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  • Writer's pictureGaili Schoen


"For years in this country there was no one for black men to vent their rage on except black women. And for years black women accepted that rage -- even regarded that acceptance as their unpleasant duty." -- Toni Morrison, Epigraph, Memphis

Memphis, by Tara M. Stringfellow, is one of the most engrossing and immersive novels I have read this year. Stringfellow tells the story from the points of view of three generations of a Southern Black family from the 1930s, through the early 2000s. It celebrates the beauty and grace of black culture:

"Talking Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Faulkner, they agreed how none of them, not a single one of those white boys, could write a sentence as good as Zora Neale Hurston." well as lamenting the pain, the brutality and the agonizing injustices:

"Mama had told us countless stories of Papa Myron....Mama and Auntie August would mention his lynching infrequently, but it loomed large in all our minds. I wondered whether he'd ever been scared on the front. If he felt more scared there or when his fellow officers turned on him. A man who loved big enough to build grandma Hazel the house we all lived in now -- had he killed, when it came to it? "

When her formerly loving husband becomes violent in their North Carolina home, Miriam takes her daughters Joan and Mya, to live with her sister August, back home in Memphis:

"They may have been poor -- the lights may have been turned off in the middle of a dinner of turnip greens and pigs' feet; Miriam's two girls sent to hunt for candles, crawling like cockroaches in the darkness -- but they were north women. They laughed long and loud whenever they could. They laughed often. They let their hair down in August's [beauty] shop."

After narrowly surviving the 9/11 attacks, Joan's father comes to visit his family:

"The anger I had felt for years at my father was what I had instead of him. It was all I had of him. So, I carried it with me always, like a rose quartz in my palm. And it was slowly disappearing, my quartz....I realized, as time passed in the kitchen...that love was wearing me down. Love, like a tide, just washing over and over that piece of rock. And I believed that only God -- and maybe Miss Dawn -- could change a tide."

Though Memphis is a difficult read for its unflinching descriptions of violence and oppression, it is beautifully written, and gave me deeper insights into the black experience throughout modern history. The book ends on a hopeful note of forgiveness, understanding and renewal. I highly recommend this beautiful book to everyone of all ages, teen to elder. Memphis would make a great buddy read for a grandparent and grandchild!

Hardcover 252 pages, Audiobook 9 hours, 23 minutes. My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 on Goodreads -- join our RipeReads group on Goodreads for more book recommendations featuring mature adults. Order Memphis below on Amazon or better yet, at your local bookstore!

Memphis, by Tara M. Stringfellow: 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 -- Goodreads

Do you prefer to listen to audiobooks, read on an E-reader, or do you love the sight, smell and feel of a hardcover book? I must admit that I do all three, but buying a new hardcover book with a shiny, colorful cover sets my heart aflutter!

What are you reading? I'm still enjoying The Summer Place and Remarkably Bright Creatures. Books bring me such immense pleasure! Happy Reading, Gaili


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