cover image Memphis


Tara M. Stringfellow. Dial, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-23048-0

Stringfellow’s vibrant debut celebrates the resilience of women over multiple generations in a Black Memphis family, as well as the city that is central to their lives. In 1995, Miriam North flees her abusive husband with their two daughters, returning to Memphis to live with her sister, August, in the house Miriam and August grew up in. Stringfellow tells the story in bits and pieces, moving backward and forward in time; there’s a hint early on that Derek, August’s 15-year-old son, harmed Miriam’s 10-year-old daughter, Joan, when they were younger. The reunion—and the tension felt by Joan—sets the stage for an unearthing of family secrets and an exploration of the traumas each generation has survived. As the narrative stretches further into the past, the reader learns about Miriam’s mother, Hazel, and how she endured the aftermath of her husband’s lynching in the 1950s. Stringfellow romanticizes Memphis—“Magnolias were white with bloom and as fragrant as honeysuckle.... There was music. There was always music in Memphis”—even as she lays bare its history of racism and violence. Just when this starts to feel sentimental, the author makes it achingly real. This satisfies like a bowl of butter pecan. Agent: Soumeya Roberts, HG Literary. (Apr.)