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Memphis

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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. In the summer of 1995, ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father's violence, seeking refuge at her mother's ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, Joan's grandfather built this 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. In the summer of 1995, ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father's violence, seeking refuge at her mother's ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, 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 Memphis. This wasn't the first time violence altered the course of Joan's family's trajectory, and she knows it won't be the last. Longing to become an artist, Joan pours her rage and grief into sketching portraits of the women of North Memphis--including their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who seems to know something about curses. Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of voices, Memphis weaves back and forth in time to show how the past and future are forever intertwined. It is only when Joan comes to see herself as a continuation of a long matrilineal tradition--and the women in her family as her guides to healing--that she understands that her life does not have to be defined by vengeance. That the sole weapon she needs is her paintbrush. Inspired by the author's own family history, Memphis--the Black fairy tale she always wanted to read--explores the complexity of what we pass down, not only in our families, but in our country: police brutality and justice, powerlessness and freedom, fate and forgiveness, doubt and faith, sacrifice and love.


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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. In the summer of 1995, ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father's violence, seeking refuge at her mother's ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, Joan's grandfather built this 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. In the summer of 1995, ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father's violence, seeking refuge at her mother's ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, 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 Memphis. This wasn't the first time violence altered the course of Joan's family's trajectory, and she knows it won't be the last. Longing to become an artist, Joan pours her rage and grief into sketching portraits of the women of North Memphis--including their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who seems to know something about curses. Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of voices, Memphis weaves back and forth in time to show how the past and future are forever intertwined. It is only when Joan comes to see herself as a continuation of a long matrilineal tradition--and the women in her family as her guides to healing--that she understands that her life does not have to be defined by vengeance. That the sole weapon she needs is her paintbrush. Inspired by the author's own family history, Memphis--the Black fairy tale she always wanted to read--explores the complexity of what we pass down, not only in our families, but in our country: police brutality and justice, powerlessness and freedom, fate and forgiveness, doubt and faith, sacrifice and love.

30 review for Memphis

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    An engrossing story about three generations of women in Memphis. I love the details and how Memphis is a character too. There is a really nice sprawl to the narrative as it crosses time back and forth. I do wish more time had been given to Hazel’s story with stronger connections between her story and those of August, Miriam, Joan and Mya. Also, why didn’t Mya get any chapters? But I loved this novel overall. Stringfellow is a consummate storyteller.

