August Books

Compiled by Shannon Purdy Jones

Back to school? More like back to SCUP!

There’s something bittersweet about August. The heat and humidity aren’t budging, but life is definitely moving on from summer. Whether you’re getting the kids ready to go back to school, returning to one of our many amazing universities or rolling back into town from one last beach trip, it’s easy to feel wistful over the summer that got away.

Sometimes all you need to say goodbye to one chapter of life is a new chapter — or a new book —  to look forward to, and we’ve got you covered at Scuppernong Books. Our events calendar is already filling up with a stacked list of local and national authors. Summer may be drawing to an end, but a new season to come together over great books is just beginning.

Down the Wild Cape Fear by Philip Gerard (appearing at Scup August 7 at 2 p.m.)

In Down the Wild Cape Fear, novelist and nonfiction writer Philip Gerard invites readers onto the fabled waters of the Cape Fear River, guiding them on the 200-mile voyage from the confluence of the Deep and Haw Rivers at Mermaid Point all the way to the Cape of Fear on Bald Head Island. Accompanying the author by canoe and powerboat are a cadre of people passionate about the river: a river guide, a photographer, a biologist, a river keeper and a boat captain. Historical voices also lend their wisdom to our understanding of this river, which has been a main artery of commerce, culture, settlement, and war for the entire region since it was first discovered by Verrazzano in 1524.

Antipodes: Stories by Holly Goddard Jones (appearing at Scup September 1 at 6 p.m.)

A harried and depressed mother of three young children serves on a committee that watches over the bottomless sinkhole that has appeared in her Kentucky town. During COVID lockdown, a 34-year-old gamer moves back home with his parents and is revisited by his long-forgotten childhood imaginary friend. A politician running for a state congressional seat and a young mother, who share the same set of fears about the future, cross paths but don’t fully understand one another. A woman attends a party at the home of a fellow church parishioner and discovers she is on the receiving end of a sales pitch for a doomsday prepper.

These stories and more contemplate our current reality with both frankness and hard-earned hopefulness, realism and fabulism, tackling parenthood, environment and the absurd-but-unavoidable daily toil of worrying about mundane matters when we’ve entered “an era of unknowability, of persistent strangeness.”

American Refuge: True Stories of the Refugee Experience by Diya Abdo (appearing at Scup September 8 at 6 p.m.)

In this intimate and eye-opening book, Diya Abdo — U.S. immigrant, English professor, activist and daughter of refugees — shares the stories of seven refugees. Coming from around the world, they’re welcomed by Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR), an organization Diya founded to leverage existing resources at colleges to provide temporary shelter to refugee families.

The lives explored in American Refuge include the artist who, before he created the illustration on the cover of this book, narrowly escaped two assassination attempts in Iraq and now works at Tyson cutting chicken.

We learn that these refugees from Burma, Burundi, Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Uganda lived in homes they loved, left against their will and moved to countries without access or rights. They were among the 1 percent of the “lucky” few to resettle after a long wait, almost certain never to return to the homes they never wanted to leave. We learn that anybody, at any time, can become a refugee.

Shadowselves by Jason Ockert (appearing at Scup September 15 at 6 p.m.)

Speculative and darkly surreal, the stories in Shadowselves examine characters who have stepped dangerously close to an edge they cannot see. A snow plow driver stranded on the roadside during a blizzard finds himself trapped in a riddled memory. A middle-aged man wakes up one morning to find he’s gained 400 pounds overnight. A lonely child sets off to prove the existence of a mythic bird, but uncovers an ugly secret on the other side of town. A comatose teenage outcast traverses the liminal space between life and death. With a sometimes-tenuous grip on reality, and often haunted by mistakes, repressions and alternate versions of who they might have been, the characters in Shadowselves struggle to find meaningful human connections in a world where the most important things always seem just out of their reach.

Circa MMXX by Dan Albergotti (appearing at Scup September 15 at 6 p.m.)

Dan Albergotti’s third poetry chapbook, Circa MMXX, examines American life in 2020 and provides a terrifying report on our collective experience of illness, destruction and death. In his startling imagery, the reader may recognize the varieties of ecological, political and personal collapse that came to be associated with that year, but these poems also insist that the trials were not new then and have not gone away now. Circa MMXX is a portrait of how we are and have been that shows a better future is possible if we can find the way.

Nermina’s Chance by Dina Greenberg (appearing at Scup August 7 at 2 p.m.)

War sears its imprint on the human spirit in infinite ways.

After her family is murdered and her body ravaged by Serbian soldiers, Nermina Beganovic’s only chance of survival is to flee her Bosnian homeland during the Balkan War, circa 1992.

Nermina’s Chance by Dina Greenberg is realistic fiction that reimagines the essence of family and plumbs the depths of a mother’s ardent connection to her daughter.   OH

Shannon Purdy Jones is co-owner of Scuppernong Books.

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