Spring is in the air, and while that sometimes means choking your way through a fog of yellow dust just to walk to the store, it also means settling down with a book on the porch or in the backyard to enjoy the warm weather once you’re able to shake off the pollen.
A slew of Charlotte-area authors have released great books over the last year, and since we’re all about supporting local, we wanted to provide you with a diverse list of books from Charlotte authors that includes a wide range of genres, topics and styles to choose from when adding to your to-read list this spring.
Nicole Sodoma, founder of the Charlotte-based Sodoma Law firm, has worked for 25 years in the often dreaded field of family law, prioritizing integrity, compassion and integrity. Her new book is a hybrid of self-help and memoir — a witty, honest and relatable account of the stripped-down realities of marriage, separation and divorce that mines a quarter-century of stories from her career and her own experience with divorce.
Upper Hand: The Future of Work for the Rest of Us
By Sherrell Dorsey
Sherrell Dorsey probably doesn’t claim Charlotte, and I wouldn’t blame her for that, but we certainly claim her when we get the chance. The BLKTECHCLT co-founder has predictably gone on to do great things on a national level, including launching The Plug, a subscription-based digital news and insights platform covering the Black innovation economy.
She takes the insight from that experience even deeper with her debut book, Upper Hand: The Future of Work for the Rest of Us, described as “a personal and eye-opening exploration of how to ensure that marginalized communities aren’t left behind as technology continues its inexorable march forward.”
A shameless plug for Queen City Nerve’s first book release, but what can I say, we’re proud of it! Based on a series she wrote for us in 2020-21, local historian Pamela Grundy shares the stories told by many generations of Charlotte’s African American residents mingle strength and hardship, accomplishment and setback, joy and pain. Through slavery, through war, through Jim Crow segregation and into the 21st century Black residents from all walks of life have played essential roles in making Charlotte the city it is today. Everyone needs to know this history.
Having already done deep dives into the careers, personalities and perspectives of such icons as Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, and Mister Rogers, Charlotte author Gavid Edwards tackles the baddest motherfucker in Hollywood. Edwards isn’t so much a biographer as he is a fan, celebrating the lives of those who seem larger than life in a way that brings them closer to us normal folks and serves as inspiration for how we can follow their lead.
The Vote Collectors: The True Story of the Scamsters, Politicians, and Preachers behind the Nation’s Greatest Electoral Fraud
By Michael Graff & Nick Ochsner
Released in October 2021, now is as good a time as ever to catch up on this tale of North Carolina election drama, as we prepare for what’s sure to be a year of dramatic local, statewide, and federal elections. The Vote Collectors tells the story behind the story that was the 2018 race for the Congressional seat in North Carolina’s ninth district.
When the two Charlotte reporters and now authors dropped by to record an episode of the Nooze Hounds podcast with us in the lead-up to the book’s release, they discussed The two also explain how they came to believe through their own reporting and research that McRae Dowless was perhaps undeservedly made the face of a fraud conspiracy that ran much deeper than him.
Charlotte attorney Charles Oldham tells a true-crime story more than a century after the fact for his second book. As Oldham described it to me over an email in the lead-up to the book’s February release: “In 1905, a mutiny and multiple-murder took place on board a cargo ship off of Cape Fear, North Carolina. Three sailors, all of them Black, were charged with murdering four white ship’s officers, and put on trial in federal court in Wilmington.
“It was not long after the infamous Wilmington race massacre of 1898, and in those white supremacist days, most expected all three men would be convicted and hanged quickly. But everything about the case defied expectations. It turned into a seven-year legal drama, going all the way to the Supreme Court and two presidential clemency proceedings.”
BEHIND THE INK
By Creating Exposure Through The Arts
This book was originally released in April 2021, but the team behind its publication, local nonprofit organization Creating Exposure Through the Arts (CETA), was finally able to celebrate its release with a party in December after months of delays due to COVID precautions, so I’m counting it as a new release.