  2. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    3.5 stars Spanning three generations of a Southern Black family, this debut follows the women in the North family as they face many of life’s traumas and challenges. The author is a poet and the writing is beautiful. Anyone who reads my reviews knows I do not like flowery writing with an abundance of descriptive writing, often described as “poetic”. This book strikes the perfect balance, without overdoing either of those things.   The narrative is non-linear, moving randomly between multiple chara 3.5 stars Spanning three generations of a Southern Black family, this debut follows the women in the North family as they face many of life’s traumas and challenges. The author is a poet and the writing is beautiful. Anyone who reads my reviews knows I do not like flowery writing with an abundance of descriptive writing, often described as “poetic”. This book strikes the perfect balance, without overdoing either of those things.   The narrative is non-linear, moving randomly between multiple characters and eras. It was an odd choice as it serves to only confuse the reader. The “voices” of the characters are so similar that I found it difficult to remember who was narrating and which era I was in.   This is character-driven novel, which I love, but in this case, I wish it had a bit more plot to drive the story forward.  There’s a lot covered in 255 pages: the rape of a child (off the page), domestic abuse, lynching (again, off the page), unfulfilled dreams, racism, a wayward son, and more. However, the main focus isn’t on these tragedies. The heart of the novel is in the relationships between the women and their struggle to survive and triumph over adversity. I particularly loved the dynamic between the two sisters, Miriam and August, although one choice in particular involving Miriam and her daughters was difficult to fathom. August was a delightful character, and my favorite, although I would have preferred the anger and hate directed towards God to be toned down. I vacillated between 3 and 4 stars for several days since finishing the book. The writing is worthy of 5 stars, but there were aspects of the story which I loved and certain themes that I did not, including the ending. However, it did inspire a terrific discussion with my reading buddy, Marialyce. * please note the n word is used casually and frequently in this book, not as a racial slur, but by blacks referring to one another. It seems a strange choice to me, as it seems to be used primarily in rap music and by gang members. It is jarring and offensive to see it used anywhere, but especially in an educated and accomplished black family. Classics are banned in schools for doing the same. This was a Jenna pick, and I hope some of our questions/reservations will be answered in the author interview.   In the dedication, the author said she wrote a “black fairy tale”, and I understand that to mean I shouldn’t expect everything in the book to be realistic, and it is not. But the overriding theme of a home, family and community that offers unconditional love and the redemptive power of forgiveness is a beautiful thing, even if imperfect.   The author’s tribute to her family in the acknowledgements was lovely. Unfortunately, she also chose to end the section on a sour note with mentioning restaurants throughout the world by name that have treated her with dignity, throwing the U.S. under the bus. Racism is rampant in most countries, including those in Europe, and EVERYONE needs to do better.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Tara M. Stringfellow's beautifully written and moving debut charts the lives of 3 generations of black women, the sorrows, trauma, tragedy, poverty, violence, domestic and sexual abuse, sacrifice and heartbreak, and the consequences on the generations that follow. A blend of fact and fiction, the story takes places amidst the background of significant events in American history, such as the civil rights movement and the 2001 9/11 attacks, and the experience and impact of Southern American racism Tara M. Stringfellow's beautifully written and moving debut charts the lives of 3 generations of black women, the sorrows, trauma, tragedy, poverty, violence, domestic and sexual abuse, sacrifice and heartbreak, and the consequences on the generations that follow. A blend of fact and fiction, the story takes places amidst the background of significant events in American history, such as the civil rights movement and the 2001 9/11 attacks, and the experience and impact of Southern American racism. Miriam finds herself escaping a violent partner and marriage with her two daughters, Joan and Mya, and with few choices open to her, she heads to Douglass, Memphis, Tennessee, to her family's ancestral home, built by her grandfather, a black detective, who was lynched, whilst her grandmother, Hazel, was pregnant. In a non-linear narrative that goes back and forth in time, the exact nature of the horrors, hopes, dreams, love and challenges of the lives and what happened to the women, and their battles to survive, are slowly revealed. Miriam's sister, August, who has lost her faith in god and men, is having issues with her son, Derek. August welcomes Miriam and her daughters, she is a independent woman, with strong and supportive links in the community. A traumatised Joan finds solace and healing through art and the pictures she paints. There are a wide range of characters in the novel, vibrant and skilfully drawn, with each of the women having a distinctive voice. This is a heartbreaking read, which I loved with its celebration of the strength and resilience of black women, of family, friendships and the community, in the face of the most adverse of circumstances. They have to deal with the poverty, inequalities, and the grief, despair and pain of the past, whilst trying to build and forge a future. This is such a terrifically memorable multigenerational family debut by Stringfellow, that it has me really looking forward to what she comes up with next. Many thanks to the publisher for the ARC.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Memphis is an engrossing novel featuring the lives of three generations of a Southern Black family living in Memphis, Tennessee. The narrative takes place from 1937-2003. The timeline skips about from chapter to chapter, but this isn’t as disturbing as one might initially think. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the women from the North family—Hazel, her daughters Miriam and August, and Miriam’s daughter Joan. Miriam’s second daughter Mya also plays a significant role. The st Memphis is an engrossing novel featuring the lives of three generations of a Southern Black family living in Memphis, Tennessee. The narrative takes place from 1937-2003. The timeline skips about from chapter to chapter, but this isn’t as disturbing as one might initially think. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the women from the North family—Hazel, her daughters Miriam and August, and Miriam’s daughter Joan. Miriam’s second daughter Mya also plays a significant role. The story also includes the men in their lives, but this novel belongs to the women. The storyline weaves in and out of historic milestones during the time, including World War II, the civil rights movement, and 9/11. It covers multiple themes including domestic abuse, deep loss, failed dreams, faith/lack of faith, the power of community and friendship, and the sheer challenge of just surviving. The prose is sublime, and the characters are realistic as are their stories. I felt drawn into their lives, and I will miss these people. Though there is much hardship in this story, there is also hopefulness, joy, and achievement. This novel will make you feel and will make you think. I recommend it for all readers of literary fiction and family drama. I look forward to seeing what’s next for this debut novelist. On a personal note, many thanks to my Goodreads friend Cheri for recommending this book for me. Thank you also Net Galley, Random House Publishing Group/The Dial Press. and Ms. Tara Stringfellow for an advanced copy. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Three generations of black southern women, set in Memphis. We follow the lives of these remarkable women for over seventy years as they struggle through some tough challenges. We hear from Hazel, August and Miriam, Hazels daughters and Miriam's daughter, Joan. Joans story also includes her younger sister Mya. A family who is extremely close and one with which I felt for and grew to love. They face a changing neighborhood, their home in Memphis now controlled by two conflicting gangs. A rare and di Three generations of black southern women, set in Memphis. We follow the lives of these remarkable women for over seventy years as they struggle through some tough challenges. We hear from Hazel, August and Miriam, Hazels daughters and Miriam's daughter, Joan. Joans story also includes her younger sister Mya. A family who is extremely close and one with which I felt for and grew to love. They face a changing neighborhood, their home in Memphis now controlled by two conflicting gangs. A rare and disturbed family member, spousal abuse, even the horror of 9/11, all seen through their eyes. How they weather these tragedies, how they maintain their hopes and dreams of better things and do it together, is the story. The strength of these women to survive and thrive, how they lean on and learn from each other, is formidable. A very worthy read and one I highly recommend. ARC from Edelweiss.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brandice

