Scuppernong Bookshelf

In the Lonely Backwater

An excerpt from local author Valerie Nieman’s latest novel

Introduction by Cassie Bustamante

Local author Valerie Nieman knows a thing or two about weaving a thrilling tale of mystery complete with compelling and intricate characters. And her latest novel, In the Lonely Backwater, happens to be the perfect size for stuffing into your favorite reader’s stocking.

Maggie, an awkward high-schooler, is an outsider who lives on a small houseboat with her drunkard father in a sleepy North Carolina lake marina town, her mother having long run off to start a new life without her. In her disordered life, Maggie finds solace and order by losing herself in categorizing the plants around her.

Her world is disrupted when the body of her cousin Charisse is found shortly after a school dance. Because they’ve never been on the best of familial terms, Maggie is marked as a person of interest from the beginning.

Nieman tells us this book was inspired by an inscription on her senior yearbook: “A girl I barely remember wrote, ‘I hope all our misunderstandings are cleared up,’ and signed it, ‘Love.’ I do not remember the disagreement, but the emotional storms of high school came slamming back.”

Now, a peek inside:

I wondered if Detective Vann had memorized all the stuff in that little red notebook, which was nowhere in sight.

“She was messed up. I don’t know if it was drinks or something else. There was that big rip down the front of her dress.”

“Did she say anything about that?”

“Not to me. She and Nat went back in the trees and were talking. Then they came back and we all sat around and finished the bottle. I walked home.”

“Leaving Charisse and Nat and David all in the graveyard.”

“That’s right.”

“Anything else you remember?”

He doesn’t need to know all that I remember. I remember better about the real world than all this stuff with Charisse. I remember that Easter had come right when it was supposed to, the woods filling in green, with dogwood and fading redbud coloring the edges. Prom day came two weeks after Easter, even the oaks pushing out their leaves by that time. It had been a cool spring, late frosts, but the Thursday before prom the winds shifted; a breeze filled in from the southwest and put a chop on the lake. It turned really hot really fast, 90 degrees that afternoon. It was enough to raise a sweat during the day. By the time I got done with work and made it up to the gas station, it had cooled, just warm and nice, smell of cut grass and narcissus. The air began shifting around, more from the west, gusts and then dropping to nothing. By the time we headed to Old Trinity graveyard, clouds were filling in fast.

I remember in the graveyard, the smell of flowers rising up from Wisteria Lodge, a fallen-in plantation house whose owners now lived under the gravestones we sat on. I remember how headlights from cars on the highway moved across the graves in a certain way, depending if they were headed north or south. But then lights swung all the way across as a car turned onto the pike and stopped, and the lights stayed on, casting giant tree-shadows against the church for a long time. We could hear the motor running. Nat came out of his funk and was looking like WTF?, and Hulky stood up and started that way, then the lights and the engine cut off. We heard one door open and close. Next thing we knew, Charisse was standing inside the gate.

“Hey, guys?” Her voice rose way up at the end.

“Hey Charisse,” Nat blurted out. She followed his voice, uncertain as she walked across the graves, maybe because of high heels, but when she got to us we could see she was barefoot and there was a gash down the turquoise shimmer of her dress. Her face didn’t look right, but everyone looked ghoulish as the moon went in and out of the clouds.

I could feel the boys sweat, see how they repositioned themselves as they sat. Charisse was Charisse. Not Maggie.  OH

Valerie Nieman is the author of In the Lonely Backwater and four earlier novels, and books of short fiction and poetry. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte, she is professor emeritus of creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University. In the Lonely Backwater can be found wherever books are sold.


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.


April Books

Compiled by Shannon Purdy Jones

If you live in my neighborhood, I guarantee you saw me out as early as February, pacing lazy circles around my barren yard and muttering to myself. Not, as it might appear, doing anything nefarious or unhinged (at least not to date).

No, I was mentally mapping where in the garden the perennials would reappear and where between them the new year’s plantings might go. Next, of course, I was wandering the perimeter of the raised beds, plotting out this year’s vegetable rotation. Thankfully, after a few years now, my neighbors know the drill and are no longer worried for my sanity. As soon as the ground thaws, I’m itching for it: cutting in compost and starting seedlings and feeling the soil under my fingernails. Waiting until the correct time to plant before hitting the local nursery to browse is an exercise in self control I have yet to master.

Thankfully, the wait is over. The last frost date is just around the corner, so it’s time to dust off our rakes and hoes and fill the world with green things. Not only will you get some gorgeous blooms and delicious veggies for your efforts, but our pollinator neighbors will reap the rewards too. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener looking for some new ideas or someone who’s never grown a single tomato, we’ve got some great books to get you outside and growing. See you out in the sunshine!

