The Best Southern Books of February 2023

I‘ve always felt that February is the longest month of winter, and right now, the world feels even darker with news rolling in every day about humanitarian disasters, the eroding of rights of the LGBTQ+ community, and laws that limit bodily autonomy. Books are being banned and teachers are fighting restrictions on what they can and can’t teach their students about the history of our shared world and in particular, the experiences of Black people in America. This feels especially egregious during Black history month.

I don’t have any solutions to any of those massive problems. All I can say is that here at the SRB, we support and celebrate Black authors, and this month is full of some new and fantastic Southern Black stories.

The In-Betweens
By Davon Loeb
February 1, 2023

West Virginia University Press: “The In-Betweens tells the story of a biracial boy becoming a man, all the while trying to find himself, trying to come to terms with his white family, and trying to find his place in American society. In lyrical vignettes, Loeb vibrantly depicts the freedom, joys, and wonder of childhood; the awkwardness of teen years, first jobs, first passions. Loeb tells an individual story universally, and readers, regardless of subjectivity and relation, will see themselves throughout The In-Betweens.”

By Junious Ward
February 7, 2023

Button Poetry: “In his debut full-length collection, Junious ‘Jay’ Ward dives deep into the formation of self. Composition interrogates the historical perceptions of Blackness and biracial identity as documented through a Southern lens. Utilizing a variety of poetic forms, Ward showcases to his readers an innovative approach as he unflinchingly explores the way language, generational trauma, loss, and resilience shape us into who we are, the stories we carry, and what we will inevitably pass on.”

When Trying to Return Home
By Jennifer Maritza McCauley
February 7, 2023

Counterpoint: “A dazzling debut collection spanning a century of Black American and Afro-Latino life in Puerto Rico, Pittsburgh, Louisiana, Miami, and beyond — and an evocative meditation on belonging, the meaning of home, and how we secure freedom on our own terms. Profoundly moving and powerful, the stories in When Trying to Return Home dig deeply into the question of belonging.”

The House of Eve
By Sadeqa Johnson
February 7, 2023

Simon & Schuster: “From the award-winning author of Yellow Wife, a daring and redemptive novel set in 1950s Philadelphia and Washington, DC, that explores what it means to be a woman and a mother, and how much one is willing to sacrifice to achieve her greatest goal.”

A Darker Wilderness:
Black Nature Writing From Soil to Stars

Edited by Erin Sharkey
February 14, 2023

Milkweed Editions: “In A Darker Wilderness, a constellation of luminary writers reflect on the significance of nature in their lived experience and on the role of nature in the lives of Black folks in the United States. Each of these essays engages with a single archival object, whether directly or obliquely, exploring stories spanning hundreds of years and thousands of miles, traveling from roots to space and finding rich Blackness everywhere.”

Gone Like Yesterday
By Janelle M. Williams
February 14, 2023

Tiny Reparations Books: “A lyrical debut novel that asks what we owe to our families, what we owe to our ancestors, and what we owe to ourselves. Janelle M. Williams’s Gone Like Yesterday employs magical realism to explore the majestic and haunting experience of being a Black woman in today’s America.”

I’m Always so Serious
By Karisma Price
February 14, 2023

Sarabande Books: “Karisma Price’s stunning debut collection is an extended meditation on Blackness, on family, on loss. Anchored in New Orleans and New York City, these poems braid personal and public histories into a cultural reckoning of past and present. Karisma Price has created a serious masterpiece, a book ‘so dark you have no other option but to call it / precious.'”

Time’s Undoing
By Cheryl A. Head
February 28, 2023

Dutton: “A searing and tender novel about a young Black journalist’s search for answers in the unsolved murder of her great-grandfather in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, decades ago — inspired by the author’s own family history.”