    Wow, Memphis was excellent, some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time. In 1995, at the age of 10, Joan arrives in Memphis with her mom, Miriam, and younger sister, Mya. They return to the house where Miriam grew up and her sister, August, now lives. There are men included in this book — fathers, spouses, sons — but the story is truly about the Black women of this family. It’s a family saga, shifting between 3 generations of women and while the sound of nonlinear stories doesn’t always ap Wow, Memphis was excellent, some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time. In 1995, at the age of 10, Joan arrives in Memphis with her mom, Miriam, and younger sister, Mya. They return to the house where Miriam grew up and her sister, August, now lives. There are men included in this book — fathers, spouses, sons — but the story is truly about the Black women of this family. It’s a family saga, shifting between 3 generations of women and while the sound of nonlinear stories doesn’t always appeal to me, it worked well here. Though this is a fictional story, it’s frustrating to know how little some things have changed over the last several decades. Memphis has no shortage of hardship and tragedy as the women and girls contend with challenges in life, but it also shows the power of family bonds and strong community, and has some hopefulness. I felt very invested in these characters and flew through this book — It’s one I know I’ll be thinking about for a long time. Tara Stringfellow is a fantastic writer and I hope she writes more in the future!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    There is a mesmerizing quiet beauty in this story, while also sharing a darkness that permeates the lives of these characters. The story of a Black family from Memphis whose story is shared through some of the most lovely prose I’ve found in a debut, a story so heartfelt, with so much heartbreak, but also love. A history of abuse over generations, secrets, trauma. The beauty of Memphis, the music, the fragrance of the magnolia blooms set against the history of racism. The good, the bad, and the There is a mesmerizing quiet beauty in this story, while also sharing a darkness that permeates the lives of these characters. The story of a Black family from Memphis whose story is shared through some of the most lovely prose I’ve found in a debut, a story so heartfelt, with so much heartbreak, but also love. A history of abuse over generations, secrets, trauma. The beauty of Memphis, the music, the fragrance of the magnolia blooms set against the history of racism. The good, the bad, and the very ugly, including some notable historic moments in time. This goes back and forth in time, sharing the stories of the generations that came before in small pieces of time. Over time, the story is revealed in much the same way that a puzzle comes together, one piece at a time - until all the pieces are in place and it is revealed as a stunning work of art. Family secrets withheld for generations are unfurled, the traumas endured shared which allows each generation to understand the one that came before a little better. The things they’ve witnessed, and silently bore through the years, the tears shed in solitude, the dark moments they endured. An exquisitely shared story of the bonds of family, the women who show up for their children, sharing themselves and their love even when they are feeling exhausted and broken themselves. A story of life, of love, of heartbreak, the traumas imprinted on those who came before. A story of the lives of Black men, women and children, faith, mercy and the sacrifices made in the name of love. Published: 05 Apr 2022 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group - Random House, The Dial Press

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    3.5 stars Do you enjoy a book that leaves you with more questions that it seems to answer? For lack of a better word this book seemed filled with so many happenings, feelings and instances that it left me in a bit of awe of what indeed was the purpose. Was it that life was circular, that all what goes round comes round, or was there something I missed some underlying reason that I feel troubled after reading this story? Filled with lots of promise, there were things the truly bothered me about the 3.5 stars Do you enjoy a book that leaves you with more questions that it seems to answer? For lack of a better word this book seemed filled with so many happenings, feelings and instances that it left me in a bit of awe of what indeed was the purpose. Was it that life was circular, that all what goes round comes round, or was there something I missed some underlying reason that I feel troubled after reading this story? Filled with lots of promise, there were things the truly bothered me about the telling. The first of which was the use of the "n" word which always seemed to hit a nerve in my reading. I know black rap stars use it, but it still bothered me. The other thing that I found hard to keep up with were the abrupt changes in the timeline which often left me wondering where I was and who was it, I now was reading of. The characters seemed to get muddled and the story seemed to be riddled with unfinished business. Perhaps this was intentional, for human business is often unfinished. While I love the setting of Memphis with the author's beautiful description, I often wondered where this story was headed. It seemed for the bulk of the story to wander about without a true heading, like a boat adrift in the current. The overemphasis on God hate was also one of the themes that seemed overdone. Certainly, growing up in the South for black people was no charming environment, but for the life of me I couldn't fathom how this family comprised of women mostly with special talents chose to hide said talents under a rock. The other incomprehensible thing was a mother allowing her daughters to be in a home where one of her daughters had been raped at age three by her cousin. The cousin for a time lived in the same house and as a mother, I felt that living with a known rapist was a step beyond normalcy for a mother. The writing though sometimes a bit flowery was really good, and certainly the author's talent is abundantly shown in her ability to tell a story. You could visually imagine the area with its flowering magnolias and wild blackberries, the very vision of Southern living. I am not use to being befuddled about a story, but I was here. I would have preferred a more linear book, but then again, I was not the author, nor was I sitting atop her shoulder waiting to amass her thoughts. I would imagine this book providing many discussions for members of book clubs, as perhaps together they could puzzle out the way things were flowing in this story. In Tara's words after the story, I was mesmerized by the story of her family, but couldn't for the life of me understand why she would include a list of restaurants that treated her with dignity. Of course, in her telling the US was at the bottom as if we are the only country who had racism! It's wrong to think so and many will attest to the racial component that runs through most countries of the world. It is fortunately something that we and other nations are trying hard to overcome it's long-ago shadow. Overall, I did enjoy the telling and certainty will be on the lookout for more of Tara Stringfellow's books. Thank you to Tara M. Stringfellow, Dial Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this book which has published already on April 5, 2022 Thanks, Jan, for reading this one with me. We had some discussions over this one!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Memphis has played a complicated role in America’s racial history. In the mid-19th century, thousands of enslaved Black people were bought and sold at the market owned by Nathan Bedford Forrest, who later became a Confederate general and then the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. In the mid-20th century, Memphis was so central to the fight for civil rights that Martin Luther King Jr. went there during the ​​sanitation workers’ strike to preach “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” The next day, Memphis has played a complicated role in America’s racial history. In the mid-19th century, thousands of enslaved Black people were bought and sold at the market owned by Nathan Bedford Forrest, who later became a Confederate general and then the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. In the mid-20th century, Memphis was so central to the fight for civil rights that Martin Luther King Jr. went there during the ​​sanitation workers’ strike to preach “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” The next day, he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel. Tara M. Stringfellow draws on this tragic past and the experiences of her own family to construct the sweeping plot of her debut novel, “Memphis.” It’s a story that moves back and forth across the decades from World War II to the war in Afghanistan following the struggles of three generations of resilient Black women…. To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:: https://www.washingtonpost.com/books/...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    I’ve read much better family sagas. The constant time jumps were irritating. This book is intentionally female-centric, but the male characters are too one-dimensional, either idealized or demonized. I hated the way one character prioritized her ancestral home and heritage over her children. How can a mother move her young daughters into a house to live with the boy who raped one of the daughters? And how could their father, an intelligent, sophisticated man, not have gone to court to stop that I’ve read much better family sagas. The constant time jumps were irritating. This book is intentionally female-centric, but the male characters are too one-dimensional, either idealized or demonized. I hated the way one character prioritized her ancestral home and heritage over her children. How can a mother move her young daughters into a house to live with the boy who raped one of the daughters? And how could their father, an intelligent, sophisticated man, not have gone to court to stop that from happening? In the very long Acknowledgments section of this book, the author lists the restaurants that have treated her with dignity. I found that a very odd way to look at the world. Like she is going through life expecting to be aggrieved. That feeling sort of permeated the book too. I doubt that I would read this author again. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Val (pagespoursandpups)

