Small towns, close-knit communities, and, more than anything, a powerful sense of place make Southern fiction what it is. In these books, people are shaped by where they live and where they're from. "The setting is more than a place," says Kensington executive editor Selena James. "It's part of the history of the characters and can be a refuge or a reminder of the past."
Southern fiction is a category that makes sense for Kensington, which is known for publishing fiction that readers can truly escape into, from thrillers and commercial fiction to romance and more. "Kensington books deliver the kind of immersive reading experience that warrants page-turner status," says Vida Engstrand, Kensington's director of communications. "And Southern fiction, with its strong emphasis on voice and place, almost by definition transports its readers."
Author Anna Jean Mayhew explains, "Southern literature evolves from a region that was a country sundered from the motherland. We've never lost that sense of separation, so Southern literature is first about place."
Shadowed by slavery and the Civil War, Southern fiction demands a special kind of writer. "I believe that for a novel to be truly considered Southern fiction, it must be written by an author who is ‘of' the South," Engstrand says. Author Donna Everhart agrees: "There is an authenticity to the storytelling and a cadence to the language that is difficult to achieve if you aren't from here. We have a complicated history too, and unless you're born and raised in the South, it may be hard to understand how that affects the way we think, to comprehend the sense of pride." That doesn't mean, however, that you need to be from the South to read and enjoy these books.
In 2019, Kensington will publish more Southern fiction than ever before, beginning with six novels that mine the South's complicated legacies. Of the Southern fiction he acquires, Kensington editor-in-chief John Scognamilglio says, "The narrator is usually coming of age and suddenly finds herself thrust into a situation where she's dealing with problems and issues that are darker than one would expect."
Here's a look at the books Kensington has in store for Southern fiction fans this year.
The Forgiving Kind
The happiness of a 12-year-old girl living on her family's North Carolina cotton farm in the 1950s is ruptured when her father dies of a rattlesnake bite.
A 16-year-old girl shoots her father to save her sisters from his abuse. When she is sent to a psychiatric hospital, the revelation of the secret behind her crime forces the women of her family to face their past.
Over the Fence
Set during the years after prohibition, this novel of suburban turmoil follows a bootlegging couple and their seemingly perfect neighbors as their lives become recklessly intertwined, leading to blackmail and revenge.
Anna Jean Mayhew
In a predominantly black neighborhood in 1960s Charlotte, N.C., segregation forces a prosperous black woman to keep her relationship with the white father of her son a secret.
The Abolitionist's Daughter
Diane C. McPhail
This haunting debut, based partly on the author's family, illuminates a little-known aspect of Southern history: the lives of those openly opposed to slavery at a time when freeing slaves was illegal.
The Undertaker's Assistant
A former slave with an unusual profession searches for her lost family in Reconstruction-era New Orleans.
For more information about these and other Kensington titles, contact Lulu Martinez, communications manager, at LMartinez@kensingtonbooks.com.