The Best Southern Books of January 2022

Happy 2022! It’s going to be a great year for Southern literature, and we’re so excited to talk about books as much as possible. This month’s roundup includes poems set in Florida, a linked story collection set in Georgia, and essays about Charlottesville, Virginia.

Flowers as Mind Control
By Laura Minor
January 7, 2022

BkMk Press: “This book, which was selected by poet John Hodgen for the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, ranges across rural Florida and Georgia as well as Los Angeles and New York City, includes considerations of homesickness, memory, music, alcohol, love, and loss. This book is an alchemy of fortitude in the face of despair and all the transformative possibility that comes with the hope for a better future.”

This Boy We Made:
A Memoir of Motherhood, Genetics, and Facing the Unknown

By Taylor Harris
January 11, 2022

Catapult: “A Black mother bumps up against the limits of everything she thought she believed — about science and medicine, about motherhood, and about her faith — in search of the truth about her son. This Boy We Made is a stirring and radiantly written examination of the bond between mother and child, full of hard-won insights about fighting for and finding meaning when nothing goes as expected.”

The Stars Are Not Yet Bells
By Hannah Lillith Assadi
January 11, 2022

Riverhead Books: “Off the coast of Georgia, near Savannah, generations have been tempted by strange blue lights in the sky near an island called Lyra. At the height of WWII, impressionable young Elle Ranier leaves New York City to forge a new life together on the island with her new husband, Simon. There they will live for decades, raising a family while waging a quixotic campaign to find the source of the mysterious blue offshore light — and the elusive minerals rumored to lurk beneath the surface. Darkly romantic and deeply haunting, The Stars Are Not Yet Bells pulls us into a story of the tantalizing, faithless relationship between ourselves and the lives and souls we leave behind.”

None But the Righteous
By Chantal James
January 11, 2022

Counterpoint: “In seventeenth-century Peru, St. Martin de Porres was torn from his body after death. His bones were pillaged as relics, and his spirit was said to inhabit those bones. Four centuries later, amid the havoc of Hurricane Katrina, nineteen-year-old Ham escapes New Orleans with his only valued possession: a pendant handed down from his foster mother, Miss Pearl. There’s something about the pendant that has always gripped him, and the curiosity of it has grown into a kind of comfort. Ham travels from Atlanta to rural Alabama, and from one young woman to another, as he evades the devastation that awaits him in New Orleans. Catching sight of a freedom he’s never known, he must reclaim his body and mind from the spirit who watches over him, guides him, and seizes possession of him.”

High-Risk Homosexual
By Edgar Gomez
January 11, 2022

Soft Skull: “With vulnerability, humor, and quick-witted insights into racial, sexual, familial, and professional power dynamics, Gomez shares a hard-won path to taking pride in the parts of himself he was taught to keep hidden. His story is a scintillating, beautiful reminder of the importance of leaving space for joy.”

I Came All This Way to Meet You
By Jami Attenberg
January 11, 2022

Ecco: “In this brilliant, fierce, and funny memoir of transformation, Jami Attenberg — described as a “master of modern fiction” (Entertainment Weekly) and the “poet laureate of difficult families” (Kirkus Reviews) — reveals the defining moments that pushed her to create a life, and voice, she could claim for herself. What does it take to devote oneself to art? What does it mean to own one’s ideas? What does the world look like for a woman moving solo through it?”

By Henry Hoke
January 13, 2022

Bloomsbury: “Stickers adorn our first memories, dot our notebooks and our walls, are stuck annoyingly on fruit, and accompany us into adulthood to announce our beliefs from car bumpers. They hold surprising power in their ability to define and provoke, and hold a strange steadfast presence in our age of fading physical media. Henry Hoke employs a constellation of stickers to explore queer boyhood, parental disability, and ancestral violence.”

McMullen Circle
By Heather Newton
January 17, 2022

Regal House: “The twelve linked stories in McMullen Circle explore the intertwined lives of faculty families at the McMullen Boarding School in Tonola Falls, Georgia in 1969-70. The school community is isolated and idyllic, yet issues of race and the Vietnam War still intrude. The stories in this collection ask what, and who, are the real heroes.”

How We Can Win
By Kimberly Jones
January 18, 2022

Henry Holt: “In How We Can Win, Jones delves into the impacts of systemic racism and reveals how her formative years in Chicago gave birth to a lifelong devotion to justice. Here, in a vital expansion of her declaration, she calls for Reconstruction 2.0, a multilayered plan to reclaim economic and social institutions — those restitutions promised with emancipation but blocked, again and again, for more than 150 years. And, most of all, Jones delivers strategies for how we can effect change as citizens and allies while nurturing ourselves — the most valuable asset we have — in the fight against a system that is still rigged.”

By Morgan Thomas
January 25, 2022

MCD: “The nine stories in Morgan Thomas’s shimmering debut collection, Manywhere, witness Southern queer and genderqueer characters determined to find themselves reflected in the annals of history, at whatever cost. As each character traces deceit and violence through Southern tall tales and their own pasts, their journeys reveal the porous boundaries of body, land, and history, and the sometimes ruthless awakenings of self-discovery.”

South to America:
A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon
to Understand the Soul of a Nation

By Imani Perry
January 25, 2022

Ecco: “In South to America, Imani Perry shows that the meaning of American is inextricably linked with the South, and that our understanding of its history and culture is the key to understanding the nation as a whole. This is the story of a Black woman and native Alabaman returning to the region she has always called home and considering it with fresh eyes. Her journey is full of detours, deep dives, and surprising encounters with places and people. She renders Southerners from all walks of life with sensitivity and honesty, sharing her thoughts about a troubling history and the ritual humiliations and joys that characterize so much of Southern life. With uncommon insight and breathtaking clarity, South to America offers an assertion that if we want to build a more humane future for the United States, we must center our concern below the Mason-Dixon Line.”