Plant Grow Harvest Repeat: Grow a Bounty of Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers by Mastering the Art of Succession Planting by Meg McAndrews Cowden 

Discover how to get more out of your growing space with succession planting — carefully planned, continuous seed sowing — and provide a steady stream of fresh food from early spring through late fall.

Drawing inspiration from succession in natural landscapes, Meg McAndrews Cowden teaches you how to implement lessons from these dynamic systems in your home garden. You’ll learn how to layer succession across your perennial and annual crops; maximize the early growing season; determine the sequence to plant and replant in summer; and incorporate annual and perennial flowers to benefit wildlife and ensure efficient pollination. You’ll also find detailed, seasonal sowing charts to inform your garden planning, so you can grow more anywhere, regardless of your climate.

Plant Grow Harvest Repeat will inspire you to create an even more productive, beautiful and enjoyable garden across the seasons — every vegetable gardener’s dream.

Pollinator Gardening for the South: Creating Sustainable Habitats by Seth Danesha Carley and Anne M. Spafford 

This step-by-step guide will answer all of your questions about how to create beautiful gardens designed to welcome beneficial pollinators across the South. Combining up-to-date scientific information with artful design strategies, Danesha Seth Carley and Anne M. Spafford teach gardeners of all levels to plan, plant and maintain successful pollinator gardens at home and in shared community sites. Everyday gardeners, along with farmers, scientists and policy makers, share serious concerns about ongoing declines in bee and other pollinator populations, and here Spafford and Carley deliver great news: Every thoughtfully designed garden, no matter how small, can play a huge role in providing the habitat, nourishment and nesting places so needed by pollinators. This book explains all you need to be a pollinator champion.

• Covers USDA hardiness zones 6, 7, 8 and 9, including 12 Southern states.

• Explains what makes pollinators happy — bees, for sure, and many others, great and small.

• Brings science and art together in gardens of all types, including urban, food, container, community, school and large-scale gardens.

• Provides step-by-step instructions for choosing locations, preparing soil and garden beds, selecting the best plants, considering seasonality in your garden design, managing your garden throughout the year and much more.

• Richly illustrated with photographs, design plans, and handy charts and lists.

Grow More Food: A Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Getting the Biggest Harvest Possible from a Space of Any Size
by Colin McCrate and Brad Helm

Just how productive can one small vegetable garden be? More productive than one might think. Colin McCrate and Brad Helm, former community supported agriculture growers and current owners of the Seattle Urban Farm Company, help readers boost their garden productivity by teaching them how to plan carefully, maximize production in every bed, get the most out of every plant, scale up systems to maximize efficiency and expand the harvest season with succession planting, intercropping and season extension.

 Along with chapters devoted to the Five Tenets of a Productive Gardener (Plan Well to Get the Most from Your Garden; Maximize Production in Each Bed; Get the Most out of Every Plant; Scale up Tools and Systems for Efficiency; and Expand and Extend the Harvest), the book contains interactive tools that home gardeners can use to assist them in determining how, when, and what to plant; evaluating crop health; and planning and storing the harvest. For today’s vegetable gardeners who want to grow as much of their own food as possible, this guide offers expert advice and strategies for cultivating a garden that supplies what they need.

Grow Now: How We Can Save Our Health, Communities, and Planet — One Garden at a Time by Emily Murphy

Did you know you can have a garden that’s equal parts food source and wildlife haven? In Grow Now, Emily Murphy shares easy-to-follow principles for regenerative gardening that foster biodiversity and improve soil health. She also shows how every single yard mirrors and connects to the greater ecosystem around us.

No-dig growing, composting and mulching smartly, and planting a variety of edible perennials that attract bees and butterflies are all common-sense techniques everyone can use to grow positive change. You’ll also find detailed advice on increasing your nature quotient, choosing plants that cycle more carbon back into the soil, selecting a broader variety of vegetables and fruits to improve overall soil fertility, rethinking space devoted to lawns, and adding companion plants for pollinators to “rewild” any plot of land.

Exquisitely photographed and filled with helpful lists and sidebars, Grow Now is an actionable, hopeful and joyful roadmap for growing our way to individual climate contributions. Gardening is climate activism!  OH

Shannon Purdy Jones is store manager and children’s book buyer for Scuppernong Books.

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Greensboro Bound: A Literary Festival

It’s here! It’s here!