    Wow, this was a debut novel? The melodic prose, the strong black female characters, the messages of overcoming, community and sisterhood, the non-linear timeline and the shifting POV through 4 generations of the women of the North family - it all took my breath away. This amazing story spans 70 years, but each nugget of the story is metered out in increments. Usually with a non-linear timeline and multiple POVs, there is one story that shines and I want to hear more from that voice. However, in t Wow, this was a debut novel? The melodic prose, the strong black female characters, the messages of overcoming, community and sisterhood, the non-linear timeline and the shifting POV through 4 generations of the women of the North family - it all took my breath away. This amazing story spans 70 years, but each nugget of the story is metered out in increments. Usually with a non-linear timeline and multiple POVs, there is one story that shines and I want to hear more from that voice. However, in this book, each voice, each timeline and each point of view was equally captivating. Della, a slightly removed generation, Hazel, the matriarch, Miriam and August her two very different but strongly bonded daughters, and Jane and Maya- Miriam’s girls. The daughters are brought back together when Miriam leaves her military husband and returns to her childhood home in Memphis. This was a difficult story to read. So much death, racism, tragedy and loneliness. Yet what I was left with was the power of sisterhood, of self-love, of believing in God-given talents, of understanding and the of amazing healing powers of community. I loved the depictions of a city and a culture I am an outsider to, but can appreciate and celebrate with the author. I felt like I was there with these sisters as they endured hardship after hardship and persevered with grit and determination. I loved Hazel for finding a love like no other, loved Miriam for finding the strength to leave an abusive situation and redefine herself, loved August for making the choice to be there for a son she could never control rather than follow her own dreams, loved June for ignoring the noise that tried to make her stop drawing and loved Maya for never letting outside voices temper her love for her father and her family. I loved Miss Dawn for investing in Miriam’s daughters as if they were her own and loved the community that surrounded the North girls. “ The anger I had felt for years at my father was what I had 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. Growing tiny. I was hardly feeling the rough edges of it anymore. I realized, as time passed in the kitchen, the grandfather clock in the parlor having sung its swan song three times now, 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.” As you can tell from the line quoted above, this book is filled with gorgeous, poetic observations that will make you stop and dwell on the words you just consumed. There were so many lines I highlighted in this book. The story captivates from beginning to end and the characters pull you in and invite you into their lives. This was a powerful read and is one to be treasured. Highly recommend. Thank you to NetGalley, Dial Press and Random House for the advance copy to read and review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group- The Dial Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. A stunningly beautiful non-linear narrative about several generations of Southern Black women as they face the trials and tribulations of a seventy-year period. I absolutely adored this debut novel and felt that each female character stood out to me in the narration. No one voice drowning out another. Author Tara M. Stringfellow is definitely on my radar and I will keep an eye Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group- The Dial Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. A stunningly beautiful non-linear narrative about several generations of Southern Black women as they face the trials and tribulations of a seventy-year period. I absolutely adored this debut novel and felt that each female character stood out to me in the narration. No one voice drowning out another. Author Tara M. Stringfellow is definitely on my radar and I will keep an eye out for future titles. Expected Publication 05/04/22 Goodreads review published 04/04/22 #Memphis #NetGalley

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4+] I savored the writing in Memphis while being gripped by the story of four strong women over three generations whose lives are laced with violence and racism...and joy. An achingly superb novel.

