but still sympathetic. Every character has their own charm and their own faults. They feel real. You want things to work out for them and you ache when they struggle. Everything about their interactions felt natural and believable. I also have to give major props to the author for all the accurate tattooing details – she knows her stuff! Using autoclaves, calibrating machines, fixing errors (yikes!), practicing on pig feet and oranges, the hazing, the environment, the amount of energy and dedication it takes to make tattooing a career – she nailed it all. Dominic’s shop came to life because it was written by someone who KNOWS. That makes me happier than I can say. Basically, read this book. If you’re into stories of young women fighting for their place in the world, you’ll like it. If you want bisexual representation, here you go. If you’re interested in art and/or tattoos, you’ll love it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel seen.

Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair by June Gervais, (List Price: $26, Pamela Dorman Books, 9780593298794, June 2022)

Rachel Derise, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel

This book was beautiful. Rakhi was such a carefully crafted character with such a distinct voice. The novel has a sense of place and identity that is wholly it’s own and immensely compelling. The book speaks to poverty and voluntourism and privilege and hypocrisy while maintaining a focus on character and story. It paints upon a setting that unblinkingly presents both the beauty and the injustice of Bombay, and it presents Rakhi as she is—fiery and smart and insightful and honest. This is a perspective that needs to be heard and is so dignifying to its subject. I can’t recommend this book highly enough—I love a book that speaks honestly to the injustices of the world while completely holding its own as a literary work.

Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel, (List Price: $27, Ballantine Books, 9780593499504, April 2022)

Reviewed by Becca Sloan, Novel in Memphis, Tennessee

Groundskeeping by Lee Cole

Every character in this book felt so much like someone I’ve known. I have lived most of my life in southern college towns, where professors and liberal arts types live in tense bubbles amidst a sea of religious conservatism and working class anti-intellectualism. This familiar setting forms the backdrop of Lee Cole’s debut novel Groundskeeping, which is at its heart a love story between Owen and Alma, from two very different backgrounds. But more than a simple love story it is also a pitch perfect exploration of the nuanced ways race and class form the boundaries of relationships in these communities. I laughed, I cheered, I cringed with recognition, I shared the characters’ pains and sorrows, and I absolutely could not put this book down.

Groundskeeping by Lee Cole, (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593320501,  March 2022)

Reviewed by  Josh Niesse from Underground Books in Carrollton, GA

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

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



An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan

I picked up this book because 1. it has a full moon on the cover. I’m a complete sucker for a moon and as I have yet to be steered wrong by this, it will continue to be an indicator of a great story to me. And 2. I am adoring this retelling trend YA is on right now. Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology had me swiftly plucking this from the arc box. Other favorite motifs include: unearthly fireflies, a mysterious and magical book, & unexplainable “natural” happenings. The romance between Luna and Hunter is so sweet and swoon-worthy and doesn’t veer outside the plot (which is a pet peeve of mine).The story takes place in the early 90s which I forget until someone mentions a windbreaker, lol. I learned SO MUCH about Chinese versus Taiwanese culture–I never knew there was/is an identity issue and found it fascinating as Pan expertly weaves it into the Romeo & Juliet narrative. And speaking of R&J, the closer I got to the ending, the more anxious I was about how close to the play Pan would go. No spoilers here, but the ending is chef’s kiss.

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan, (List Price: $18.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316464055,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish

The War For Gloria is a haunting follow-up to Lish’s last award-winning novel. Set in the Boston area, Corey is in high school when his mother is diagnosed with ALS. As he struggles to cope and take care of his mother Gloria, his previously absent father comes back into their lives and upends everything. Corey initially admires his father’s intellect and seeks a connection with him through his mother’s situation. It doesn’t take long for Corey to realize his father is a leech that is absent of empathy and any kind of emotional connection. Corey goes through several stages of growth throughout the novel and he fights (quite literally) for his mother & his sanity… as he’s also fighting an internal war on how to best become a man. Every character’s actions in this story leads to a consequence. Even the most minor of things that they say or do come back to haunt them in some way, shape, or form. I was stuck processing everything about it by the end… and though this book is traumatic at times, it’s a hell of a story.

