end of summer presents book lovers with a daunting
choice, deciding which of the new fall titles to read.
Publishers don’t make it easy when they line up the
hottest authors they can find to launch their fall and
winter sales, and this year is no exception.
before you reach for the big names, take a look at our
stack of recommended titles. It’s a diverse collection
of fiction and nonfiction — some by authors you’ll
recognize, some you won’t — that celebrate the South
in all its damaged glory and resilience. And they don’t
real "The Help" in "The Maid Narratives:
Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow
South" (Louisiana State University Press), the real
"Help" talk to authors Jan van Wormer, David
W. Jackson III, Charletta Sudduth about what it was like
to work for white families during that same era in
Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
entrances, separate eating quarters, outside bathrooms,
sexual overtures from their male employers — it’s
all here, as well as memories of the murder of Emmett
Till, visits from the Ku Klux Klan, and the dawn of the
civil rights movement.
this fair-minded study for the reasons the maid
themselves give: "… kids need to hear it. They
need to know the struggles that black people have gone
through to get to the point where we are today because
our children are a lost generation."
book also includes narratives from 15 white women whose
contributions, the authors say, "inform in both
what they say and in what they do not."
WAR COMES HOME
if you don’t usually read war novels, make an
exception for Kevin Powers’ searing, evocative debut,
"Yellow Birds" (Little, Brown). In a story as
focused on the war soldiers bring home with them as the
one they fought, Powers asks haunting questions that
reconnect us with the reality of combat and its
John Bartle, an army machine-gunner stationed in Iraq in
2004, has been warned by his drill sergeant to protect
the less experienced Murphy, a tender-hearted boy from
Bartle’s home state of Virginia. But what happens when
his promise comes up against one more powerful than
Bartle can understand? By the time the book opens with a
flashback that introduces Murphy, he has long been dead,
and the narrator, Bartle, struggles to explain how it
happened. His fragmented but lyrical account shuttles
back and forth in time, from Iraq to Germany to his
post-combat years in Virginia, a remembrance that
gradually reveals the full extent of the toll taken by a
war in which trying to stay sane will get you killed.
turns nightmarish in Laird Hunt’s spellbinding new
novel, "The Kind One" (Coffee House Press).
The story unfolds in the 1850s, when a 14-year-old
Indiana girl leaves home for a promising life in
Kentucky as the wife of her second cousin. His slaves
are her only companions on the isolated pig farm he
calls Paradise. But Ginny’s new husband is a cruel and
perverse master, and as his cowed young wife joins him
in mistreating the slaves, neither can imagine that a
chilling reprisal awaits.
taut, hypnotic chapters that loop forward and back in
time, Hunt interweaves dreams, African folktales and
elements of Shakespeare to deliver half-seen glimpses of
the past, narrated by Ginny and several characters whose
lives have intersected in the past.
stories in "Grit Lit: A Rough South Reader"
(University of South Carolina Press) are a lot like
drinking moonshine — after taking a couple of swigs,
you will not be the same person you were. Editors Brian
Carpenter and Tom Franklin ("Crooked Letter,
Crooked Letter") assembled some of the best-known
connoisseurs of the art of the dirty South — Harry
Crews, Lee Smith, William Gay, Larry Brown, Ron Rash,
Rick Bragg, Barry Hannah, Tim McLaurin and Dorothy
Allison — then tossed in a few more . Every story,
without exception, is intoxicating.
forewarned: There are snakes and liquor of every kind
and chewing tobacco. There are fights between dogs and
roosters and over women and fences. There are threats:
"If you and that boy come out here for me and Ray,
have your boxes built and ready. You gone need’m
before you git out again." Throw in some Baptist
churches, a few Bibles, a single-wide, some jailhouse
tattoos and pass the whoop-ass, please.
long ago, a cookbook came out that told us how to cook
"deceptively" nutritious food for kids, mostly
by pureeing vegetables and hiding them in the recipes.
Barbara Kingsolver employs a similar technique in
"Flight Behavior" (HarperCollins), dovetailing
need-to-know information about climate change and
mountain-top removal into an engaging tale of a young
wife and mother who witnesses a phenomenon that rocks
her insular world.
in Dellarobia Turnbow’s life has been an accident —
an early marriage to a man she didn’t love, a life
spent on a sheep farm, even her name. On the day she
decides to walk away from it all, she has a vision that
transforms her dull existence and gives her something to
fight for. But when a group of scientists arrives to
study the miracle taking place in Dellarobia’s rural
Tennessee community, a phrase she has heard all her life
— "the Lord works in mysterious ways" —
comes true in more ways than one.
TALE OF A PLAGUE
the economic aftermath of the worst yellow fever
outbreak ever seen in Memphis have laid the foundations
for the city to become "the home of the blues and
the cradle of rock ‘n’ roll"? So says Jeanette
Keith, author of "Fever Season: The Story of a
Terrifying Epidemic and the People Who Saved a
City" (Bloomsbury Press).
the time the September 1878 outbreak of yellow fever was
over, it would leave 18,000 Memphians dead. The heroes,
of course, were among the ones who stayed behind.
accounts have whitewashed the events to make upstanding
Memphians who fled the fever look less cowardly. But
Keith uses newspaper accounts, letters and diaries of
the time to tell "the story of character" and
uncover the truth: "Neither heroism nor villainy
could be predicted by public standing, gender or race.
Upstanding U.S. citizens abandoned their families, and
prostitutes and sporting men stepped up to care for the
sick. White elected officials deserted their posts, but
black militiamen stood fast as guardians of the
agree with Frank M. Young and David Lasky, the authors
of "The Carter Family: Don’t Forget That
Song" (Abrams ComicArt), when they ask the
question, what better medium than the American comic to
tell the story of one of America’s most famous musical
families? With careful attention to historical details
and using the lively dialect of southwestern Virginia,
this full-color graphic biography lovingly chronicles
the daily, hardscrabble lives of A.P. Carter, his wife
Sara, of Maybelle and Janette and even little June, a
family whose recordings and performances built the
foundation upon which commercial country music (and, by
extension, rock ‘n’ roll) rests, and who helped
shape pop music as we know it today. If no Carter
Family, then no Elvis. No Elvis, no Beatles. Etc.
bonus CD includes rare radio versions of the Carter
Family’s early tunes.