The Best Southern Books of April 2021

There are so many wonderful books coming out this month we just want to rave about them all! Since April is National Poetry Month, we included three poetry collections by Tiana Nobile, Khalisa Rae, and Kendra DeColo, and they are absolutely worth celebrating any month of the year. We’ve also got essay collections and novels by Southern authors and set in Bush-era Atlanta, Florida, 1920s Mississippi, Tennessee in the aftermath of the Civil War, and South Carolina.

Gold Diggers
By Sanjena Sathian
April 6, 2021

Penguin Press: “A magical realist coming-of-age story, Gold Diggers skewers the model minority myth to tell a hilarious and moving story about immigrant identity, community, and the underside of ambition. Sanjena Sathian’s astonishing debut offers a fine-grained, profoundly intelligent, and bitingly funny investigation into what’s required to make it in America.”

The Girls in the Stilt House
By Kelly Mustian
April 6, 2021

Sourcebooks Landmark: “Set in 1920s Mississippi, this debut Southern novel weaves a beautiful and harrowing story of two teenage girls cast in an unlikely partnership through murder — perfect for readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and If the Creek Don’t Rise. As the two girls are drawn deeper into a dangerous world of bootleggers and moral corruption, they must come to terms with the complexities of their tenuous bond and a hidden past that links them in ways that could cost them their lives.”

By Tiana Nobile
April 6, 2021

Hub City Press: “In her debut collection, Tiana Nobile grapples with the history of transnational adoption, both her own from South Korea and the broader, collective experience. In conversation with psychologist Harry Harlow’s monkey experiments and utilizing fragments of a highly personal cache of documents from her own adoption, these poems explore dislocation, familial relationships, and the science of love and attachment.”

The Last Taxi Driver
By Lee Durkee
March 3, 2020
Paperback April 6, 2021

Tin House Books: “Lee Durkee takes readers on a high-stakes cab ride through an unforgettable shift. Meet Lou — a lapsed novelist, struggling Buddhist, and UFO fan — who drives for a ramshackle taxi company that operates on the outskirts of a north Mississippi college town. Shedding nuts and bolts, The Last Taxi Driver careens through highways and back roads, from Mississippi to Memphis, as Lou becomes increasingly somnambulant and his fares increasingly eccentric.”

The Thing About Florida
By Tyler Gillespie
April 13, 2021

University Press of Florida: “Tyler Gillespie was once embarrassed to call Florida home, concocting fantasies he’d been born somewhere else. In The Thing about Florida, Gillespie faces his Florida denial and takes readers on an exuberant search for the state behind the caricatures, cutting through the media storm with curiosity and humor. As he weaves his childhood memories and personal experiences alongside the stories of the individuals he encounters, Gillespie reconciles with his home state. He finds Florida’s humanity, a beautiful mix of hopes, dreams, and second chances.”

Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat
By Khalisa Rae
April 13, 2021

Red Hen Press: “Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat is a heart-wrenching reconciliation and confrontation of the living, breathing ghosts that awaken Black women each day. This debut poetry collection summons multiple hauntings — ghosts of matriarchs that came before, those that were slain, and those that continue to speak to us, but also those horrors women of color strive to put to rest. Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat examines the haunting feeling of facing past demons while grappling with sexism, racism, and bigotry.” 

Low Country
By J. Nicole Jones
April 13, 2021

Catapult: “J. Nicole Jones is the only daughter of a prominent South Carolina family, a family that grew rich building the hotels and seafood restaurants that draw tourists to Myrtle Beach. After a girlhood of extreme wealth and deep debt, of ghosts and folklore, of cruel men and unwanted spectacle, Jones finds herself face to face with an explosive possibility concerning her long-abused grandmother that she can neither speak nor shake. And through the lens of her own family’s catastrophes and triumphs, Jones pays homage to the landscapes and legends of her childhood home, a region haunted by its history: Eliza Pinckney cultivates indigo, Blackbeard ransacks the coast, and the Gray Man paces the beach, warning of Hurricane Hazel.”

By Anjali Enjeti
April 15, 2021

University of Georgia Press: “A move at age ten from a Detroit suburb to Chattanooga in 1984 thrusts Anjali Enjeti into what feels like a new world replete with Confederate flags, Bible verses, and whiteness. It is here that she learns how to get her bearings as a mixed-race brown girl in the Deep South and begins to understand how identity can inspire, inform, and shape a commitment to activism.”

Four Dead Horses
By KT Sparks
April 19, 2021

Regal House: “On May 1, 1982, eighteen-year-old Martin Oliphant watches a horse drown off the shore of Lake Michigan — the first of four equine corpses marking the trail that will lead Martin out of the small-minded small town of Pierre, Michigan, onto the open ranges of Elko, Nevada, and into the open arms, or at least open mics, of the cowboy poets who gather there to perform. For thirty years, Martin searches for an escape route to the West, to poetry, and to his first love, the cowgirl Ginger, but never manages to get much farther than the city limits of his Midwestern hometown — that is, until a world famous cow horse dies while touring through Pierre, and Martin is tapped to transport its remains to the funeral at the 32nd Annual Elko Cowboy Poetry Confluence.”

A Thousand Moons
By Sebastian Barry
April 21, 2020
Paperback April 20, 2021

Penguin Books: “Winona Cole, an orphaned child of the Lakota Indians, finds herself growing up in an unconventional household on a farm in west Tennessee. Raised by her adoptive parents John Cole and Thomas McNulty, whose story Barry told in his acclaimed previous novel Days Without End, she forges a life for herself beyond the violence and dispossession of her past. Tennessee is a state still riven by the bitter legacy of the Civil War, and the fragile harmony of her family is soon threatened by a further traumatic event, one which Winona struggles to confront, let alone understand.”

I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World
By Kendra DeColo
April 20, 2021

BOA Editions: “Kendra DeColo reaffirms the action of mothering as heroic, brutal, and hardcore. These poems interrogate patriarchal narratives about childbirth, postpartum healing, and motherhood through the lens of pop culture and the political zeitgeist. With references ranging from Courtney Love to Lana Del Rey to Richard Burton to Nicolas Cage, I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World revitalizes the way we look at mothering: pushing its boundaries and reclaiming one’s spirit of defiance, abundance, and irreverent joy.”