The Best Southern Books of April 2022

April may be my favorite time of year — there’s sunshine, dogwoods, and poetry! Celebrate National Poetry Month with one of these fantastic new poetry collections. There are also some great novels, a memoir, and an Appalachian anthology in this month’s roundup.

By Mark Powell
April 1, 2022

West Virginia University Press: “In the fall of 2018, a bomb goes off at a water-bottling plant in the mountains of southwest Virginia, an incident the FBI declares an act of ecoterrorism. Lioness is a page-turning, heart-wrenching examination of extremism: What pushes people to act violently, and is that violence ever justified?”

By Tara M. Stringfellow
April 5, 2022

Dial Press: “Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of unforgettable voices that move back and forth in time, Memphis paints an indelible portrait of inheritance, celebrating the full complexity of what we pass down, in a family and as a country: brutality and justice, faith and forgiveness, sacrifice and love.”

Song for Almeyda & Song for Anninho
By Gayl Jones
April 5, 2022

Beacon Press: “In the late 17th century, the fugitive slave enclave of Palmares was destroyed by Portuguese colonists. Amid the flight and re-enslavement of Palmares’s inhabitants emerges the love story of Almeyda and Anninho. Brimming with intimacy, history, and revolution, the poems collected serve as a declaration of decolonial love.”

Two Brown Dots
By Danni Quintos
April 12, 2022

BOA Editions: “Two Brown Dots explores what it means to be a racially ambiguous, multiethnic, Asian American woman growing up in Kentucky. In stark, honest poems, Quintos recounts the messiness and confusion of being a typical ’90s kid —watching Dirty Dancing at sleepovers, borrowing eye shadow out of a friend’s caboodle, crushing on a boy wearing khaki shorts to Sunday mass — while navigating the microagressions of the neighbor kids, the awkwardness of puberty, and the casual cruelties of fellow teenagers.”

Y’all Means All
Edited By Z. Zane McNeill
April 12, 2022

PM Press: “‘Yall Means All is a celebration of the weird and wonderful aspects of a troubled region in all of their manifest glory! Multidisciplinary and multi-genre, Y’all necessarily incorporates elements of critical theory, such as critical race theory and queer theory, while dealing with a multitude of methodologies, from quantitative analysis, to oral history and autoethnography. This collection eschews the contemporary trend of reactive or responsive writing in the genre of Appalachian studies, and alternatively, provides examples of how modern Appalachians are defining themselves on their own terms.”

By Ra Malika Imhotep
April 12, 2022

Red Hen Press: “This harvest of poems is inspired by the plant medicine latent in Gossypium Herbeceum, or Cotton Root Bark, which was used by enslaved Black women to induce labor, cure reproductive ailments and end unwanted pregnancies. Through an arrangement of stories, secrets and memories experienced, read, heard, reimagined and remixed, gossypiin reckons with a peculiar yet commonplace inheritance of violation, survival and self-possession.”

Bomb Shelter
By Mary Laura Philpott
April 12, 2022

Atria Books: “A lifelong worrier, Philpott always kept an eye out for danger, a habit that only intensified when she became a parent. But she looked on the bright side, too, believing that as long as she cared enough, she could keep her loved ones safe. Then, in the dark of one quiet, pre-dawn morning, she woke abruptly to a terrible sound — and found her teenage son unconscious on the floor. In the aftermath of a crisis that darkened her signature sunny spirit, she wondered: If this happened, what else could happen? And how do any of us keep going when we can’t know for sure what’s coming next?”

Sing Her Name
By Rosalyn Story
April 12, 2022

Agate Bolden: “Sing Her Name follows two musically gifted women whose lives overlap across the boundaries of time. Beautiful and brilliantly talented Celia DeMille is a nineteenth-century concert artist who has garnered fame, sung all over the world, and amassed a fortune. But prejudice bars her from achieving her place in history as one of the world’s greatest singers, and she dies in poverty and obscurity. In 21st-century New Orleans, Eden Malveaux, a thirty-something waitress with a beautiful but untutored voice, is the sole guardian of her 17-year-old brother.”

By Taylor Brown
April 19, 2022

St. Martin’s Press: “Wingwalkers is one-part epic adventure, one-part love story, and, as is the signature for critically-acclaimed author Taylor Brown, one large part American history. The novel follows the adventures of Della and Zeno Marigold, a pair of Great Depression barnstormers who are funding their journey west by performing death-defying aerial stunts from town to town, and braids them with the real-life exploits of author (and thwarted fighter pilot) William Faulkner. When their paths cross during a dramatic air show, there will be unexpected consequences for all.”

Field Notes from the Flood Zone
By Heather Sellers
April 26, 2022

BOA Editions: “Sprung from her daily observation journals, haunted by ghosts from the past, Field Notes from the Flood Zone is a double love letter: to a beautiful and fragile landscape, and to the vulnerable young girl who grew up in that world. It is an elegy for the two great shaping forces in a life, heartbreaking family struggle and a collective lost treasure, our stunning, singular, desecrated Florida, and all its remnant beauty.”

Landscape with Bloodfeud
By Wendy Barnes
April 29, 2022

University of Massachusetts Press: “Scarred by nuclear smokestacks, oil wells, and surging floodwaters, and haunted by the legacies of slavery, racism, and French rule, the Louisiana of Landscape with Bloodfeud is disenchanted but still exerts an undeniable pull. Reckoning with displacement, ancestral guilt, and centuries of human and environmental exploitation, Wendy Barnes dissects the state’s turbulent past–as a microcosm of colonial oppression, westward expansion, and the birth of global capitalism.”