From page-turning mysteries set on the streets of New Orleans to hard-hitting essays peeling back the layers of race in America, here’s the best of Southern literature this spring.
The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney (Out Now)
Analesie Newell, an 11-year-old piano prodigy, finds her mundane life uprooted during the heat of a cicada-filled summer in Providence, Georgia. An endearment toward a family as rich with fascinating history as the South itself, a visit to the Mistletoe plantation and a meeting with an ethereal woman force young Analesie to face secrets thought to be long forgotten. Robert Gwaltney’s debut novel is an enthralling new piece in the Southern Gothic genre and will have readers yearning for the enchantment of summer.
Groundskeeping by Lee Cole (Out Now)
Owen Callahan’s life has gone any way but planned. With only his dream of being a writer propelling him forward, Callahan returns home to his conservative uncle and grandfather in Kentucky. He becomes a groundskeeper at a local college to be allowed to enroll in a writing course. There, he meets and quickly falls in love with, writer-in-residence Alma Hazdic, an Ivy League graduate with a liberal immigrant family, who is everything Callahan wants to be. A story about the importance of relationships, Lee Cole’s Groundskeeping is the tale of forging your own sense of self through the influence of those around you.
Manywhere by Morgan Thomas (Out Now)
Another debut author, Morgan Thomas’ Manywhere is composed of nine tales of inventive Southern myths. Thomas intertwines the past with the present in a vulnerable and unflinching exploration of queer and gender-queer characters to demonstrate how the past and the future are seldom separate from each other. From the collection’s titular story’s focus on a trans character finding a new daughter for their father to a work unwinding the life of an intersex person in the colonial era, Manywhere is a novel, and Thomas is an author avid Southern literature lovers don’t want to miss.
Nobody’s Magic by Destiny O. Birdsong (Out Now)
Destiny O. Birdsong’s debut novel Nobody’s Magic follows three albino Black women as they maneuver through their wildly different, yet equally extraordinary, lives. With the single commonality outside of their albinism being the shared home of Shreveport, Louisiana, Suzette, Maple and Agnes are searching for love, truth, freedom and self-discovery. Birdsong’s writing challenges readers to reimagine what is magic in a work that is sure to become a new favorite in Southern literature.
None But the Righteous by Chantal James (Out Now)
Ham has been left hollow after spending the duration of his life drifting from one space to another and the spirit occupying his treasured medallion, St. Martin de Porres, is rushing to fill the parts of him he’s lost. After New Orleans is destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Ham leaves his home for a journey that will either inspire him to reclaim himself or surrender his entire being to St. Martin de Porres. Nothing but the Righteous is a tale filled with characters of incredible depth and writing that will leave readers excited for Chantel James’ next work.
You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays by Zora Neale Hurston (Out Now)
The scope of Zora Neale Hurston’s legacy is impossible to define. Her fictional works, such as Their Eyes Were Watching God and Mules and Men, broke boundaries in the Harlem Renaissance and continue to echo truths into today. Now, 60 years after her death, it’s time to explore her equally as compelling and thought-provoking essay collection. You Don’t Know Us Negroes’ harrowing works include Hurston’s thoughts on Jim Crow’s lasting influence on the Black community, white supremacy and more.
Where I Can’t Follow by Ashley Blooms (Out Now)
Maren Walker told herself she wouldn’t need to sell pills for long, but there’s always another bill for Granny’s doctor, another problem with the car, another reason she’s getting nowhere. She dreams of walking through her little door to leave Blackdamp County, Kentucky, behind. The doors have appeared to the people in her mountain town for as long as anyone can remember, though no one knows where they lead. All anyone knows is that if you go, you’ll never come back. When she faces the possibility of escaping her struggles for good, Maren must choose just what kind of future she wants to build.
Ash Tuesday by Ariadne Blayde (Out March 22)
Giving ghost tours on the decaying streets of the French Quarter isn’t exactly a high-profile career, but the guides at Spirits of Yore Haunted Tours are too strange and troubled to do anything else. They call themselves Quarter Rats, a group of outcasts and dreamers who gather in hole-in-the-wall bars to bicker, spin yarns and search for belonging in the wee hours of the night after the tourists have staggered home. Through the ghost stories they tell, their own haunted lives come into focus. Weaving together real New Orleans folklore with the lives of 11 vibrant characters, Ash Tuesday is a love letter to America’s last true bohemia and the people—both dead and living—who keep its heart beating.
Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation by Maud Newton (Out March 29)
Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation recounts Maud Newton’s journey to unearth how much heritage determines a person’s path. A work that looks to the past without sacrificing nuisance or empathy when examining those who have built our history, Newton explores her origins through deeply scientific and human means. Newton’s Ancestor Trouble will have readers reflecting on their own family histories.
Familiar by Christy Bush (Out March 29)
A collection of Christy Bush’s most compelling photography, Familiar not only records the life of Bush but the world as it was then and now. In these images, you will find the first glimpses of Georgia’s punk scene, explore the wonders of childhood and the power of adolescence—and examine people as they truly are among concerts and weddings and Waffle Houses. The breathtaking photos alone speak volumes, but the words of Michael Stipe and Bush herself are the perfect companions to a visual journey filled with raw passion and breathtaking tenderness.
The Shop on Royal Street by Karen White (Out March 29)
While the story of Melanie Trenholm is over, the tale of her stepdaughter Nola is only beginning to unwind. The Shop On Royal Street focuses on Nola Trenholm as she creates a life for herself in New Orleans. After finding a home in an old Creole cottage that needs a little love and a lot of repairs, Nola discovers the to-do list of patching up her new house includes dealing with ghosts who departed from life on anything but good terms. Much to her dismay, Nola is forced to call on medium Beau Ryan, a man with his own haunting ties to Nola’s newly made residence. Whether you are returning to Kevin White’s work or discovering her mysteries for the first time, The Shop On Royal Street is a must-read for mystery lovers.
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow (Out April 5)
After Joan and her family find a safe haven in the wondrous house built by her grandfather, Joan discovers the power of being born a North woman. Taking the reader across 70 years of triumph and pain, Memphis is a fantastical unwinding of family history and the reclamation of light in the darkness through the lens of Southern Black women. A tale overbrimming with warmth and love, readers will find as much a home in the neighborhood of Douglass as its main characters.