SHORTLISTED FOR THE WATERSTONES DEBUT FICTION PRIZE
by Tara M Stringfellow
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Pub Date 7 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 7 Apr 2022
John Murray Press, John Murray
'Tara Stringfellow will be an author to watch for years to come . . . A stellar debut'
Jacqueline Woodson, bestselling author of Red at the Bone
'Memphis is an American epic, a tribute to life in all of its sorrow and joyful resilience'
Chloe Benjamin, bestselling author of The Immortalists
Hazel was nine months pregnant when her husband was lynched by his Memphis police squad.
Miriam had to leave her violent marriage for the sake of her two girls.
August turned her back on her dreams so she could provide for her family.
But these extraordinary women of the North family also fry green tomatoes and gut catfish and tuck their children in at night and do hair and sing all the while.
And now Joan is back where it all began....MEMPHIS. She can't change her families past...but can she change their future?
Memphis is a celebration of the enduring strength of female bonds, of what we pass down, from mother to daughter. Epic in scope yet intimate in detail, it is a vivid portrait of three generations of a Southern black family, as well as an ode to the city they call home.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 85 members
Brilliant book exploring the struggles and triumphs of a family of strong black women. The narrative moves backwards and forwards and from one generation to the next but I really enjoyed the characterisation, the descriptions Memphis and how the book tackled strong subjects so deftly. An amazing debut by Tara M Stringfellow.
What a debut by Tara M Stringfellow!
I absolutely loved this book about the North family women of Memphis - Hazel, Miriam, August, Joan and Mya.
They are black, they are strong and they are proud.
Stretching over 60 years, they share their stories and we discover how past events shaped their future.
It felt so real - I cried at their pain and smiled at their joy.
With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this arc in exchange for an honest review.
This heady, sensual book is a slow burn to begin with, but when faced with writing this good, it's impossible to put it down. Covering similar subject matter and roughly the same time periods as Red at the Bone, Memphis was similarly compelling and I look forward to seeing more novels from Tara M. Stringfellow.
Hazel is nine months pregnant when her beloved husband Myron is lynched, and the neighbours stand guard over the house all night. Almost forty years later, their daughter Miriam returns to Memphis, with her two girls Joan and Mya in tow, to stay with her half-sister August, the best singer and hairdresser in town. August and Miriam have their private sorrows, particularly when it comes to money and August's son Derek, who assaulted Joan when she was three years old. Now a talented artist, obsessed by the beauty of the neighbourhood and its inhabitants, Joan is not in a hurry to forgive Derek, who slides further into a life of crime and gang killings.
This all sounds very serious (and, like Red at the Bone, there's a 9/11 subplot involving the girls' father Jax) but I found it a very life-affirming read, reminiscent of a young Alice Walker or Toni Morrison, and the author's ability to capture the humour and looks of these women, particularly the enigmatic Miss Dawn and the clever, quirky Mya, suggests good things for the future. I'd love to see a movie of Memphis.
Joan. Her sister Mya. Their mother Miriam. Her sister August.
All together in the North family house in Memphis.
The past can't be changed. But the future can....
The women of Memphis are absolutely wonderful. You'll care so much about them it hurts....
This book is destined to be a classic in my opinion. It feels to me to be a modern day The Colour Purple, telling as it does the story of three generations of women growing up in Memphis, in America’s south. It is very uncomfortable to read in places as the women face injustice, racism and the threat of violence throughout their lives. However, the story is told with humour and warmth, the familial bonds shining from the pages. The author has created amazingly vivid characters, it would be easy to see this book adapted for screen.
I really can’t recommend this book strongly enough, it is hard to believe that it is a debut novel, I was gripped from the first page. Nothing is glossed over but the themes of justice, retribution and love seem to win the day. A stunning first novel.
I was utterly absorbed by this book. Following several generations of black women, Stringfellow weaves their stories together, flitting back and forth in time and between characters and events. This is a celebration of strength, resilience and power against all the odds.
Terrible things happen in this book, which is set in a South still deeply routed in racism and inequality. This book looks at the Civil Rights movement, poverty, economic mobility, the subjugation of women and the constant struggle to lift yourself out from under.
Having said that, this is also a celebration. A celebration of women, their power, their strength, their ability to pick themselves up and rise out of the ashes of despair. It is about community and connection and the power of people coming together.
I loved it.