The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish, (List Price: 28, Knopf, 9781524732325, September 2021)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

In the Wild Light is a beautiful tribute to family, friendship, and the natural world. Zentner handles all three subjects with a gentle hand, weaving magical sentences that left me thoughtful and tearful. This is Zentner at his absolute best.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner, (List Price: 17.99, Crown Books for Young Readers, 9781524720247, August 2021)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Bewilderness by Karen Tucker

Tucker spins a beautiful tale of addiction, love, friendship, and survival in this stunning debut set in rural North Carolina. Irene spends her days slinging drinks at the local watering hole. There, she befriends magnetic Luce and the two start down a dark path of drugs and crime, all the while wishing for escape. Things change when Luce meets a young soldier who wants to help her get clean. Irene is torn between the need to keep her friend close and the desire for Luce to have the best life possible. it’s a story of doing what you think is best and living with the consequences. This book broke my heart in the most beautiful way.

Bewilderness by Karen Tucker (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220243, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Spotlight on Heaven by Mieko Kawakami

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Mieko Kawakami

Last year, the English translation of Mieko Kawakami’s novel Breasts and Eggs received so much indie bookseller excitement and praise that the “buzz” was more like a swarm. But her work has been highly acclaimed in Japan for decades. Haruki Murakami has called her his favorite young novelist — and it was Kawakami who did a series of interviews with him over two years where she pointedly grilled him on on the misogyny in his novels.

The receiption for Heaven, Kawakami’s latest novel to be translated into English, has been just as enthusiastic. Heaven explores the meaning and experience of violence and the consolations of friendship. Bullied because of his lazy eye, Kawakami’s protagonist suffers in silence. His only respite comes thanks to his friendship with a girl who is also the victim of relentless teasing. But what is the nature of a friendship if your shared bond is terror?

“I try to write from the child’s perspective—how they see the world.” says the author, “Coming to the realization you’re alive is such a shock. One day, we’re thrown into life without warning.”

Heaven

What booksellers are saying about Heaven

  • From the bestselling author of Breasts and Eggs comes this new novel that is once again storytelling at its best. Real, raw and revelatory, Heaven shares the story of two young people who are joined at a broken place and investigates the power of human kindness and friendship to help them move forward. — Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC
    Buy from The Country Bookshop
  • If you thought Breasts and Eggs was good (and I did), Heaven will be a fierce competitor. It’s a fascinating mental examination into how one is to survive under terrible circumstances and how far one would go to break free from it. — Easty Lambert-Brown, Ernest & Hadley Booksellers, Tuscaloosa, AL
    Buy from Ernest & Hadley Books.
  • What I appreciate so much about Kawakami is the strength of her voice, and her ability to convey the most basic aspects of human nature in a complex and thoughtful way. Pick up this book and then share it with everyone! -Kelsey Jagneaux, Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, FL
    Buy from Tombolo Books
  • Heaven by Mieko Kawakami offers a blend of devastation and hope, exploring both the desolation of lonely adolescence and the beauty of friendship. — Alex Brown, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC
    Buy from Quail Ridge Books

About Mieko Kawakami

Mieko Kawakami is the author of the internationally best-selling novel, Breasts and Eggs, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and one of TIME’s Best 10 Books of 2020. Born in Osaka, Kawakami made her literary debut as a poet in 2006, and published her first novella, My Ego, My Teeth, and the World, in 2007. Her writing is known for its poetic qualities and its insights into the female body, ethical questions, and the dilemmas of modern society. She has received numerous prestigious literary awards in Japan, including the Akutagawa Prize, the Tanizaki Prize, and the Murasaki Shikibu Prize. Kawakami lives in Tokyo, Japan.

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