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by Tara M. Stringfellow
Publication date: April 5, 2022
Publisher: The Dial Press
Hardcover: 272 Pages
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • READ WITH JENNA BOOK CLUB PICK AS FEATURED ON TODAY • A spellbinding debut novel tracing three generations of a Southern Black family and one daughter’s discovery that she has the power to change her family’s legacy.
Summer 1995: Ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father’s explosive temper and seek refuge at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. This is not the first time violence has altered the course of the family’s trajectory. Half a century earlier, Joan’s grandfather built this majestic house in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglass—only to be lynched days after becoming the first Black detective in the city. Joan tries to settle into her new life, but family secrets cast a longer shadow than any of them expected.
As she grows up, Joan finds relief in her artwork, painting portraits of the community in Memphis. One of her subjects is their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who claims to know something about curses, and whose stories about the past help Joan see how her passion, imagination, and relentless hope are, in fact, the continuation of a long matrilineal tradition. Joan begins to understand that her mother, her mother’s mother, and the mothers before them persevered, made impossible choices, and put their dreams on hold so that her life would not have to be defined by loss and anger—that the sole instrument she needs for healing is her paintbrush.
Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of unforgettable voices that move back and forth in time, Memphis paints an indelible portrait of inheritance, celebrating the full complexity of what we pass down, in a family and as a country: brutality and justice, faith and forgiveness, sacrifice and love.
About the author
Tara M. Stringfellow is a poet, former attorney, Northwestern University MFA graduate, and semifinalist for the Fulbright Fellowship. She has written for Collective Unrest, Minerva Rising, Jet Fuel Review, WomensArts Quarterly Journal, and Apogee Journal, among other publications.
Read more about Tara ON HER WEBSITE
“A rhapsodic hymn to Black women.”—The New York Times Book Review
“I fell in love with this family, from Joan’s fierce heart to her grandmother Hazel’s determined resilience. Tara Stringfellow will be an author to watch for years to come.”—Jacqueline Woodson, New York Times bestselling author of Red at the Bone
“Readers will come to see that Stringfellow is demonstrating the erratic movements of history, the false starts and reversals and, yes, the moments of progress that are reflected in our haphazard march toward realizing King’s vision for America. . . . With her richly impressionistic style, Stringfellow captures the changes transforming Memphis in the latter half of the 20th century.”—The Washington Post
“This vivid debut novel examines the tragedies, joys, and deep connections of one extraordinary Memphis family. . . . A story populated with unforgettable characters. Stringfellow’s prose is evocative. . . . A powerful family saga from a promising writer.”—Booklist
“A rich tapestry of women’s familial relationships . . . a well-written debut by an author worth watching for years to come . . . Recommended for anyone who appreciates Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, or Gloria Naylor.”—Library Journal (starred review)