Compiled by Shannon Purdy Jones
At Scuppernong Books, May means one thing: the flurry of organizing and last-minute preparations for the annual Greensboro Bound Literary Festival. We’re so thrilled to have the festival back in-person after two long years, and the lineup is better than ever before. More than 60 authors will participate in panels, talks and signings May 19–22 in downtown Greensboro, including Nikole Hannah-Jones, Amor Towles and Jason Mott just to name a few. The festival also hosts workshops for aspiring authors (advance registration required) and this year will feature a special screening of the documentary film Fred Chappell: I Am One of You Forever on Sunday, May 22.
Showcasing everything from literary novels to poetry, romance to memoir, and everything in between, the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival has something to entice every bookish mind. You’ll definitely see me there, sprinting manically between selling books, moderating the Afternoon Delight romance panel, and sitting in on every single panel I possibly can. We’re so lucky to have this festival to bring nationally renowned authors and foster our literary community. Be sure to head over to www.greensborobound.com to plan your festival experience and register for free ticketed events. Then check out a small taste below of the many amazing books featured at this year’s fest. Scuppernong hopes to see you there!
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones
In late August 1619, a ship arrived in the British colony of Virginia bearing a cargo of 20 to 30 enslaved people from Africa. Their arrival led to the barbaric and unprecedented system of American chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the source of so much that still defines the United States.
The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning 1619 Project issue reframed our understanding of American history by placing slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. This new book substantially expands on that work, weaving together 18 essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with 36 poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle and resistance. The essays show how the repercussions of 1619 reach into every part of contemporary American society, from politics to music, from diet to traffic, from citizenship to capitalism, from religion to our democracy itself.
This book reveals long-glossed-over truths around our nation’s founding and construction — and the way that the aftermath of slavery did not end with emancipation but continues to shape contemporary American life.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towlew
In June 1954, 18-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the juvenile work farm where he has just served 15 months for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his 8-year-old brother, Billy, and head to California, where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future, one that will take them all on a fateful journey in the opposite direction — to the City of New York.
Spanning just 10 days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’ third novel will satisfy fans of his multilayered literary style while providing readers with an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters and themes.
Hell of a Book by Jason Mott
In Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, a Black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and more urgent: Mott’s novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.
As these characters’ stories build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it’s also about the nation’s reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America.
Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably told, with characters who burn into your mind and an electrifying plot ideal for book club discussion, Hell of a Book is the novel Mott has been writing in his head for the last 10 years. And in its final twists, it truly becomes its title.
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendon Slocumb
Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a job at the hospital cafeteria. If he’s extra lucky, he’ll earn more than minimum wage. But Ray has a gift and a dream — he’s determined to become a world-class professional violinist, and nothing will stand in his way. Not his mother, who wants him to stop making such a racket; not the fact that he can’t afford a violin suitable to his talents; not even the racism inherent in the world of classical music.
When he discovers that his great-great-grandfather’s beat-up old fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, all his dreams suddenly seem within reach. Together, Ray and his violin take the world by storm. But on the eve of the renowned and cutthroat Tchaikovsky Competition — the Olympics of classical music — the violin is stolen, a ransom note for $5 million left in its place. Ray will have to piece together the clues to recover his treasured Strad . . . before it’s too late.
With the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray’s great-great-grandfather asserting that the instrument is rightfully theirs, and with his family staking their own claim, Ray doesn’t know who is trustworthy — or whether he will ever see his beloved violin again. OH
Shannon Purdy Jones is store manager and children’s book buyer for Scuppernong Books.