The Best Southern Books of September 2022

It’s been a couple of weeks of truly gorgeous weather in Tennessee and I’m loving this tentative fall we’ve got going. My windows are all flung open and I’ve been curled up on the couch diving into a few good books. Whether or not fall has arrived for you yet, now is the perfect time for new Southern fiction and poetry.

Loving the Dead and Gone
By Judith Turner-Yamamoto
September 6, 2022

Regal House Publishing: “For forty years Aurilla Cutter has tended a clutch of secrets that have turned her mean. A fatal accident becomes the catalyst for the release of the passions, needs, and hurts in everyone affected by her hidden past. Darlene, a seventeen-year-old widow, struggles to reconnect with her dead husband while proving herself still alive. As Aurilla’s forbidden and heartbreaking story of love, death, and repeated loss alternates with Darlene’s, the divide of generations and time narrows and collapses, building to the unlikely collision of two women’s yearnings, which will free them both from the past.”

The Marsh Queen
By Virginia Hartman
September 6, 2022

Gallery Books: “Pulled between worlds — her professional accomplishments in Washington, and the small town of her childhood — Loni must decide whether to delve beneath the surface into murky half-truths and either avenge the past or bury it, once and for all. The Marsh Queen explores what it means to be a daughter and how we protect the ones we love.”

The Gospel of Rot
By Gregory Ariail
September 6, 2022

Mercer University Press: “The Gospel of Rot is a creative intervention into the Appalachian imaginary, steeped in the Southern gothic. It explores lesser-known, idiosyncratic, and historically taboo subjects: Biblical apocrypha, heterodoxy, mysticism, queerness, Cherokee lore, and the weird and the fantastic. It strives to upend and complicate any static conception of the Appalachian experience.”

By Gayl Jones
September 13, 2022

Beacon Press: “Set primarily on the island of Ibiza, the story is narrated by the writer Amanda Wordlaw, whose closest friend, a gifted sculptor named Catherine Shuger, is repeatedly institutionalized for trying to kill a husband who never leaves her. The three form a quirky triangle on the white-washed island. A study in Black women’s creative expression, and the intensity of their relationships, this work from Jones shows off her range and insight into the vicissitudes of all human nature — rewarding longtime fans and bringing her talent to a new generation of readers.”

In the Hands of the River
By Lucien Darjeun Meadows
September 13, 2022

Hub City: “With delicate precision, In the Hands of the River subverts traditional poetic forms to show how a childhood for a queer boy of both Cherokee and European heritage happens within and outside dominant narratives of Appalachia. This debut collection weaves ancestral and personal threads of trauma, reclamation, and survival into a multi-generational and multi-species tapestry that reaches from the distant stars visible in an Appalachian holler to the curl of a clover stem and the touch of the beloved, here and now. Moving across time, yet always grounded in place, these poems address the West Virginian landscape, both in exaltation and extraction, balanced with poems about the speaker’s own body, and emergent sense of queer identity, as ‘a boy made of shards.'”

Black Swim
By Nicholas Goodly
September 13, 2022

Copper Canyon: “This stunning debut collection is at once ‘forged from the hurt parts of the ground,’ and ‘proof of a miracle,’ spinning ache and sweat and sweetness into a new model of feeling through language. Black people, queer/trans/nonbinary people, flamboyant people, lonely people, gaudy people, kind people, witches, artists, and angry people will meet themselves and each other in these pages. Amidst death and against injustice, Goodly’s poems bear gifts for and from the ancestors — a necklace, a mirror, a form of offered prayer: ‘If there is a purpose in this life / let me wash my face in it.'”

So Tall It Ends in Heaven
By Jayme Ringleb
September 20, 2022

Tin House: “Following the end of a marriage, So Tall It Ends in Heaven‘s queer Southern speaker tries to restore a relationship with his father. His father lives across an ocean, but more keeps them apart than just that: the father rejected his son long ago after learning that his son is gay. In turns that are ruminative, funny, and tender, Jayme Ringleb’s debut collection questions what and whom one lets go of by coming out — can love, in all its complexities, ever be uncoupled from grief?”

The Old Place
By Bobby Finger
September 20, 2022

G.P. Putnam: “Billington, Texas, is a place where nothing changes. Well, almost nothing. Mary Alice and Ellie were a pair since the day Ellie moved in next door. Years later, the two are working their way back to a comfortable friendship. But when Mary Alice’s sister arrives on her doorstep with a staggering piece of news, it jeopardizes the careful shell she’s built around her life. The whole of her friendship with Ellie is put at risk, the fabric of a place as steadfast as Billington is questioned, and the unflappable, knotty fixture that is Mary Alice Roth might have to change after all.”

The Last Dreamwalker
By Rita Woods
September 20, 2022

Forge Books: “In the wake of her mother’s passing, Layla Hurley unexpectedly reconnects with her mother’s sisters, women she hasn’t been allowed to speak to, or of, in years. Her aunts reveal to Layla that a Gullah-Geechee island off the shore of South Carolina now belongs to her. As Layla digs deeper into her mother’s past and the mysterious island’s history, she discovers that the terrifying nightmares that have plagued her throughout her life and tainted her relationship with her mother and all of her family, is actually a power passed down through generations of her Gullah ancestors. She is a Dreamwalker, able to inhabit the dreams of others — and to manipulate them. As Layla uncovers increasingly dark secrets about her family’s past, she finds herself thrust into the center of a potentially deadly, decades-old feud fought in the dark corridor of dreams.”

Lark Ascending
By Silas House
September 27, 2022

Algonquin: “As fires devastate most of the United States, Lark and his family secure a place on a refugee boat headed to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees. But Lark is the only one to survive the trip, and once ashore, he doesn’t find the safe haven he’d hoped for. As he runs for his life, Lark finds an abandoned dog who becomes his closest companion, and then a woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek?”