  14. 5 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    A bit underwhelming…. But what a great cover… right?! No book can stand up to the hype of Bookstagram and I think this is why I felt so underwhelmed reading it. Don’t get me wrong this book kinda has the makings of what great books are about: Beautiful cover Multi-generational Set in the South Focuses on Black Women Themes of resilience, sisterhood and motherhood expertly explored I mean… what more could I possibly ask for? I guess I could ask for more memorable characters or a plot that feels more o A bit underwhelming…. But what a great cover… right?! No book can stand up to the hype of Bookstagram and I think this is why I felt so underwhelmed reading it. Don’t get me wrong this book kinda has the makings of what great books are about: Beautiful cover Multi-generational Set in the South Focuses on Black Women Themes of resilience, sisterhood and motherhood expertly explored I mean… what more could I possibly ask for? I guess I could ask for more memorable characters or a plot that feels more original. Yes, some of the characters I felt were so unforgettable and truly beautifully written, the rest felt one-dimensional and characters I won’t remember. Memphis opens with Miriam driving her two daughters Joan and Mya to Memphis to her childhood home after leaving an abusive relationship. She is greeted by her sister August who never left Memphis and lives in the house that her Mother’s husband built with his two hands before he was killed. There is a lot of history under this roof and the North women are known in that part of Memphis. We see everyone adjusting to the new reality of living under the same roof. I am not going to lie, the book was written well enough that I needed to see how things turn out. I had to see how each character turned out and whether they got closure in certain aspects of their lives. Honestly, this one fell flat for me and it may not be the book’s fall. Beautiful cover though!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    I had to take my review and star rating off this one. This author's actions toward a reviewer have taken me aback. What could have been a teachable moment became foul and degrading. Nobody should be spoken to or mistreated in that manner. I had to take my review and star rating off this one. This author's actions toward a reviewer have taken me aback. What could have been a teachable moment became foul and degrading. Nobody should be spoken to or mistreated in that manner.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Stringfellow’s very affecting novel brings us the lives of three generations of Southern Black women over a span from the late 1930s to 2003, set in Memphis, Tennessee. Hazel, the matriarch, married to Myron, has two daughters, Miriam and August. Miriam has two daughters, Joan and Mya. There are other men, husbands, sons, but they are transitory. The lasting family are the women and girls, soon to be women. Through their lives, we see much of the joy and sadness of the past century and the promi Stringfellow’s very affecting novel brings us the lives of three generations of Southern Black women over a span from the late 1930s to 2003, set in Memphis, Tennessee. Hazel, the matriarch, married to Myron, has two daughters, Miriam and August. Miriam has two daughters, Joan and Mya. There are other men, husbands, sons, but they are transitory. The lasting family are the women and girls, soon to be women. Through their lives, we see much of the joy and sadness of the past century and the promise for the future. Using a style that has become more familiar of late, the author moves back and forth in time, using Hazel, Miriam, August, and Joan as her narrators, to present pivotal moments and events within the family and their world. Stringfellow’s prose paints pictures of old southern neighborhoods, lazy summer gardens, joyful parties, horrified gatherings after assassinations. The black experience large and small over these decades. A very well written book that deserves to be widely read. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Shindler