By Brian Lampkin

In the March issue of O.Henry, we announced that the May Scuppernong Bookshelf column would give you the schedule of events for this year’s Greensboro Bound Literary Festival, a virtual gathering of the minds held May 13–16. Twenty-one conversations pair North Carolina writers with voices from the outside world. Without further ado, here it is:

A Conversation with Roxane Gay

Thursday, May 13, 7–8 p.m.


Join The New York Times best-selling author ROXANE GAY hosted by CYNTHIA GREENLEE. Gay’s writing explores what it means to be a feminist, a woman of color and, quite simply, a human being with a body.

Dirty Gold: The Rise and Fall of an International Smuggling Ring

Friday, May 14, 4–5 p.m.


An in-depth discussion among veteran investigative reporters KYRA GURNEY, NICHOLAS NEHAMAS, JAY WEAVER, JIM WYSS and host JOHN COX. This talk will unearth the story of death, drugs and corruption within the gold mining industry in Latin America and dredge up the impact of greed on the people caught in its wake.

Craft, Violence and the Art of Storytelling

Friday, May 14, 5–6 p.m.


Join BRYAN GIEMZA and AMY WELDON as they host novelists JOHN HART, ROD DAVIS and DENNIS McCARTHY. Hart’s latest novel, The Unwilling, is a thriller framed around the consequences of the Vietnam War. Publisher’s Weekly describes Davis’ 2020 novel East of Texas, West of Hell as a maelstrom of meth-dealing, human trafficking and white supremacy.” Dennis McCarthy’s debut novel, The Gospel According to Billy the Kid, moves an American tale of violence and redemption west to New Mexico.

Chefs Ricky Moore & Whitney Otawka

Friday, May 14, 6–7 p.m.


Host DABNEY SANDERS chats with award-winning chefs and authors WHITNEY OTAWKA and RICKY MOORE.

LIVESTREAM: An Evening with Nnedi Okorafor

Friday, May 14, 7–8 p.m.


DR. TARA GREEN, UNCG Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies and the Linda Arnold Carlisle Excellence Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, explores the past and future with NNEDI OKORAFOR, Nigerian-American author of Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism.

Our Stories, Our Voices: Four Years On

Saturday, May 15, 10 – 11 a.m


Our Stories, Our Voices was published in 2018. Nearly four years later, the authors share how their perspectives have changed and how, if given the chance, they might rewrite their essays now. Featuring AMY REED — editor of Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America — and contributors TRACY DEONN, AMBER SMITH and I.W. GREGORIO.

Hidden Histories

Saturday, May 15, 11–12 p.m.


ANN CAHILL hosts authors SHANNA GREENE BENJAMIN and LISA LEVENSTEIN as they talk about memory, the public persona and the private individual, the biographer/historian’s relationship to her subject(s) and the intersectionality of sexism, racism and economic inequality. 

Love, Justice and Healing

Saturday, May 15, 12–1 p.m.


MOLLY SENTELL HAILE hosts a discussion on love, justice and healing with SHARON SALZBERG and OMID SAFI. Salzberg, a central figure in the field of meditation, is the author of eleven books, including The New York Times bestseller Real Happiness and, most recently, Real Change. Safi, translator and editor of Radical Love is a professor of Islamic studies at Duke University and leads Illuminated Tours interfaith journeys.

Speculative Fiction

Saturday, May 15, 1–2 p.m.


JASON HERNDON hosts RIVERS SOLOMON and K.M. SZPARA in an exploration of their newest works, which, like the best of speculative fiction, force protagonists to question what’s real in their lives while shining a light on society’s darker corners.

Read Romance, Fight Patriarchy!

Saturday, May 15, 2–3 p.m.


Host SARAH COLONNA frames the conversation with romance authors KIANNA ALEXANDER, ROSIE DANAN, JOANNA LOWELL and ALISHA RAI. The authors will doubtless unpack the ways in which modern romance writers are reshaping what it means to write romance.

LIVESTREAM: All Up In Your Feels (Poetry Workshop)

Saturday, May 15, 2–3:30 p.m.


Poets and partners JESSICA JACOBS and NICKOLE BROWN shine a light on the difficult art of writing about love and heartbreak.

Issac Bailey & Bakari Sellers

Saturday, May 15, 3–4 p.m.


STEPHEN COLYER hosts essayist ISSAC BAILEY, author of Why Didn’t We Riot: A Black Man in Trumpland, and CNN commentator BAKARI SELLERS, author of My Vanishing Country.

Allan Gurganus & George Singleton

Saturday, May 15, 4–5 p.m.


DREW PERRY hosts a talk with two

of the Carolinas’ best short story writers, ALLAN GURGANUS (author of The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All) and GEORGE SINGLETON (author of the recent You Want More).