In fact, this coffee table book is just the latest in a series of creative projects that have branched off from what began as casual conversations about the deeper meanings of body arts among the CETA team.
Gullah Spirit: The Art of Jonathan Green
By Jonathan Green, Angela D. Mack
This is one of those books where I made an exception and reached a little outside of what would be considered the Charlotte area — Garden’s Corner, South Carolina, to be exact. One of the most acclaimed artists to ever come out of the Lowcountry, Green graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1982. He has received honorary doctorate degrees from both University of South Carolina and Coastal Carolina University for capturing and recording Southern culture and history.
“Through his paintings, Jonathan has documented a way of life that we’re slowly losing,” said Gantt Center President and CEO David Taylor in the lead-up to Green’s appearance at the museum in December 2021. “It’s crucial that we share him and his amazing work with the community.”
The Portrait and Other Tales of Horror and Humor
By Harold Phipps
From the Lowcountry of South Carolina to the North Carolina High Country. It was probably at a time when he was pondering life at his home overlooking the New River that novelist Harold Phipps decided he had some unfinished business to attend to.
Following up on his nostalgic Tank and Pudge series, Phipps returned to and improved on some of his work from high school and college to bring together this collection of short stories that mix elements of fear and entertainment. With many of the stories set in Phipps’s beloved Appalachian Mountains, the book celebrates High Country culture and the people and animals who make it so unique.
Deadly Declarations: An Indie Retirement Mystery
By Landis Wade
Former attorney and current Charlotte Readers Podcast host Landis Wade’s latest novel looks to bring a local debate into the courtroom for a final decision. A mysterious death and an equally mysterious handwritten will open a door to the past, leading an unlikely trio of retirees to try to solve the 250-year-old mystery of the controversial and long-vanished Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.
By Meredith Ritchie
In Charlotte-based author Meredith Ritchie’s debut novel Poster Girls delves into a largely forgotten part of Charlotte’s history: Ritchie’s two protagonists — Kora, a Black woman from Alabama; and Maggie, a white woman from Boston — take jobs at the Shell Assembly Plant, a massive naval munitions assembly factory in Steele Creek that employed one in 10 Charlotteans during WWII.
“I never knew about the Shell Plant,” she told me in March. “For two-and-a-half years it was this huge deal in Charlotte, and nobody knew about it. I was born here and I’ve lived here most of my life and I didn’t know about this. What a cool setting to do this and to tell about the forgotten history of Charlotte.”
Little Women at 150
By Daniel Shealy
UNC Charlotte English professor Daniel Shealy has become one of the foremost Louisa May Alcott scholars during his accomplished career. His latest collection of scholarly essays explores Alcott’s most famous work, Little Women, as it turned 150 (it was released in October 1868, which means it is now 153 years old at this moment, but these things take time!).
Maybe a ton of our readers aren’t the types of folks interested in reading books about reading books, but as a graduate of Charlotte’s English department myself, this is the kind of thing I get hype for (depending on your definition of hype).
From My Ancestors’ Table
By Adjoa ‘Chef Joya’ Courtney
This one is almost a year old, but Chef Joya is always worth a mention if you’re looking for a cookbook. Released in May 2021, From My Ancestors’ Table: African & Caribbean Vegan Food For The Soul is a celebration and commemoration of African and Caribbean culture and heritage through food. It was also her fourth e-cookbook published since June 2020, so if you’re not feeling those recipes, there are plenty more to choose from.
She’s just here to spread the word on behalf of vegans that their food can be good if done right. “I love that half of the people that follow me and who I inspire aren’t vegan,” she said upon the book’s release. “They often express that I’m helping them incorporate vegan meals into their diet when they are either transitioning or heavily thinking about it.”
Personal chef, local TV personality and now author Jill Aker-Ray shares how recipes can mean more than just food in her debut cookbook memoir, Tutu’s Table. Written as a tribute to her mother, who is the namesake of the book and created all the recipes in it, Aker-Ray connects each meal with a story tying it back to Tutu.
