The Best Southern Books of February 2022

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for winter to be over. I’m trying to relieve some of my cabin fever with adventurous books, and there are some really great ones released this month. Check out these Southern novels, poetry collections and essays while you’re waiting for spring to arrive!

Coffin Honey
By Todd Davis
February 1, 2022

Michigan State University Press: “In Coffin Honey, his seventh book of poems, celebrated poet Todd Davis explores the many forms of violence we do to each other and to the other living beings with whom we share the planet. Here racism, climate collapse, and pandemic, as well as the very real threat of extinction — both personal and across ecosystems — are dramatized in intimate portraits of Rust-Belt Appalachia.”

The Violin Conspiracy
By Brendan Slocumb
February 1, 2022

Anchor: “Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a job at the hospital cafeteria. If he’s extra lucky, he’ll earn more than minimum wage. But Ray has a gift and a dream — he’s determined to become a world-class professional violinist, and nothing will stand in his way. Not his mother, who wants him to stop making such a racket; not the fact that he can’t afford a violin suitable to his talents; not even the racism inherent in the world of classical music.”

Don’t Cry for Me
By Daniel Black
February 1, 2022

Hanover Square: As Jacob lays dying, he begins to write a letter to his only son Isaac. They have not met or spoken in many years, and there are things that Isaac must know. Stories about his ancestral legacy in rural Arkansas that extends back to slavery… But most of all, Jacob must share with Isaac the unspoken truths that reside in his heart. He must give voice to the trauma that Isaac has inherited. And he must create a space for the two to find peace.

Nobody’s Magic
By Destiny O. Birdsong
February 8, 2022

Grand Central: “In this glittering triptych novel, Suzette, Maple and Agnes, three Black women with albinism, call Shreveport, Louisiana home. At the bustling crossroads of the American South and Southwest, these three women find themselves at the crossroads of their own lives. This novel, told in three parts, is a searing meditation on grief, female strength, and self‑discovery set against a backdrop of complicated social and racial histories. Nobody’s Magic is a testament to the power of family — the ones you’re born in and the ones you choose.”

Shadows of Pecan Hollow
By Caroline Frost
February 8, 2022

William Morrow: “This gritty, penetrating, and unexpectedly tender novel ensnares the reader in its story of resilience and bonds that define us. With its rich rural landscape, indelible characters, and striking regional language, Shadows of Pecan Hollow is a hauntingly intimate and distinctly original debut about the complexity of love — both romantic and familial — and the strength and vulnerability of womanhood.”

By Heather Havrilesky
February 8, 2022

Ecco: “In Foreverland, Heather Havrilesky illustrates the delights, aggravations, and sublime calamities of her marriage over the span of fifteen years, charting an unpredictable course from meeting her one true love to slowly learning just how much energy is required to keep that love aflame. This refreshingly honest portrait of a marriage reveals that our relationships are not simply “happy” or “unhappy,” but something much murkier — at once unsavory, taxing, and deeply satisfying.” 

By Adam Vines
February 9, 2022

LSU Press: “Written almost exclusively in traditional, modified, and nonce forms, the poems in Lures renegotiate grief, trauma, Southern masculinities, and fatherhood with unflinching resolve. With Lures, Vines proposes that by reconstructing the stories from our past, we gain a greater understanding of our cultural identities and inheritances from those who made an impact on our lives.”

South Flight
By Jasmine Elizabeth Smith
February 15, 2022

UGA Press: “In her debut poetry collection, Jasmine Elizabeth Smith takes inspiration from Oklahoma Black history. In the wake of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, Jim Waters makes the difficult decision to leave behind his lover, Beatrice Vernadene Chapel, who as a Black woman must navigate the dangerous climate that produced the Jim Crow South and Red Summer. The poetry collection South Flight is a eulogy, a blues, an unabashed love letter, and ragtime to the history of resistance, migration, and community in Black Oklahoma.”

Where I Can’t Follow
By Ashley Blooms
February 15, 2022

Sourcebooks Landmark: “Maren Walker dreams of finding her own little door. 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. Maren’s mother was the last to go through, leaving nine-year-old Maren behind. Where I Can’t Follow explores the forces that hold people in place, and how they adapt, survive, and struggle to love a place that doesn’t always love them back.”

Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking
By C. T. Salazar
February 18, 2022

Acre Books: “In C. T. Salazar’s striking debut poetry collection, the speaker is situated in the tradition of Southern literature but reimagines its terrain with an eye on the South’s historic and ongoing violence. Though Salazar’s South is not a tender place, the book is a petition for tenderness, revealing in both place and people the possibilities for mercy, vulnerability, and wonder.”