The Best Southern Books of October 2022

I‘ll be honest, I was not prepared for the frost warnings we’re receiving this week in my neck of the woods. I guess the bright side of it getting dark and cold is all the extra time for new books! If you’re settling in for hibernation like me, check out these new Southern fiction, poetry, and nonfiction titles to keep you company.

Curing Season
By Kristine Langley Mahler
October 1, 2022

West Virginia University Press: “Mahler’s yearning for acceptance remains buried like a splinter, which she carefully tweezes out in the form of artifacts from her youth. But it isn’t until she encounters a book of local family histories that she takes inhabitation and truth apart, grafting and twisting and imprinting her history on theirs, until even she can no longer tell the difference between their truth and her own. Using inventive essay forms, Mahler pries apart the cracks of exclusion and experiments with the nature of belonging, memory, and place.”

It Falls Gently All Around
By Ramona Reeves
October 4, 2022

University of Pittsburgh Press: “Despite overwhelming challenges and the ever-looming specters of status, race, and class, the characters in It Falls Gently All Around and Other Stories strive for versions of the American dream through modern and often unconventional means. Told with humor and honesty, these stories remind us not only about the fallibility of being human and the resistance of some to change but also about finding redemption in unlikely places.”

I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive
By Lynn Melnick
October 4, 2022

University of Texas Press: “In this bracing memoir, Melnick explores Parton’s dual identities as feminist icon and objectified sex symbol — identities that reflect the author’s own fraught history with rape culture and the grueling effort to reclaim her voice in the wake of loss and trauma. Each chapter engages with the artistry and cultural impact of one of Parton’s songs, as Melnick reckons with violence, creativity, parenting, abortion, sex work, love, and the consolations and cruelties of religion.”

Against The Woods’ Dark Trunks
By Jack B. Bedell
October 4, 2022

Mercer University Press: “The poems in Against the Woods’ Dark Trunks stare deep into the shadows of Jack Bedell’s native South Louisiana swamp to find ghosts, monsters, death, and flood waters. These poems also look hard enough to find cypress trees reaching up for whatever sunlight is left in the sky, and they see the promise of new growth along the water’s edge. Every folktale and campfire fright here has a family story, the sparkling magic of a daughter’s dreams, open fields, and jazz melodies to tilt these poems’ scales toward hope.”

Daughters of the New Year
By E.M. Tran
October 11, 2022

Hanover Square Press: “In present day New Orleans, Xuan Trung, former beauty queen turned refugee after the Fall of Saigon, is obsessed with divining her daughters’ fates through their Vietnamese zodiac signs. But Trac, Nhi and Trieu diverge completely from their immigrant parents’ expectations. Daughters of the New Year is an addictive, high-wire act of storytelling that illuminates an entire lineage of extraordinary women fighting to reclaim the power they’ve been stripped of for centuries.”

The Hollow Kind
By Andy Davidson
October 11, 2022

MCD: “There’s something wrong with Redfern Hill. Something lurks beneath the soil, ancient and hungry, with the power to corrupt hearts and destroy souls. It is the true legacy of Redfern Hill: a kingdom of grief and death, to which Nellie’s own blood has granted her the key. The Hollow Kind is a jaw-dropping novel about legacy and the horrors that hide in the dark corners of family history. Andy Davidson’s gorgeous, Gothic fable tracing the spectacular fall of the Redfern family will haunt you long after you turn the final page.”

Landings: A Crooked Creek Farm Year
By Arwen Donahue
October 11, 2022

Hub City Press: “In 130 ink-and-watercolor drawings, the story of one year on a family farm in Kentucky unfolds in captured moments of daily life: Donahue chopping wood, a cow sniffing her head, her daughter tending to goats after a hard day at school. Each visual is paired with a written reflection on the day’s doings, interwoven with the longer-arc history of her family, the farm, and their community. In telling the story of a farm family’s struggle to survive and thrive, Landings grapples with the legacy of our cultural divide between art and land, and celebrates the beauty discovered along the way.”

Beasts of the Earth
By James Wade
October 11, 2022

Blackstone Publishing: “James Wade, whose first two novels were praised as ‘rhapsodic’ and ‘haunting,’ delivers his most powerful work to date — a chilling parable about the impossible demands of hate and love, trauma and goodness, vividly set in the landscapes of Texas and Louisiana. Beasts of the Earth explores themes of time, fate, and free will, to produce a revelatory conclusion that is both beautiful and heartbreaking.”

What the Jaguar Told Her
By Alexandra V. Méndez
October 11, 2022

Levine Querido: “Jade is starting eighth grade in a new city — Atlanta. She just wants to go back to Chicago, where her friends are. Where her Abuela lives. But Jade does like walking to her new school on the trail that winds through the woods behind her house, where lush flowers bloom and soft leaves rustle beneath her feet. There, Jade meets Itztli, an elderly storyteller who exists between dreams and reality. What the Jaguar Told Her is a lyrical debut about growing up in the midst of change, and a magical cultural homecoming.”

The Tiger and the Cage
By Emma Bolden
October 18, 2022

Soft Skull: “With The Tiger and the Cage, Bolden uses her own experience as the starting point for a journey through the institutional misogyny of Western medicine — from a history of labeling women ‘hysterical’ and parading them as curiosities to a lack of information on causes or cures for endometriosis, despite more than a century of documented cases. Through all its gripping, devastating, and beautiful threads, The Tiger and the Cage says what Bolden and so many like her have needed to hear: I see you, and I believe you.”