By sharing her own experiences with cooking, Aker-Ray shows how relationships can be fostered through food–whether through its preparation or its consumption. Aker-Ray wants her recipes to “invoke memories and connection to people’s own family recipes and special times together.”
Concerto of the Heart
By Pascale Doxy
After immigrating from Haiti to the United States, Pascale Doxy began to pursue painting, gaining recognition in national media outlets. Then she switched gears. Her latest poetry collection mixes her beautiful illustrations with poems about true love. Translated from French (Concerto du Coeur), Concerto of the Heart is a poetry collection that explores the beauty of love — from love at first sight to love of a lifetime, and in between the multiple ups and downs in a relationship.
Have I Told You About My Superpowers (scheduled for release April 29)
By Luther Kissam V
Luther Kissam V, a poet and creative writing student at UNC Charlotte, has written about aging neighbors and his favorite rappers, but in this collection he takes on a more personal topic: bipolar disorder. “For Kissam, bipolar is a gift from the moon, a gravitational force, that fuels exploration of space: mental, physical, and spiritual,” reads the book’s description. “His poems reveal the tumult and tranquility teetering in us all, especially in those whose experience of beauty, joy, and pain is physical, sometimes tragic, and often supernatural.”
Take Back the Block
By Chrystal D. Giles
In Chrystal D. Giles’ debut novel, Take Back the Block, a sixth-grade boy named Wes Henderson learns that his neighborhood, Kensington Oaks, may be purchased by a real estate developer, potentially upending his life along with the lives of his family and neighbors. According to Giles, the neighborhood is based on several Black neighborhoods in Charlotte that have either already been affected by or are currently facing the threats of gentrification. The story of Wes Henderson’s transformation from regular boy to activist was borne from Giles’ struggle to find middle-grade literature for her own son.
“I started looking for very specific books — books that reflected my Black family — stories of us just living, learning, and being champions of our own worlds,” she told Dr. Mark West upon Take Back the Block’s February release. “I was saddened that those books didn’t exist in the way I pictured them in my mind.” It’s not just a cliche; Giles is a perfect example of becoming the change she wanted to see in the world.
The Peeve and the Grudge and Other Preposterous Poems
By Dr. Mark West
UNC Charlotte professor Dr. Mark West is a sporadic Queen City Nerve contributor, and his blog Storied Charlotte blog has introduced me to some of the authors I’ve included in this list, including Chrystal D. Giles above. Earlier this month he took a break from highlighting other local authors and creatives to put out his own collection of witty and whimsical poems that explore odd words and idioms that children — and sometimes adults — often misinterpret. The poems are brought to life by illustrator Ana Zurita.
All the Places We Call Home (scheduled for release June 14)
By Patrice Gopo
While deciding how to following up on her adult short story collection, All the Colors We Will See, which examines how the reality of being different affects her quest to belong, Patrice Gopo was inspired to create a picture book based off of one of the stories in that collection, and by her experiences growing up in Alaska as the child of Jamaican immigrants.In All the Places We Call Home, a child requests bedtime stories based on her multilayered heritage: from South Africa to Jamaica to Zimbabwe to her current home in the United States. This beautiful book creates a stirring portrait of a child’s deep ties to cultures and communities beyond where she lays her head to sleep — something many children can relate to.
A Different Kind of Caterpillar
By Juliana Lievano
The perfect book for spring, Juliana Lievano’s debut children’s book, is a coming-of-age tale that encourages young children to be themselves. It’s a springtime story that aims to teach children to discover their special gifts and grow their own wings.
Sofi the caterpillar feels different from her friends because, unlike them, she doesn’t want to turn into a butterfly. Throughout her adventure, Sofi meets various friendly woodland creatures who suggest she become more like them, but eventually learns that becoming a butterfly is a gift in that all butterflies are unique.