Poems in a Crisis

Saturday, May 15, 4–5 p.m.

KATIE KEHOE joins poets TRACI BRIMHALL and NICKOLE BROWN along with editor ALICE QUINN in a soulful discussion of navigating family, the pandemic and remaking the world through poetry.

LIVESTREAM: A Conversation with Billy Collins & Ron Rash

Saturday, May 15, 7–8 p.m.


Host MICHAEL GASPENY will investigate the mysteries of art and the heart in a discussion with former U.S. Poet Laureate BILLY COLLINS, hailed as “the most popular poet in America,” and RON RASH, who has been celebrated as the “Appalachian Shakespeare.”

Our Stories, Our Voices: Writing as Activism

Sunday, May 16, 10–11 a.m.


AMY REED — editor of Our Stories, Our Voices — and contributors AMBER SMITH and I.W. GREGORIO discuss what it means to write in one’s own voice.

Writing Outside the Lines: Nonbinary Authors Changing YA

Sunday, May 16, 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.


Authors MASON DEAVER and NITA TYNDALL join host SHANNON JONES in a conversation about how Young Adult authors outside the gender binary are reshaping that world.

Art of Memoir with Ginger Gaffney & James Tate Hill

Sunday, May 16, 12–1 p.m.


Authors GINGER GAFFNEY and JAMES TATE (JT) HILL talk about the craft of writing memoir with host STEVE MITCHELL. Gaffney’s Half Broke is the memoir of a woman who relates more to horses than people and finds a home of sorts teaching at an alternative prison ranch. Blind Man’s Bluff is James Tate Hill’s memoir of becoming legally blind at age 16 — but pretending for years that he was not.

LIVESTREAM: Your Story, Your Voice: A Writing Workshop

Sunday, May 16, 12–1:30 p.m.


AMY REED — editor of Our Stories, Our Voices — and contributors AMBER SMITH and I.W. GREGORIO explore how to find your own “voice” in this writing workshop. Ideal for young adults, parents of young adults, aspiring YA writers and those who identify with marginalized communities.

The Soul of the Novel

Sunday, May 16, 1–2 p.m.


KAITLYN GREENIDGE and ANNETTE SAUNOOKE CLAPSADDLE are two rising stars in the world of literary fiction. Greenidge’s Libertie has been called “Pure brilliance.” Lee Smith says Clapsaddle’s Even As We Breathe “lifts the curtain to show us a South we don’t know . . . A wonderful novel, complicated as life itself.” This conversation is moderated by N.C. novelist ZELDA LOCKHART and informed by her work, The Soul of the Full-Length Manuscript.

LIVESTREAM: Candacy Taylor and The Historic Magnolia House

Sunday, May 16, 2–3 p.m.


CANDACY TAYLOR, author of Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America, joins preservationist NATALIE PASS-MILLER at The Historic Magnolia House, one of only four Green Book sites in North Carolina still in operation. Taylor reaches into her personal history to share the story of the Green Book and the roots of Black travel in America.

A Measure of Belonging: 21 Writers of Color on the New American South

Sunday, May 16, 3–4 p.m.


IVELISSE RODRIGUEZ and DIANA CEJAS join CINELLE BARNES, editor of A Measure of Belonging: 21 Writers of Color on the New American South, to talk about their experiences — the good, the bad and the befuddling — of living down South.

Naima Coster & Leesa Cross-Smith

Sunday, May 16, 4–5 p.m.


At the center of the powerful, tender new titles, What’s Mine and Yours by NAIMA COSTER and This Close to Okay by LEESA CROSS-SMITH, are deftly wrought, perfectly imperfect characters with paths that can never be unwoven from another or from the ways we see our communities and ourselves.

A Conversation on Race & Grace in America

Sunday, May 16, 5–6 p.m.


The nonfiction work of DENISE KIERNAN has become surefire bestseller material. Her latest book, We Gather Together, brings her considerable gifts to the untold story of Lincoln and the burgeoning of the Thanksgiving holiday. Kiernan will join D. WATKINS — author of the recent We Speak for Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress (and also The Cook-Up: A Crack Rock Memoir and The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America) — introduces you to Down Bottom, the storied community of East Baltimore that holds a mirror to America’s poor Black neighborhoods. As Watkins sees it, the perspective of people who live in economically disadvantaged Black communities is largely absent from the commentary of many top intellectuals who speak and write about race.

Wilmington’s Lie: A Conversation with John Sayles & David Zucchino

Sunday, May 16, 6–7 p.m.


