Authors reveal South in ‘Graceland, at Last,’ ‘Memphis’

The South can’t be captured with the clumsy strokes of a crayon. Instead, only fine, well-curated details can vividly render the region in all its richness and depth. No one knows that better than Margaret Renklauthor of “Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South,” which is a collection of medays meditating on everything from a skink sunbathing in the wilds of her Nashville backyard to a visit to the faded glamor of Elvis’s Graceland.

Renkl, a columnist for the New York Times, calls her book a “patchwork… made with mismatched parts,” which is an apt description. Readers will meet teenagers organizing a Black Lives Matter march, parishioners who shelter the homeless, an urban shepherd whose sheep devour invasive plants and many more. Reading Renkl’s essays is like sampling bites from a bountiful, diverse feast; each morsel further illuminates the distinctive flavor of the South.

By the book – March: Peach State authors offer bushel of spring releases

By the book – February: Journalists capture UGA’s winning season in books perfect for Bulldogs fans

THERE’S JUST something about a house with a porch, especially one that’s fragrant with honeysuckle and sits under the shade of a plum tree, providing a cool spot for snoozing cats.

For 10-year-old Joan, the protagonist of the novel “Memphis,” the porch of her mother’s ancestral home represents a refuge from her father’s temper. It’s also a home with a tragic history. Joan’s grandfather built the house in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglass, only to be lynched days later.

But for Joan, the porch, the house, and the city of Memphis serve as a window into the history of the women in her family. The young girl is a fledging painter and over the years, not only does she capture her subjects’ images on canvas, she also learns their secrets which give nuance to her evolvement as an artist.

Leave a Comment