The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Social Science

Do the Work! by W. Kamau Bell

I’ve been a W. Kamau Bell fan for a while, so seeing that this book was coming was really exciting! It delivers exactly the combination of smart racial commentary and screwball energy that he brings to his comedy, packaged in endearing cartoons, graphics, and even activities like Mad Libs and crosswords. The informational parts of the book are well-cited with great further reading recommendations and benefit greatly from the conversational form between Bell and co-author Kate Schatz, both of whom are very good at maintaining levity while getting their points across crystal clear. This would be an excellent gift!

Do the Work! by W. Kamau Bell, (List Price: $22.95, Workman Publishing Company, 9781523514281, July 2022)

Reviewed by Akil Guruparan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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

The Sex Lives of African Women by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah

One of the most substantial and honest collections of essays about sex and pleasure I’ve ever read. Each author bares it all in order to give the reader permission to tell the truth about their relationship with sex. By centering voices and experiences that typically get left out of anthologies like this, we get to witness a multidimensional sexuality meditation through the lens of discovery, exploration, and joy. What a gift!

The Sex Lives of African Women by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, (List Price: $28, Astra House, 9781662650819,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Eden Hakimzadeh, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Beyond Innocence by Phoebe Zerwick

Once upon a time, a man was unjustly imprisoned. DNA and dogged work freed him after 19 years. He lived happily ever after. Sorry, that last part didn’t happen. Even with DNA evidence, he almost didn’t get exonerated. Beyond Innocence: The Life Sentence of Darryl Hunt details Hunt’s journey from teen to convicted killer, innocent freed man, and activist with many twists. But the saddest part is what happened to him after freedom, and how it illustrates the plight of most of the exonerated. That is not as exclusive a club as you might think. According to author Phoebe Zerwick, “As of May 2021, 2,783 men and women in America have been exonerated since 1989…The National Registry of Exonerations calculate the combined years they lost at 24,915.”

Zerwick wrote about Hunt in the Winston-Salem Journal and has spent years on his case. Hunt was not just railroaded. Police falsified evidence; a judge unbelievably ruled DNA evidence was insufficient to warrant a new trial. A faithful cadre of supporters and the author’s newspaper series resulted in deliberately overlooked evidence being reexamined and finding the true killer. Only then was Hunt released. But Hunt’s case shows how the system continues to fail. Hunt briefly had a foundation to aid released prisoners. Years of prison life and post-release limitations lead to PTSD, depression, and often recidivism. Hunt’s friends realized too late he was leading a double life – calm outside, but in agony inside. They couldn’t stop him from taking his life. But if enough people pay attention to his story, perhaps others can be helped.

Beyond Innocence : The Life Sentence of Darryl Hunt by Phoebe Zerwick, (List Price: $27, Atlantic Monthly Press, 9780802159373,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Rosemary Pugliese from Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC

Disorientation by Ian Williams

Disorientation is a book to be read slowly and with care. Ian Williams best-selling author of my staff favorite novel Reproduction (remember the amazing cover???). I also really loved his collection of poetry Word Problems from last year. Using his formidably flexible writing chops, Williams invites us to an urgent conversation on race and racism in this collection of essays that draw directly from his experience of life as a Black man. He covers all subjects from the merely annoying to the tragically deadly aspects of racism from a worldwide perspective having lived in Trinidad, Canada, and the U. S. This book is approachable for all readers and is intended to be a civil conversation about the ugliest of subjects. It’s illuminating, dizzying, and intensely personal. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Also, exceptional in audio: read by the author.

Disorientation by Ian Williams, (List Price: $19.95, 9781609457396, November 2021)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad

White Tears/Brown Scars is an eye opening book for anyone like me who has not experienced racism on a daily basis. As a white woman, I felt I was the perfect audience for what Ruby Hamad had to say. While discussing race and racism is an uncomfortable topic for many people, Ruby shows us the importance of remaining calm, seeing, and hearing the concerns of our BIPOC colleagues, friends and neighbors. I truly appreciated this book.

White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad, (List Price: $16.95, Catapult, 9781948226745, October 2021)

Reviewed by Sophie Giroir, Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, Louisiana

The Nation on No Map by William C. Anderson

In this inviting, direct manifesto, William C. Anderson outlines the influences and differentiating points about Black anarchism, outlines its necessity, and offers rebuttals to naysayers across the political spectrum. The Nation on No Map is concise, yet powerful and perfect reading if one is looking to charter further ideological horizons.

The Nation on No Map by William C. Anderson, (List Price: $15.00, AK Press, 9781849354349, November 2021)

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

My Body by Emily Ratajkowski

As a society, we have become wired to see women – especially those in the spotlight – as objects to use to our satisfaction to the point that it is difficult for women to see how we are being used. Emily Ratajkowski has experienced this time and time again as a model and actress – used for her body and being made to feel as though she does not own herself. Throughout these stories, readers are shown how Emily Ratajkowski was and still is treated. This book feels like catching up with an old friend and letting it all out. Ratajkowski discusses important topics that will force you to restructure the way you think of the women who “entertain” you.

My Body by Emily Ratajkowski, (List Price: $26.00, Metropolitan Books, 9781250817860, November 2021)

Reviewed by Stephanie Carrion, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida


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