Skip to main content

News & Reviews

By Brandon Taylor
Riverhead Books, 2021
$18.59 hardcover, $15.26 paperback, $13.99 Kindle
Genre: Short Fiction
Review by Jace Rose Malmquist

Taylor was born and raised in Alabama with that fiery Southern warmth present in his writing. When NPR’s Sam Sanders asked him what the collection in Filthy Animals was about, Taylor said that it answers questions particularly relevant right now, like, "How do I interact with other people? How do I go to parties? How do I figure out how to socialize and connect with people again?” And his stories do answer these questions; they answer them in the forms of eyes looking and mouths moving; in the way people come to you, leave you, and circle back to you again.
Read more...

By Ed Southern
Blair/Carolina Wren Press, 2021
Hardcover: $25.95
Genre: Nonfiction; Sport History; Sociology
Review by Edward Journey

About midway through Fight Songs: A Story of Love and Sports in a Complicated South, Ed Southern states that he’s “working on making [Wake Forest] every Alabama fan’s second-favorite team.” I might be an easy convert; a Baptist-affiliated university whose athletic teams are called the “Demon Deacons” will always garner my attention. Southern, a Wake Forest graduate with strong ongoing ties to his alma mater, tells a compelling story of how he also became a staunch fan of Alabama football. Fight Songs is a challenging must-read for all fans of Southern collegiate athletics with some Atlanta Braves and NASCAR sidetracks thrown in for good measure.
Read more...

By Hank Lazer and Holland Hopson
BlazeVox, 2021
Paperback: $20.00
Genre: Poetry
Review by Edward Journey

The last time we checked in with poet Hank Lazer, author of thirty-two books of poetry and 2015 recipient of the Harper Lee Award, he was pondering themes of plague and survival, anger and calm, and life under a wannabe American autocrat in COVID19 SUTRAS. Lazer’s newest book, field recordings of mind in morning, includes writing in a less turbulent vein from pre-pandemic 2018 and 2019. With field recordings …, wisdom and solace emerge on every page, despite acknowledgements that “a planet in peril” dictates that “noticing is no longer enough.” On this planet, Lazer presciently writes, “we were / an entertaining / violent / short-sighted / interruption.”
Read more...

By Rodney Terich Leonard
Four Way Books, 2021
Paperback: $16.95
Genre: Poetry
Review by H.M. Cotton

Rodney Terich Leonard brings to us poetry steeped in a rich melodic tradition. This debut collection, Sweetgum & Lightning, pulls from musical roots. Herein, lines of jazz, the blues, real soulful music, reach out to grab the reader. Leonard takes ownership of the language and bends sound and sense into a chorus of nouns stacks on top of each other. What you have here is a sort of gospel where song and testimony join hands to tell us the ordeals of this world. Here we find truth in a wild collision of sound. The collection is divided into three sections. Each of which is offset with song lyrics.
Read more...

By Rick Bragg
Knopf, 2021
Hardback: $26.00
Genre: Biography; Memoir
Review by Tucker Coombe

The opening of Rick Bragg’s new memoir depicts a gorgeous, luxuriant landscape—“tangled pines and mountain pasture, fractured by dappled sunlight…blue jays, yellowhammers, and an emerald blur of hummingbirds”—that provides a stunning, if unlikely, backdrop for the author’s own desolation. The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and his People, Lost and Found opens in the autumn of 2017. Bragg, following chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has returned to live with his eighty-three-year-old mother on her farm in Jacksonville, Alabama. “I was in remission, but what lingered in me did not show in the lab work or in an MRI. The treatment muddled my thinking, confused the colors, and even burned holes in my memory.”
Read more...

By Joy Harjo
W.W. Norton, 2021
Hardback: $25.00
Genre: Nonfiction; Memoir
Review by Pam Kingsbury

Describing herself as “being equally left and right-brained," Joy Harjo has made her life’s work as a writer and a teacher, as well as a daughter, mother, grandmother, and now matriarch, taking up the ideals of poetic justice, crazy bravery, and what it means to be a poet warrior. Her beliefs that “we are all here to serve each other” and “poet is synonymous with truth” have become more pronounced with each successive project. The first Native Poet Laureate of the United States and the second poet (after Robert Pinsky) to hold the office three times embraces with more confidence her roles as poet, artist, mystic, and prophetess in her second memoir.
Read more...

By Christy Alexander Hallberg
Livingston Press: The University of West Alabama, 2021
Paperback: $18.95
Genre: Fiction
Review by Frye Gaillard

With her new novel, Searching for Jimmy Page, Christy Alexander Hallberg takes her place as one of the bright new stars in Southern fiction. She has given us a coming-of-age story based on a premise that could have fallen anywhere between sad cliché and literary page turner. In Hallberg’s deft and confident hands, it is most assuredly the latter.
Read more...

By James Braziel
Livingston Press: The University of West Alabama, 2021
Hardcover: $29.95; Paperback: $19.95
Genre: Short Fiction
Review by Edward Journey

James Braziel’s This Ditch-Walking Love is an impressionistic collection of short stories and sketches exploring themes of strife and defeat in rural Alabama, near the Locust Fork. The location is described as “not a county of rivers – just rills and rivulets that widen into creeks.” Some stories in the collection are hypnotic collages of time, as episode follows episode in an order that, while not always chronological, is always appropriate to the narrative.
Read more...