Nothing I could say about this book would do it justice. It was absolutely stunning, it was gripping and so well written for a start and i went on a rollercoaster of emotions while reading it. The characters are so well developed and I have totally taken them to my heart where they will stay. I loved it and will definitely be wanting more from Tara Stringfellow
This is glorious.
Rich. Powerful. Will pull you down in one sentence and bring you back up to air with the next.
I inhaled this book and feel like I could read it forever.
It sings straight to your heart.
What an incredibly powerful story about strength, family and loss. This book is multigenerational and is based in Memphis (as the title gives away!).
I found it impossible to put this book down, and when I did it was all I could think about. It is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.
I am struggling to find anything meaningful to say about this book as anything I could say wouldn't do it justice.
Just buy it!!
Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book.
If you have any emotions whatsoever, this book will smack each of them in the face with the power of the story and the writing. The story of three generations of a black Memphis family - mainly from the women's point of view - and how racism, violence, love and anger have driven the extraordinary mother's and girls to do the best they can.
The writing style is brilliant, extremely engaging. Local vernacular used as and when, and not overused to make it a difficult read as others have done. I believe the author is a poet in her other works, and whereas this is a full blown novel the descriptions of people and places were poetic in nature.
There are some hard tales within this book; there is laughter as well. I 100% recommend this!
An absorbing, realistic debut featuring three generations of women in the same family. The familial bond is the heart of this book - the strength of these incredible Black women stems from it and is underlined by it. Trigger warning: there are difficult themes - rape, domestic abuse, poverty, racism, and more - but each is handled sensitively, and this is not a one-sided book: the characters are well-rounded, so we also see them experience happiness; we see their desires and ambition; and we can laugh along with their day-to-day joy. A thoroughly recommended read that will leave you waiting (im)patiently for Stringfellow's next book.
What a beautiful book. It travels through three generations of black women, rather inconsistently one can say, years changed as per their own accord, but not once I felt like flipping through to find out the other character's story, there was no precedence, I just liked taking whatever the book was offering, whenever it was offering it. It felt like the author was painting three canvases simultaneously and you're sitting in the audience watching her take her time and leisure to paint one, then move on to another, then another, then back to the first, there's an order that only the painter knows, and you're too much in awe of her talent to tell her to paint one completely, because you somehow know that order has a relevance, something that you know little by little, which each stroke here and there.
The first generation includes Hazel (and Myron), second includes her daughters Miriam (and Jaz) and August, and third includes Miriam's Joan and Mya (and Derek, August's son).
I can say a lot, but it'd not be just. It's a book that talks about traumas and horrors that Blacks, Black women have to endure, or have endured.
If you wish to know more then you should read.
Finished this in a few days, I was hooked. This is the coming of age story of Hazel, Miriam and Joan. Three strong women, three generations, one family in Memphis.
As the reader you are an outsider looking into the growth, the loves, the trials and journeys that these three women go through.
Hazel the grandmother living through a time when racism was openly carried out without retribution, her tragedies and her strengths she put up enduring and surviving to make a better world for her daughters. Miram the victim of domestic abuse who also becomes a single mother raising her two daughters with the help of her sister August. And lastly Joan a victim of sexual abuse and how she carries it within her and overcomes her trauma.
Certainly these characters will remain with me even now I have finished this book.
A great debut.
Wow what a debut! This is definitely going to be a book that will stay with me for a while and I can see this being adapted for the screen in the near future .
It’s a slow burn to start but this doesn’t put you off as the writing and characters are amazing and I became invested in their lives from the onset . It stretches over 60 years and flips back and forth so we get to see the events that lead to make the women who they are now . It’s not an easy read as it’s set against a backdrop of racism and injustice but the author also, uses an element of humour in her writing and the characters are just so real I was thinking about them every time I put the book down . I can’t wait to see what she writes next , wonderful novel .
The narrative moves backwards and forwards and from one generation to the next but I really enjoyed the characterisation, the descriptions Memphis and how the book tackled strong subjects so deftly.
It is not very often that a book takes me by complete surprise, but I am ecstatic to say that Memphis did exactly that. Stringfellow has managed to create a completely realistic, beautiful, heartbreaking story that is, in one word, magical. I don't remember the last time I was this enchanted by a book, much less a literary fiction novel. Stringfellow managed to make me feel for every single one of our main characters, and I know exactly how she did it: she made them matter, each of them etched into my heart from the very first pages. Each woman had their own distinct personality, distinct voice within the novel, and yet you could feel how cohesive it was. I want to know many, many more things about the North women and the people who surround them. I have no doubt about it when I say that Tara M. Stringfellow is an author we should expect incredibly big things from - Memphis is simply the start. A magnificent debut, indeed, landing at 5/5 stars from this reviewer.