JOHN SAYLES is an indy film legend. His 2011 novel, A Moment in the Sun, looks at America in 1898 and the Wilmington Race Riot figures prominently in the narrative. DAVID ZUCCHINO’s 2020 nonfiction book, Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy, is the definitive book on the massacre. Together, Sayles and Zucchino will talk about the atmosphere in Wilmington in 1898 and the lasting impact of the white riot through the 20th Century. The discussion will also focus on the parallels with the January 6, 2021, insurrection and the continued strain of white supremacy in America. Hosted by BRIAN LAMPKIN.

Guilford County Schools High School Poet Laureate Year-end Reading

Wednesday, May 19, 6–9 p.m.


Hosted by Jennifer Worrells, HS Poet Laureate coordinator and Library Media Specialist at Grimsley High School.  OH

For more information about the virtual Greensboro Bound Literary Festival and complete biographies of the participants, visit

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Is Democracy Coming to the U.S.A.?

In the tradition of Alexis de Tocqueville, several authors address the current state of America’s Great Experiment

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

What has happened to American democracy? Has it been undermined to the point of no return or has our republic always been teetering between the hopes and dreams of a Constitutional ideal and a Three-Fifths-Compromise reality of a desperately flawed beginning? Still, while it’s been said many times before, this election seems to be an existential moment for democracy itself. These recent books that Scuppernong’s staff recommends all examine democracy at its breaking point — as some try to find a way forward to save democracy for our children.

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, by Anne Applebaum (Doubleday, $25). From the United States and Britain to continental Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege, while authoritarianism is on the rise. In Twilight of Democracy, Anne Applebaum, an award-winning historian of Soviet atrocities, was one of the first American journalists to raise an alarm about antidemocratic trends in the West. The authoritarian and nationalist parties that have arisen within modern democracies offer new paths to wealth or power for their adherents. Applebaum describes many of the new advocates of illiberalism in countries around the world, showing how they use conspiracy theory, political polarization, social media and even nostalgia to change their societies.

Indecent Assembly: The North Carolina Legislature’s Blueprint for the War on Democracy and Equality, by Gene Nichol (Blair, $16.95). University of North Carolina constitutional law professor and attorney Gene Nichol has been a burr under the saddle of the Republican-majority N.C. Legislature for several years, and with good reason. More than any other commentators, his fiery OP-EDs have chronicled the literal dismantling of long-held conventions and values in our previously moderate state. He accused the veto-proof majority of fostering racism, gerrymandering voting districts, legislating bathroom behavior and grossly limiting the power of the governorship, to name just a few of his jabs. Nichol has not been shy to call out these perceived outrages, and in this book, commissioned by Blair, he was asked to “let it rip.” He has. In plain language, he lays out the recent history of this body and the effects of their actions. Many of their enacted pieces of legislation are now cropping up in other states, so in the upcoming election year, this book will remind the citizens of North Carolina what has happened to their state — and maybe, even more importantly, it will serve as a cautionary tale to other states who are about to go down the same path.

Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box, by Evette Dionne (Viking Books for Young Readers, $19.99).  For African-American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. This is an eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of Black women as a force in the suffrage movement — when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle.

Democracy in One Book or Less: How It Works, Why It Doesn’t, and Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think, by David Litt (Ecco Press, $28.99). The democracy you live in today is different — completely different — from the democracy you were born into. You probably don’t realize just how radically your republic has been altered during your lifetime. Yet more than any policy issue, political trend, or even Donald Trump himself, our redesigned system of government is responsible for the peril America faces today. Poking into forgotten corners of history, translating political science into plain English, and traveling the country to meet experts and activists, Litt explains how the world’s greatest experiment in democracy went awry.  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Let’s Do It!

If birds, bees and educated fleas do it, you can, too — with a little help from book releases in time for Valentine’s Day

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

Yes, love and romance.
Of course, chocolates and flowers. But what is it we really want from Valentine’s Day? January and February bring us a proverbial backroom full of new books on sex and sexuality that will help you separate the players from the performers. With these guides and how-tos, you’ll soon sort out what you actually desire from what you’re supposed to desire. What is it we really want from Valentine’s Day? Books on sex!

January 7: Topics of Conversation, by Miranda Popkey (Knopf, $24). Miranda Popkey’s first novel is about desire, disgust, motherhood, loneliness, art, pain, feminism, anger, envy, guilt — written in language that sizzles with intelligence and eroticism. The novel is composed almost exclusively of conversations between women — the stories they tell each other, and the stories they tell themselves, about shame and love, infidelity and self-sabotage.