By William Gay
Livingston Press, The University of West Alabama, 2021
E-Book: $19.95; Hardcover: $26.95
Genre: Fiction
Review by Edward Journey

According to William Gay lore, when he first encountered a dictionary, he read it from cover to cover. A reader might reasonably speculate that he spent his writing career trying to use up all of those words. Here’s a horrible example: the protagonist “… screamed a cry of outrage and bereavement and utter revulsion as should have sent the fabric of night to whatever light lay beyond and stitched a momentary caesura in the clockwork of the world itself and then he fled blindly back into the night.” And here are some beautiful, and more typical, counterpoints: Gay describes an early spring as “blurred green motion” and, stopping for a drink on a woodland path, his protagonist finds a “deep cloistered coolness with a damp reek of peppermint.” Gay is at his best in his descriptions of overlooked natural environments which contrast with the ugly world of the downtrodden all around. The language is visceral and raw.
Read more...

By Marlin Barton
Regal House Publishing, 2021
Paperback: $19.95; Special Edition Hardcover: $28.95
Genre: Fiction; Novel
Review by Frye Gaillard

With his latest book, Children of Dust, Alabama novelist Marlin Barton has taken his place with the finest Southern writers of our times – with the likes of Ron Rash or William Gay – and if anything, that is understating the case. When it comes to understanding the human condition, and its intricate intertwining with the history of our place, there is not a better writer anywhere.
Read more...

By Angela Jackson-Brown
Thomas Nelson, 2021
Paperback: $17.95
Genre: Fiction; Novel
Review by Kwoya Fagin Maples

Though I was intrigued by the synopsis of the novel, I began reading it skeptically. When Stars Rain Down is set in the summer of 1936 in Parsons, Georgia. The main character is Opal, a seventeen-year-old who longs to be a “typical” carefree teenager. Abandoned by her mother, Opal is raised by her Granny within the protective embrace of her family and community. Both Opal and her grandmother cook and clean for a white widow named Miss Peggy and her mentally ill daughter, Miss Corinne. This novel would offer the first time I’d seen a story told from Opal’s unique point of view: a teenage domestic worker.

Read more...

By Francis X. Walter
NewSouth Books, 2021
Hardcover: $28.95
Genre: Nonfiction; Memoir
Review by Edward Journey

When asked to review Francis X. Walter’s new book about his role as a pastor and activist in the Civil Rights Movement, I hesitated, knowing that Black civil rights activists are justifiably resistant to the narrative of the “white savior.” I needn’t have worried. The humility that permeates Francis X. Walter’s book, From Preaching to Meddling: A White Minister in the Civil Rights Movement, makes any apologia unnecessary. Walter is a modest, Mobile-born, Jesuit-educated Episcopal priest analyzing his role in addressing the wrongs of his predecessors and contemporaries. The memoir is about one man’s path through life and the many epiphanies he encounters along the way as he hones a fervent belief in equal justice and racial equity.

Read more...

By Robert McKean
Livingston Press, 2020
Hardcover: $25.95; paperback: $18.95; e-book: $16.95
Genre: Short Fiction
Review by Edward Journey

The Appalachian foothill towns of western Pennsylvania were made mythic in Michael Cimino’s 1978 film, The Deer Hunter. Robert McKean’s collection of short stories, I’ll Be Here for You: Diary of a Town, brings the mythic down to earth again with intertwined stories of the more prosaic lives of Ganaego, Pennsylvania, his fictional and fading former steel town. I’ll Be Here for You is the 2019 winner of the Tartt Fiction Award, awarded by Livingston Press for a first collection of short fiction.

Read more...

By Blake Ells
The History Press, 2020
Paperback: $21.99
Genre: History; Nonfiction
Review by Edward Journey

House-hunting for a move back to Birmingham in the spring, I passed the Southtown Court projects going toward the Expressway underpass on the way to look at a place in Highland Park. Just before the underpass, the Nick still stood in its converted convenience store location (“B’ham’s Finest Qwik Mart,” the sign used to say). My young realtor was waiting at the condo when I pulled up. “It’s good to know the Nick still rocks,” I said in greeting.

“Yeah, I’ve spent some time at the Nick,” he responded.

“So have I,” I said, and realized that my nights at the Nick predate my realtor’s birth.
Read more...

By Mike Bunn
NewSouth Books, 2020
Hardcover: $28.95
Genre: History; Nonfiction
Review by Edward Journey

Fourteenth Colony is a well-documented and researched exploration of British West Florida and its significance during the American Revolution. Bunn acknowledges in the Preface that “there are technically multiple competitors for the title of Britain’s fourteenth American colony, ranging from neighboring East Florida to several concurrent holdings in Canada.” His choice of West Florida, however, emphasizes the strategic value of the region and the many missteps the British made when they controlled the colony from 1763 to 1783.
Read more...

  • ASCA
    ASCA
  • AHA
    AHA
  • SCAC
    SCAC
  • DYS
    DYS
Close