Book Reviews


A new essay collection edited by Kristopher Ray provides a scholarly look at Tennessee’s origins

by Ralph Bowden

March 26, 2014 In Before the Volunteer State, Kristofer Ray has gathered essays from eight scholars that add layers of complexity to the superficial story Tennesseans learn in school. The real story of Tennessee begins much earlier, in the anthropological records left by Native Americans as they adapted to European contacts. Then came the influx of settlers and frontier fortune hunters, and then the wars. The birth of Tennessee was not as simple, painless, or edifying as we may have thought.

Published Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Girl Their Hymns Forgot

In her debut poetry collection, Christina Stoddard grapples with the vulnerability of children in a violent world

by Erica Wright

March 24, 2015 In her debut collection, Hive, Nashville poet Christina Stoddard writes in the voice of a teenage Mormon girl about violence and its lifelong effects. Stoddard will launch her book on March 31, 2015, at 6:30 p.m. at Parnassus Books in Nashville.

Published Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Light, Community, and Motion

Charlotte Pence’s poetry collection examines the parallels between ecology and mental illness

by Erica Wright

March 20, 2015 In her new poetry collection, Many Small Fires, Charlotte Pence writes about her father’s schizophrenia through the lens of ecology. Pence will read with Adam Prince on March 26, 2015, at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville; with Adam Day on March 27, 2015, at Belmont University in Nashville; and with Bradford Tice on March 30, 2015, at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. All events are free and open to the public.

Published Friday, 20 March 2015

Marching On

The graphic trilogy March, Congressman John Lewis’s memoir of the American civil-rights movement, continues with a focus on Nashville’s Freedom Riders

by Michael Ray Taylor

March 19, 2015 Impressive artwork by Nate Powell, a gripping story by Andrew Aydin, and an eyewitness view of history from U.S. Representative John Lewis combine flawlessly in March: Book Two, the second volume of Lewis’s graphic memoir of the American civil-rights movement. This installment highlights Lewis’s Nashville-based efforts to launch Freedom Riders onto segregated bus lines throughout the South.

Published Thursday, 19 March 2015

Coal Noir

Jason Miller explores the bleak wilds of coal country in Down Don’t Bother Me, a darkly comic take on the hardboiled detective genre

by Ed Tarkington

March 18, 2015 Jason Miller’s debut crime novel, Down Don’t Bother Me, is a clever variation on Raymond Chandler-style noir with the blue-collar soul of Chris Offutt and the wry black humor of Tom Waits. Miller will give a reading at Parnassus Books in Nashville at 6:30 p.m. on March 24, 2015, and at The Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis at 6:30 p.m. on March 31.

Published Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Love, Survival, and the Power of the Press

LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s Jam on the Vine tells the story of a young black journalist in the Jim Crow era

by Maria Browning

March 17, 2014 Ivoe Williams, the heroine of LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s debut novel, Jam on the Vine, is an African-American girl born in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Texas to poor, hardworking parents. The story of Ivoe’s trials and triumphs as an aspiring journalist provides a vivid depiction of the black experience during one of the ugliest periods in American history. Barnett will appear at Parnassus Books in Nashville on March 23, 2015, at 6:30 p.m.

Published Tuesday, 17 March 2015

“I'd Rather Be There than Any Place I Know”

In Beale Street Dynasty, Preston Lauterbach chronicles the tumultuous history of Memphis

by Randy Fox

March 12, 2015 Preston Lauterbach’s Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis paints a beguiling portrait of American ambition, ingenuity, tragedy, and the birth of the blues. Lauterbach will discuss the book at Rhodes College in Memphis on March 19, 2015, at 6 p.m. in the McCallum Ballroom of the Bryan Campus Life Center. The event, part of the three-day Beale Street Symposium, is free and open to the public.

Published Thursday, 12 March 2015

What Makes Us Who We Are?

In her debut novel, Memphis native Moriah McStay explores the way our experiences shape us

by Tracy Barrett

March 11, 2015 Fiona Doyle’s face was horribly scarred when she was a little girl. But what if the accident had never happened? Moriah McStay’s Everything That Makes You follows Fiona and an alternative, unscarred version of herself, exploring how much (and how little) would change if we could turn back the clock and “fix” what we think is wrong with our lives. McStay will read from her debut novel at The Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis on March 17, 2015, at 6:30 p.m.

Published Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Crazy in Mississippi

Jamie Kornegay’s Soil introduces a Faulknerian character stuck in a world of Internet conspiracies and noisy four-wheelers

by Michael Ray Taylor

March 10, 2015 What would happen if the grandson of a Snopes studied sustainable agriculture and Internet-fueled apocalypse scenarios? Nothing good, as Jamie Kornegay suggests in Soil, his beautifully written debut novel. Kornegay will read at Parnassus Books in Nashville on March 17, 2015, and at The Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis on March 18, 2015. Both events will take place at 6:30 p.m.

Published Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Show Business

In The Tennessee Theatre journalist Jack Neely celebrates Knoxville’s landmark movie palace

by Tristan Charles

March 6, 2015 What really matters to a city’s identity are the places that maintain a singular character over decades of change and still find a way to coexist with their contemporary neighbors. In Knoxville, as journalist Jack Neely points out in The Tennessee Theatre, that distinctive personality is formed by its surviving movie palace.

Published Friday, 6 March 2015

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