Thanks to the publishers and Net Galley for my free e-copy
Wow this book hit on so many different levels. I loved that it was set in Memphis. I loved that it was told through out the generations of black women in a family. I loved how it flicked back and forth and each part revealing more and more secrets and heart ache. I loved how quick I devoured the story and felt connections to most of the main characters. The different eras showed different ways of life but overall hope, love and strength carried on growing.
I also loved learning about history of the country. The hairstyles and day to day activities. Also the food. mmm it made my mouth water reading the rich descriptions of the hearty southern food, it was as if it was in front of me on a plate sometimes.
Difficult topics are covered really well. It has different views from different characters and lots of stories can be seen from others points of view which I liked. Topics covered include domestic violence, death, secrets and family.
I will definitely be recommending this book and looking out for more by this author.
This is a powerful book that makes for illuminating but deeply uncomfortable reading at times. Spotlighting the abuse and injustice suffered by three generations of black women of the North family that sorely tests their familial bonds and their individual strengths. Memphis is also a story of female courage, resilience and reinvention and a dedication to civil rights. Moving backwards and forwards between 1937 to the early 2000s, the North women’s fates interlink with broader societal events, such as the 1960s US-American civil rights movements and the 9/11 terror attacks, this is a novel that deserves as wide a readership as possible.
Fans of Yaa Gyasi, Maya Angelou and Bernice McFadden will enjoy this book. I love multi-generation stories, so this is the perfect book for me. It’s so well written, I love the character development and descriptions. Themes of love, loss, family and resilience come through as well. Overall a great read, and one I’ll be recommending to friends and family.
Memphis is an utterly spellbinding family epic following three generations of Black women in the American South. It's the kind of novel that sweeps you up from its opening chapter and immerses you in its world, weaving together 70 years of love and trauma. While it can be a little heavy-handed with its emotive messaging, the characters and their stories are written with such sincerity that you can't help but mourn and celebrate along with them.
A compelling generational saga, Memphis is a powerful homage to Black female resilience.
Undoubtedly one of the best books I've ever read. It completely blew me away. Spanning 3 generations, (from 1930s to the 2000s) "Memphis" delves deep into the history of the North family. I don't want to go into detail for fear of spoilers but I completely fell in love with this book and was totally immersed in the cast of characters. Somebody PLEASE option this for film/TV! An utterly stunning debut from Tara Stringfellow. I want to read everything she ever writes. "Memphis" is epic, in every sense of the word.
Brilliant book! Gorgeously written story of a southern black family spanning three generations. Talk about strong women!! A must read.
A multi-generational family tale, this read spans about 70 years with all the richness you would imagine.
With a whole host of voices, I can imagine this being an amazing audiobook, but nevertheless it came to life off the pages and I felt myself there in Memphis amongst the sights, sounds and smells that Stringfellow conjures up.
Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publishers for letting me access an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback.
Three generations of strong Memphis women - powerful and well written, heartbreaking but full of hope. Great debut!
This book! It’s an absolute masterpiece that broke me down and then built me right back up again. The inspirational women of the North family and the city they call home come alive on the pages, and the love that binds them courses through every page like blood through a beating heart. Everyone should read this, it is STUNNING. I can already tell it’s going to be my top read of the year.
A great strong family of beautiful women who you will meet and fall in love with.
This book was like reading poetry so beautiful and real i was sad when this book came to an end, i felt like i had an extended family while reading this.
Life, love and passion is what makes this book so amazing.
I’m writing this review through tears. What a powerhouse of a novel. Moving, shocking, funny, hopeful and everything in between. This story of three generations of black women set in Memphis is definitely going to be one of my books of the year. It’s written so beautifully, with such a strong sense of place and time, but it’s the characters, oh the characters who give this novel such heart. Every single person who appears in this book appears larger than life, they are so vivid. Just read it.
What an amazing book!
Narrated in turns by the female members of the North family,it encapsulates the hardshipsendured and the amazind friendships forged by these women.
With beautiful descriptive prose interspersed with horrors from their tough lives, this is one book which shouts out to be read.
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