• Gaili Schoen

Memphis

Updated: May 23


"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

"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... 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."

...as 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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