    The sounds of Stax-Volt and Motown were the cadence to which many young people came of age in the United States during the late sixties and early seventies.The music and rhythms from Memphis and Detroit spilled out onto the streets through radios and speakers in houses and stores.The songs and beats of this era evoked a sense of tragedy and hope as they defined a nation struggling to push forward civil and human rights. Tara Stringfellow blends these cadences with the sights and sensory stimuli The sounds of Stax-Volt and Motown were the cadence to which many young people came of age in the United States during the late sixties and early seventies.The music and rhythms from Memphis and Detroit spilled out onto the streets through radios and speakers in houses and stores.The songs and beats of this era evoked a sense of tragedy and hope as they defined a nation struggling to push forward civil and human rights. Tara Stringfellow blends these cadences with the sights and sensory stimuli of a multigenerational story of resilient women that portrays a critical time and place in American history. The lives of three generations of women in the North family intertwine to create an arc of personal and societal history. The narrative is delivered in disjointed timelines, reaching back to the 1930’s and spanning through 2003. The narrative begins in 1995 when Miriam stands in front of her family home in Memphis with her two young daughters in tow.She has just fled the abuse of her marital home in North Carolina and is seeking refuge and succor with her sister August, a single parent who lives in the family home.Their father Myron built the sprawling house with his own hands.He was a returning World War 2 veteran who became Memphis’ first black homicide detective. He was lynched,becoming part of the Southern”strange fruit” that was part of the American legacy.His wife Hazel, an indomitable personality, nurtured the family, transforming the house into a haven of stability and a beacon of love for her young daughters during a time of turbulence and racial strife.Upon Hazel’s death, August assumed the responsibilities of the home and carried on the legacy of Myron’s vision and Hazel’s love. Within this framework, Ms Stringfellow unfolds a history of violence, brutality and sporadic justice that runs throughout the North family and American society.The primary storyline takes place between 1995 and 2003 but flashes intermittently through seven decades. I had mentioned previously that the story’s timelines are disjointed.This observation does not imply that the novel’s exposition is incoherent. Instead, the non linear sections are clearly labeled and effectively illustrate how history for a family and nation do not move sequentially to a resolution. Instead, events and defining moments lurch along,groping for clarity and perspective. The lives of these three generations of women..Hazel, August,Miriam and her daughters Joan and Mya…mirror this societal lurching.One of the strengths of the novel is the contextualizing of historical events through the prism of the family’s everyday lives.The author captures the rhythms of everyday life…going to the store to buy ice cream and candy, the banter of women getting their hair done in August’s home hair salon, keeping the beat to the music of Stax and Motown. The sights,sounds and feelings of these activities are woven into seminal moments in Memphis’ and America’s history….the Memphis sanitation strike, Martin Luther King’s assassination, the 9/11 attack…and blend personal trauma with societal grief. The effect of this blend allows the reader to gain a sense of the powerlessness,anger,forgiveness and struggle for freedom that was a prominent characteristic of those years in America. The novel is written in accessible prose and is not difficult to navigate. However, there is one central plot point involving domestic abuse that stretches credibility and would be a major spoiler should I discuss it.On balance, this novel is a strong debut effort.The author is a lawyer and a poet. In an interview,she has stated that much of her book incorporates aspects of her family history and is a love song to strong black women. She has summoned her sense of poetry, visual acuity and history to write an engaging version of her personal truth. Well done.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    4.25? For some reason, I'm having trouble accurately articulating how much I appreciate having read this book. I am really in awe of the author - what a talent she is. My words just won't come the way I want them to. So please excuse this review for falling short of what it needs to say... I really enjoyed this and thought it was a very well written story. Unfortunately, this book took me a few months to finish, but that was not the books fault. I'm not sure if it is because of the time it took to 4.25? For some reason, I'm having trouble accurately articulating how much I appreciate having read this book. I am really in awe of the author - what a talent she is. My words just won't come the way I want them to. So please excuse this review for falling short of what it needs to say... I really enjoyed this and thought it was a very well written story. Unfortunately, this book took me a few months to finish, but that was not the books fault. I'm not sure if it is because of the time it took to read or it would have happened if I read it straight through in a couple of days, but it was a little challenging at times trying to keep the timelines straight. I wish it had been written more linear, but after my initial confusion in trying to remember what occurred the last time I was with a certain character or time period, I was able to quickly pick it back up mentally and it was fine. I loved how new this story felt. I loved that there were multiple character perspectives (sometimes I don't) as all the characters were interesting and had something important to say or impart on the story. I love how this was a story of family, (despite the many bad things that occurred to these women) in how they stuck together and were there for one another. This book does come with a lot of trigger warnings, however the worst of the content (from what I can remember) was written off the page. The reason for the slight downgrade in rating is because of the non-linear timeline as well as the abruptness of the ending. Since I was reading this on my iPad, I lost track of where I was % wise in terms of how close I was to the end and I kept tapping my iPad, not believing that I actually reached the end. I was really upset! I wanted the story to keep going and thought it should have, but I do respect the author's choice in ending it the way she did. (It's more my fault for not paying attention.) Lastly, the author's note clinched my appreciation for her and her story. She offered a unique perspective and background on why she chose to tell this kind of story. I cannot wait for her next book. Thank you to Netgalley and The Dial Press for the gifted e-arc in exchange for an honest review. Review Date: 06/14/2022 Publication Date: 04/05/2022

  19. 4 out of 5

    nicky

    This book was really powerful, but also at times as a white person, really uncomfortable to read. It talked about the North family about the abuse, rape, racism and the troubles that they faced over the years. Everything in the story was raw and nothing was sugarcoated to accommodate the reader’s feelings. It was hard to read this book, probably why it took me a while to finish it. I feel like it’s not my place to tell people that they need to read it, but I do believe that everyone should read This book was really powerful, but also at times as a white person, really uncomfortable to read. It talked about the North family about the abuse, rape, racism and the troubles that they faced over the years. Everything in the story was raw and nothing was sugarcoated to accommodate the reader’s feelings. It was hard to read this book, probably why it took me a while to finish it. I feel like it’s not my place to tell people that they need to read it, but I do believe that everyone should read the story. At times it’s heartbreaking and sad, but it’s the truth with what happens in real life.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Susie | Novel Visits