February 4: The Queen V: Everything You Need to Know about Sex, Intimacy, and Down There Health Care, by Dr. Jackie Walters (Andy Cohen Books, $27). After twenty years of private obstetrics and gynecological practice, there’s nothing Dr. Jackie Walters hasn’t encountered. And now, in her new book, the widely adored OBGYN invites you to put your feet in the stirrups and investigate. Whether she’s covering libido, contraceptives, labiaplastyor fertility, Dr. Jackie educates readers with her characteristic grace and pragmatism. Both funny and informative, she brings you on a quest through the female reproductive system — answering all the burning (and itching and odiferous . . .) questions you’ve always been afraid to ask.

February 4: Seduction: A History from the Enlightenment to the Present, by Clement Knox (Pegasus, $28.95). Moving from the Garden of Eden to the carnivals of 18th-century Venice, and from the bawdy world of Georgian London to the saloons and speakeasies of the Jazz Age, this is an exploration of timeless themes of power, desire, and free will. Along the way we meet Mary Wollstonecraft, her daughter Mary Shelley, and her friend Caroline Norton, and reckon with their fight for women’s rights and freedoms. We encounter Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world, who became entangled in America’s labyrinthine and racialized seduction laws. We consider how after seduction seemingly vanished from view during the Sexual Revolution, it has exploded back into our lives.

February 4: The Pleasure Gap: American Women and the Unfinished Sexual Revolution, by Katherine Rowland (Seal Press, $28). American culture is more sexually liberal than ever. But compared to men, women’s sexual pleasure has not grown: Millions of American women experience the sexual malaise clinically known as low sexual desire. Between this low desire, muted pleasure and experiencing sex in terms of labor rather than of lust, women by the millions are dissatisfied with their erotic lives. For too long, this deficit has been explained in terms of women’s biology, stress and age, but in The Pleasure Gap, Katherine Rowland rejects the idea that women should settle for diminished pleasure. Instead, she argues women should take inequality in the bedroom as seriously as we take it in the workplace and understand its causes and effects.

February 11: Sex Positive: Redefining Our Attitudes to Love & Sex, by Kelly Neff (Watkins Publishing, $18.95). In this ground-breaking study of modern sexuality, Dr. Kelly Neff explores this new cultural movement and examines LGBTQI issues, #MeToo, female orgasm, the rise of nonmonogamous relationships and robotic sex partners, among many other contentious topics emerging as part of the ongoing social and political shifts surrounding sex, love and identity.

February 11: Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand (Back Bay, $16.99). Sorry. Apparently this book isn’t about what I first thought. But that does remind me that Scuppernong Books will host its 2nd Annual Non-Erotic Reading on February 13 at 7p.m. We’re guided by The Guardian’s annual Bad Sex Awards in Fiction. Here’s a sample from a “winner,” Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls:

“Then I screamed as though I were being run over by a train, and that long arm of his was reaching up again to palm my mouth, and I bit into his hand the way a wounded soldier bites on a bullet.
And then it was the most, and I more or less died.”

Please join us to celebrate the bad so we can recognize the good!  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Liberty for All

July’s releases include reflections on the state of the republic

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

We’re still hanging on. Two hundred-forty-three years later and the republic continues to function. These July books help us imagine a way forward while acknowledging a past both admirable and devastating.

July 2: It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art (Atria Books, $19.99). When Donald Trump claimed victory in the November 2016 election, the U.S. literary and art world erupted in indignation. Many of America’s pre-eminent writers and artists are stridently opposed to the administration’s agenda and executive orders — and they’re not about to go gentle into that good night. In this “masterful literary achievement,” more than 30 of the most acclaimed writers at work today consider the fundamental ideals of a free, just and compassionate democracy through fiction in an anthology that “promises to be both a powerful tool in the fight to uphold our values and a tribute to the remarkable voices behind it” (Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU).

July 2: A Dream Called Home: A Memoir, by Reyna Grande (Washington Square Press, $17). As an immigrant in an unfamiliar country, with an indifferent mother and abusive father, Reyna had few resources at her disposal. Taking refuge in words, Reyna’s love of reading and writing propels her to rise above until she achieves the impossible and is accepted to the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Through it all, Reyna is determined to make the impossible possible, going from undocumented immigrant of little means to “a fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer” (Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild.

July 2: Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II, by Svetlana Alexievich (Random House, $30). For more than three decades, Svetlana Alexievich has been the memory and conscience of the 20th century. When the Swedish Academy awarded her the Nobel Prize, it cited her for inventing “a new kind of literary genre,” describing her work as “a history of emotions . . . a history of the soul.”

Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, Last Witnesses is Alexievich’s collection of the memories of those who were children during World War II. They had sometimes been soldiers as well as witnesses, and their generation grew up with the trauma of the war deeply embedded — a trauma that would change the course of the Russian nation.

July 9: When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom, by Asma Uddin (Pegasus, $27.99). Religious liberty lawyer Asma Uddin has long considered her work defending people of all faiths to be a calling more than a job. Yet even as she seeks equal protection for Evangelicals, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Jews and Catholics alike, she has seen an ominous increase in attempts to criminalize Islam and exclude American Muslims from their inalienable rights. 

July 16: The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday, $24.95). As the civil rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Florida, Elwood Curtis is abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother. Although he enrolls in the local black college, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future for a black boy in the Jim Crow South. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy. 

Based on the real story of that reform school that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.

July 30: Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism, by Terry McAuliffe (Thomas Dunne, $24.95). In Beyond Charlottesville, McAuliffe looks at the forces and events that led to the tragedy in Charlottesville, including the murder of Heather Heyer and the death of two state troopers in a helicopter accident. He doesn’t whitewash Virginia history and his discussion of the KKK protest over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee is a hard, real-time, behind-the-scenes look at the actions of everyone on that fateful August 12, including himself, to see what could have been done. OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Chow Time!

The culinary future reveals itself in several June releases

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

We’re in luck! June brings us dozens of new books on cooking, food and the culinary life. You may not yet think of algae as a food source, but maybe we can change your mind. And do you find yourself collecting cookbooks without ever using the recipes inside? We have a solution: The booksellers at the store at which you purchased said cookbook would love to taste your talents! Drop off a dish (at your convenience, of course).

June 4: The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus, by Ryan Jacobs (Clarkson Potter, $16). The New York Times says “Jacobs is an unstoppable and captivating guide through the dark underbelly of the world’s most glamorous fungus. This is the ultimate truffle true-crime tale.”

June 4: Daily Bread: What Kids Eat Around the World, by Gregg Segal (Powerhouse, $40). As globalization alters our relationship to food, photographer Gregg Segal has embarked on a global project asking kids from around the world to take his “Daily Bread” challenge. Each child keeps a detailed journal of everything he or she eats in a week, and then Segal stages an elaborate portrait of them surrounded by the foods they consumed. The colorful and hyper-detailed results tell a unique story of multiculturalism and how we nourish ourselves at the dawn of the 21st century.

June 4: The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World, by Amanda Little (Harmony, $27). Climate models show that global crop production will decline every decade for the rest of this century due to drought, heat and flooding. Water supplies are in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the world’s population is expected to grow another 30 percent by mid-century. So how, really, will we feed 9 billion people sustainably in the coming decades? “What we grow and how we eat are going to change radically over the next few decades. In The Fate of Food, Amanda Little takes us on a tour of the future. The journey is scary, exciting, and, ultimately, encouraging,” writes ” Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction.

June 11: Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us, by Ruth Kassinger (Houghton Mifflin, $26). There are as many algae on Earth as stars in the universe, and they have been essential to life on our planet for eons. Algae created the Earth we know today, with its oxygen-rich atmosphere, abundant oceans and coral reefs. Crude oil is made of dead algae, and algae are the ancestors of all plants. Today, seaweed production is a multibillion dollar industry, with algae hard at work to make your sushi, chocolate milk, beer, paint, toothpaste, shampoo and so much more. In Slime we’ll meet the algae innovators working toward a sustainable future: from seaweed farmers in South Korea and scientists using it to clean the dead zones in our waterways, to entrepreneurs fighting to bring algae fuel plastics to market.

June 11: Incredible Vegan Ice Cream: Decadent, All-Natural Flavors Made with Coconut Milk, by Deena Jalal (Page Street, $21.99). Deena Jalal is the owner and founder of FoMu Ice Cream, a plant-based frozen treat company with multiple shops in the Boston area and distribution to stores along the East Coast. “Deena’s simple yet superbly flavorful ice creams are the perfect solution for a guilt-free indulgence!” says Rebecca Arnold, founder and owner of Whole Heart Provisions.

June 25: Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom, by Adam Chandler (Flatiron, $27.99). Most any honest person can own up to harboring at least one fast-food guilty pleasure. In Drive-Thru Dreams, Adam Chandler explores the inseparable link between fast food and American life for the past century. The dark side of the industry’s largest players has long been scrutinized and gutted, characterized as impersonal, greedy, corporate, and worse. But, in unexpected ways, fast food is also deeply personal and emblematic of a larger-than-life image of America.