    Don’t you just love a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ book? One that gives you a hangover for days and days? Well, that’s what I got when I read Tara M. Stringfellow’s wonderful debut, 𝐌𝐄𝐌𝐏𝐇𝐈𝐒. From beginning to end I was captivated by this story of three generations of a Memphis Black family, a family dominated by its women, and scarred by its men. It follows the lives of two sets of sisters, and the exemplary matriarch of their family. Nothing is easy for these women, who after lynchings, crimes, and abuse, must l Don’t you just love a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ book? One that gives you a hangover for days and days? Well, that’s what I got when I read Tara M. Stringfellow’s wonderful debut, 𝐌𝐄𝐌𝐏𝐇𝐈𝐒. From beginning to end I was captivated by this story of three generations of a Memphis Black family, a family dominated by its women, and scarred by its men. It follows the lives of two sets of sisters, and the exemplary matriarch of their family. Nothing is easy for these women, who after lynchings, crimes, and abuse, must learn to survive and thrive on their own. ⁣ ⁣ “𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘳𝘥 𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘴 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳. 𝘓𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴, 𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘪𝘵𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧, 𝘉𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬. 𝘓𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘬 𝘨𝘭𝘢𝘴𝘴. 𝘓𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘶𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘵 𝘢 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺. 𝘈 𝘤𝘢𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘉𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘧𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘭𝘦 𝘫𝘰𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘶𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮.”⁣ ⁣ It’s impossible to read this book and not talk about Stringfellow’s writing. From the opening paragraphs, describing in resplendent detail a true Southern front porch, I knew I was in for a treat. Told from alternating perspectives, I highlighted so many passages, almost swooning over how well she portrayed the sister relationships, and the power she gave to her female cast. Her book was a love letter to Memphis and the women who call it home. I can’t wait to read whatever Tara Stringfellow writes next.⁣ ⁣ “𝘔𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘢𝘮 𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘵 𝘈𝘶𝘨𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘩𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘦𝘳. 𝘕𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘵. 𝘓𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘢 𝘮𝘰𝘴𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘵𝘰. 𝘖𝘳 𝘢 𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳.”⁣ ⁣• • • Thanks to @thedialpress and @tarastringfellow for an electronic copy of #memphis. And, bravo to @readwithjenna for another great pick!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Loved this debut! Really solid writing. This is a story that traces three generations of a southern Black family. In the summer of 1995 10-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee their father's violence and seek refuge at her mother's ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, Joan's grandfather built the home in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglas, only to be killed days later after becoming the first Black detective in the city. Joan longs to become an artist and uses Loved this debut! Really solid writing. This is a story that traces three generations of a southern Black family. In the summer of 1995 10-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee their father's violence and seek refuge at her mother's ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, Joan's grandfather built the home in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglas, only to be killed days later after becoming the first Black detective in the city. Joan longs to become an artist and uses her skills as an outlet to process some of her trauma. You also get the perspectives of Joan's grandmother, her aunt August (my fave!), and Joan's mother. The story spans over 70 years and weaves back and forth in time to show how the past and future are connected. Sometimes when I hear that a book spans this many decades, I get nervous that it will feel like slog, but that wasn't the case here. The author uses these short chapters to tell the story and keep you in the action. I was very invested and didn't feel lost- but you do need to pay attention to the players. There were some difficult parts to read in this- TW for sexual assault, racism, and abuse- but there are also a TON of scenes with Black joy and Black love. I loved the relationships between both sets of sisters. These characters and their dialogue made me laugh! It's about what we pass down to our families, activism, justice, forgiveness, and most of all love. I hope to see this everywhere when it comes out!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Is someone cutting onions? I cried so much on that last chapter. I freaking adored this book. The homage to my hometown was just icing on the cake to this story of so many layers of the journey of women. I can not wait for the rest of the world to experience this story. It makes me so happy to see Memphis writers. This author is officially on my list with the great Eric Jerome Dickey. I am already a huge fan!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    I'm sorry not to have liked this book more, but it involved some of the themes of so many similar sagas and I felt it suffered in comparison. I'm sorry not to have liked this book more, but it involved some of the themes of so many similar sagas and I felt it suffered in comparison.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Korrie’s Korner

    I cannot believe that this was a debut novel!! What a glorious gift this author has. This book made me long for the good things from home back in Mississippi. All the southern soul food that was described in this story—chefs kiss. But this story was about food or anything like that. It was about family and 4 generations of women at that. Grandmother to grandchildren. This story had some hard themes such as child rape, domestic violence, racism, gang violence..oh but the beauty that came from the I cannot believe that this was a debut novel!! What a glorious gift this author has. This book made me long for the good things from home back in Mississippi. All the southern soul food that was described in this story—chefs kiss. But this story was about food or anything like that. It was about family and 4 generations of women at that. Grandmother to grandchildren. This story had some hard themes such as child rape, domestic violence, racism, gang violence..oh but the beauty that came from these trials was something to behold. This story spans 70 years, multiple pov’s with alternating chapters done very well I might add. This felt like a big poetry book with tragedy, pain and also Black joy woven in its threads. I loved every part of this book. Every woman’s story, even right down to the acknowledgements that made me cry the most. Such a breathtaking debut novel.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Between2_worlds

    I am genuinely in awe of how writers are able to bring texture to writing. I've never been to Memphis or to the United States of America for that matter but every time I read a book set in the South, I feel like I've been there. From the smells of pies baking or hair being styled to the language spoken and the music played on recorders or the radio. But more especially, the community formed whether its with relatives or lovers, friends and neighbors. I recognize this the most and I feel like I c I am genuinely in awe of how writers are able to bring texture to writing. I've never been to Memphis or to the United States of America for that matter but every time I read a book set in the South, I feel like I've been there. From the smells of pies baking or hair being styled to the language spoken and the music played on recorders or the radio. But more especially, the community formed whether its with relatives or lovers, friends and neighbors. I recognize this the most and I feel like I could belong in Memphis. And I think Tara M Stringfellow does a phenomenal job of portraying the power of community. Whether it's with the North sisters, Miriam and August, who each have gone through so much but are always there for each other. To Miss Dawn who reminds me of a wise, kind, no nonsense aunt that makes you feel safe yet scared because she's magic and it's so dazzling to be in its presence. Or the whole community of North Memphis protecting Hazel and raising her kin. It's a heartbreaking novel set during the killings of Emmett Till and Dr Martin Luther King Jr but it has heart and that's because of the North women. I cried with them and for them and I hope they come out alright. I also discovered a new favorite fictional character, Myron North. Any Black man who loves a Black woman like it's his religion will always always have a place in my heart. Trigger warnings : Rape, Domestic violence, Police brutality, Racism