June 25: The Peach Truck Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for All Things Peach, by Stephen K. Rose & Jessica N. Rose (Scribner, $28). From first bites to easy lunches, from mouth-watering dinner dishes to sumptuous desserts, The Peach Truck Cookbook captures the Southern cooking renaissance with fresh, delectable, orchard-to-table recipes that feature peaches in every form. Whether you’re craving peach pecan sticky buns, peach jalapeno cornbread, white pizza with peach, pancetta and chile, or peach lavender lemonade — or have always wanted to try your hand at making a classic peach pie— Stephen and Jessica have you covered. Many of Nashville’s most celebrated hotspots and chefs, including Sean Brock, Lisa Donovan, and Tandy Wilson, have contributed recipes, so you’ll also get a how-to on cult menu items such as Burger Up’s Peach Truck Margarita.  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Greensboro Bound: Year Two!

The local literary festival extends its reach far beyond the Gate City

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

In May of 2018, the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival turned the Gate City into the destination for writers and readers across North Carolina. This year, from May 16 to 19, Greensboro Bound will reach across the ocean and around the country to bring more than 70 writers to locations throughout downtown. Our profound thanks to all of them that are accommodating the Festival’s events.

Our keynote speaker for Saturday evening, May 18, from London is literary sensation Zadie Smith, author of Michelle Obama’s favorite novel, White Teeth. Her other works include Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW and Swing Time. Her recent collection of essays, Feel Free, is a nominee for a 2019 PEN Literary Award, and she has been shortlisted for the Man Booker, had a novel named one of the 100 best in the English language (among those published between 1923 and 2005), and won the Orange Prize for Fiction. We thank the UNCG Libraries — and its dean Martin Halbert’s generous partnership with the Festival —for Smith’s appearance in the Cone Ballroom on the UNCG campus at 7 p.m. To ensure a seat to this event, you must RSVP here:

A lineup of children’s and young adult authors will charm and delight families from our city’s diverse neighborhoods. Our partnership with the City of Greensboro and the Greensboro Public Libraries means the downtown library will host: Bill Konigsberg (The Music of What Happens), Lamar Giles, (Fresh Ink, Black Enough), plus 18 more amazing children’s writers.

On the adult side, 2018 National Book Award finalist Rebecca Makkai will be here to talk about her novel, The Great Believers, and 2016 National Book Award Finalist Ross Gay will talk about his new collection of essays, The Book of Delights. We’ll have an all-day tract of writing on Appalachia with a diverse group of scribes: Wiley Cash, Mesha Maren, Robert Gipe, Carter Sickels, Michael Croley, Val Nieman, and Meredith McCarroll (editor of Appalachian Reckoning, in which many of these writers appear).

For some, the highlight of the Festival will be the conversation between Heath Lee, author of The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home, and Claire Gibson, author of the novel Beyond the Point, which centers on the lives of women at West Point. Others will come primarily to see the fabulous Lee Brothers! Yes, Matt and Ted Lee will be at the Van Dyke Performance Space to talk about Southern cooking and their new book Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business.

Permeating the Festival will be engaging, ongoing conversation on social justice, climate change and civil rights. Adam Parker, author of Outside Agitator: The Civil Rights Struggle of Cleveland Sellers Jr., will be here as will Cleveland Sellers himself as they discuss the Orangeburg Massacre and the ongoing movement in its wake. Sudden Spring: Stories of Adaptation in a Climate-Changed South, by Rick Van Noy, reflects on the loss of some of our most cherished landscapes. Van Noy will be on panel with Susan Hand Shetterly. She’s the author of Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge and the mother-in-law of Margot Shetterly, who wrote Hidden Figures.

The weekend kicks off with an Opening Night celebration on Thursday, May 16 at 5:30 p.m at the Weatherspoon Art Museum with the multitalented Astra Taylor. Formerly with the influential indie band Neutral Milk Hotel, but she has moved on to become one of the leading voices on what’s failing in our democracy. Greensboro Bound will screen her film What Is Democracy? Taylor will talk about the film and her knew book Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.

Face plant! I didn’t mention the Greensboro Opera, the Greensboro Symphony’s OrKIDStra, puppets with Fred Chappell and puppets of Fred Chappell in my race to the finish: the Festival’s closing Extravaganza on May 19 at A&T State’s Harrison Auditorium. This year, the Righteous Babe herself, Ani DiFranco, will preside over the event in tandem with the May release of her memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream. We’re one of 10 cities across the country on her initial book tour. DiFranco’s music has empowered several generations and her commitment to making music on her own terms is a significant contribution to the “art of business.” A true American tour-de-force. As if that weren’t enough, she will be in conversation with Greensboro’s own tour-de-force, Rhiannon Giddens. Expect more surprises when we publish the full schedule in the May issue of O.Henry.  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.