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leeza Davis

    Memphis by Tara Stringfellow —— This coming of age novel was truly a love letter to the city of Memphis and black culture. We follow the women of the North family who, despite the overwhelming amount of devastations they experience, refuse to be tied down by the sorrow that has come from their life experiences. The North family’s love for their community, and their community’s love for their family, proves to be a solid foundation for them as they handle the constant storm of challenges that they Memphis by Tara Stringfellow —— This coming of age novel was truly a love letter to the city of Memphis and black culture. We follow the women of the North family who, despite the overwhelming amount of devastations they experience, refuse to be tied down by the sorrow that has come from their life experiences. The North family’s love for their community, and their community’s love for their family, proves to be a solid foundation for them as they handle the constant storm of challenges that they are presented with over the course of almost 70 years. Every character in this novel was so complex and I loved getting to know all of them as we switch between time periods and narrators. I absolutely loved reading this book as a woc in Memphis. I resonated so deeply with not only all of the references to the black culture I grew up surrounded by because of my own mother, aunties, grandmothers, but all of the shout outs to things only Memphians would know. (When the Memphis QUEEN, Ms. Tara Stringfellow, shouted out my neighborhood I SCREAMEDDD !!!) I also enjoyed how real the decisions the women of the North family had to make for the sake of their family and themselves, and sometimes family versus themselves, were. My favorite character was August. August was so solidified in who she is. She knew she had made mistakes and refused to let her nieces follow in her footsteps. One thing about August, she gone do what she wanna do — and that last beauty shop scene ?!? *snaps fingers* PERIOD. I clearly could go on and on about this novel, about the way it illustrates the beauty versus pain of love, about how it displayed the complexity of familial relationships, or about how it reminds you of the importance of never giving up on yourself, but lastly I’ll say this: This novel is a wonderful ode to black women and the superhuman power we have to overcome whatever extreme adversity may threaten to render us immobilized. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Gagne

    Tara Stringfellow is quite a storyteller! This multigenerational story of women born and raised in Memphis is saturated with familial love and devotion, pain, resilience, and forgiveness. Heartbreak and hope. The women of the North family are betrayed time and time again by society, by the men they love, and by their faith, but through it all they continue to lift one another up. Characters that could easily be labeled as simple villains are portrayed with nuance and complexity, showing the traum Tara Stringfellow is quite a storyteller! This multigenerational story of women born and raised in Memphis is saturated with familial love and devotion, pain, resilience, and forgiveness. Heartbreak and hope. The women of the North family are betrayed time and time again by society, by the men they love, and by their faith, but through it all they continue to lift one another up. Characters that could easily be labeled as simple villains are portrayed with nuance and complexity, showing the trauma they too endured that broke their spirits. This story of the South is wrapped in immersive descriptions of life in their Memphis neighborhood: the hot summer air heavy with humidity; the mouth-watering food; the house Myron built for Hazel with the yellow door, draped in green foliage, lined with magnolia and dogwood and plum trees, with stray cats lounging on the porch; the soundtrack of Memphis music and the sense of community and kinship. The one issue I had was with the time skips. Jumping between so many timelines got a bit hard to follow, and took away from the story's momentum a little. While this structure was successful for getting to know each generation of women more deeply in the times and contexts they came of age, it did also make it harder to get fully immersed in any one timeline. But that is a minor complaint, and I truly did love this tale.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Belle

    Wow. 6 stars if I could. Every once in awhile a reader is granted a privilege of a book, a story so great that it feels like it is straight from God. This is one of those. Not really one for watching 24 hour news and fretting over current events because my soul cannot handle the magnitude of it, the screaming and shouting of it all - it is of great relief when our current fiction begins to synthesize for me what in actual hell is happening in our world, and I can finally begin to process my feel Wow. 6 stars if I could. Every once in awhile a reader is granted a privilege of a book, a story so great that it feels like it is straight from God. This is one of those. Not really one for watching 24 hour news and fretting over current events because my soul cannot handle the magnitude of it, the screaming and shouting of it all - it is of great relief when our current fiction begins to synthesize for me what in actual hell is happening in our world, and I can finally begin to process my feelings and thoughts with clarity. This book is Black power; Black feminism. And it helps me understand the Struggle of it all. It helps me be a compassionate witness to it. And then there is the secondary story of love for humanity. I read this greedily for myself: “My missus got Alzheimer’s. Get so she don’t even know who she is. Calling out for me in the night…. I’ve loved that woman for thirty years. Not all of them good. But together. Together. I reckon if she was on Mars, I’d hot rig that there truck to get me there.” “She knew if she took it, this hand, she would be opening the first chapter of a book that would span her lifetime.” “God talks to every baby when they’re born. Every single one. But I believe He talks to some a bit longer. Whispers something only He can understand, I suppose. Some magic bestowed to certain children.” This book met me at some certain level today. It’s one for my keeper shelf.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Maynard

    This was a beautifully written novel about a family of black women in Memphis and how they stay together and support each other through some truly horrific events in their lives. I liked the characters but I wish there had been more, the short chapters and time jumps made it hard to get invested in the novel.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Cappiello

    This author doesn’t deserve your time or money. She’s horrid and I hope someone “from her team” gets her under control. Grazie mille. 🙄

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