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A Reader’s Guide to Fiction and Nonfiction books by Charlotte area authors

By Mark I. West

July 10, 2020

A popular bumper sticker says “Think Global, Act Local” but a corollary to this message is “Think Global, Read Local.” By reading books by local authors, readers not only support their neighbors, but they also help build a community of readers and writers. Fortunately, for Charlotte readers who are interested in supporting local authors, there is an abundance of recently published books by Charlotte authors. 

Here are several books that include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from Charlotte authors: 

Fiction 

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams. Athenaeum, 2019

Alicia D. Williams, a Charlotte kindergarten teacher, is making a big splash in the world of children’s literature for her debut novel, Genesis Begins Again. In January 2020, she received both a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent.  Her novel, which is intended for middle school readers, focuses on a thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson. Genesis lacks self-confidence but her life changes, however, when she moves to a new school and a music teacher recognizes her talent. 

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams. Athenaeum, 2019

Cassandra’s Eye by Elizabeth Gargano. Belle Lutte Press, 2019

This coming-of-age novel is set in Portland, Maine, in 1969. The central character, Shanti Costello, is the daughter of bohemian parents. Her artist father founded an art gallery collective known as Cassandra’s Eye, and this gallery has played a significant role in Shanti’s childhood and adolescence. Now that she is eighteen, however, she needs to decide if she should follow in her parents’ footsteps or pursue a more conventional lifestyle.   

Clio Rising by Paula Martinac. Bywater Books, 2019

The central character in Clio Rising, Livvie Bliss, leaves her home in North Carolina and relocates to New York in 1983 to pursue a career in publishing. The novel focuses on the professional relationship between Livvie and an elderly writer named Clio Hartt. Clio Rising recently received the gold medal for the Northeast Region in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. 

Antidote for Everything by Kimmery Martin. Berkley, 2020

As a former emergency room physician in Charlotte, Kimmery Martin is very familiar with the inner workings of hospitals, and this background is reflected in The Antidote for Everything. In this medical novel, physician Georgia Brown works as a urologist in a hospital in Charleston with her best friend and fellow physician Jonah Tsukada. Their medical careers are tested when Jonah is ordered by the hospital administrators to stop caring for transgender patients. Within the context of this novel, Martin shows how members of the LGBTQ community sometimes face discrimination when seeking medical treatment.

Antidote for Everything by Kimmery Martin. Berkley, 2020

A Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs. Scribner, 2020

A Conspiracy of Bones is the latest book in the Temperance Brennan series. At the start of the book, Temperance (Tempe) is recovering from neurosurgery in her Charlotte home when she receives a series of disturbing text messages from an unknown sender. Tempe sets out to discover who is sending the texts and why. As is the case with all of the books in this series, Tempe draws on her expertise as a forensic anthropologist to solve this latest mystery. 

The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda. Simon and Schuster, 2020

Megan Miranda is well known for her fast-paced thriller novels and her newest release, The Girl from Widow Hills, is no exception.  The book came out at the end of June, and it is already attracting attention for its “startling plot twists.” The novel deals with a young woman who experienced a traumatic event when she was just six years old. She has repressed her memories of this event, but as the 20th anniversary of this event approaches, her past comes back to haunt her.  

The Herald of Day by Nancy Northcott. Falstaff Books, 2019

Nancy Northcott is a lifelong history geek who combines her love of fantasy, history, and mystery in her Boar King’s Honor historical fantasy trilogy. Set in 17th-century England, this first novel in the trilogy features alternate history, a blood curse, and a Richard III theme. When a wizard changes history to seize power, an untrained seer and a cursed wizard strive to restore the true timeline. If they can’t, the new, grim reality will become permanent.

The Herald of Day by Nancy Northcott. Falstaff Books, 2019

Impervious by A.J. Hartley. Falstaff Books, 2020

Impervious is a young adult fantasy with connections to the shooting that took place on the UNC Charlotte campus on April 30, 2019. As a UNC Charlotte professor, Hartley was on campus at the time of the shooting, and he drew on his responses to that fateful day when writing Impervious. In this novel, he combines the grim reality of gun violence, the gritty world of today’s schools, and the liberating power of fantasy.  

Murder in Rat Alley by Mark de Castrique. Poisoned Pen Press, 2019

Murder in Rat Alley is the 7th volume in Mark de Castrique’s series about Sam Blackman, an Iraq War veteran who works as a private investigator in Asheville with his partner Nakayla Robertson. Murder in Rat Alley is set in the present, but much of the story deals with the disappearance of a NASA engineer in 1971. In this novel, the underside of the Space Race and the current climate change crisis converge in a dark alley in Asheville. 

Owner of a Broken Heart by Cheris Hodges. Dafina, 2020

Owner of a Broken Heart is the first book in Cheris Hodges’s new series of romance novels about the four Richardson sisters. In this novel, Nina Richardson, the youngest of the sisters, is pursuing a successful career as a sports journalist in Charlotte when a social media scandal turns her life upside down. She returns to Charleston, where her father runs the Richardson Bed and Breakfast, and there she meets Clinton, her father’s new employee.

Owner of a Broken Heart by Cheris Hodges. Dafina, 2020

Pretty Little Girls by Jenifer Ruff. Greyt Companion Press, 2019

In this mystery novel, FBI Agent Victoria Heslin is called to Charlotte to help the local police solve a mystery surrounding the kidnapping of a girl from a wealthy family. As Agent Heslin pursues her investigation, she uncovers a sex trafficking ring operating in the shadows of the city. The novel is fictional, but Ruff’s description of the sex trafficking operation is based on factual research.

Queen’s Peril by Darin Kennedy. Falstaff Books, 2019

Darin Kennedy is a physician with a penchant for writing fantasy stories. In Queen’s Peril, he spins a time-travel yarn involving three separate timelines that eventually converge. The characters are associated with chess pieces and are tied to a larger narrative that resembles a grand chess match. This book is the second volume in The Pawn Stratagem Trilogy.  

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor. HarperCollins, 2017 (paperback edition, 2018)

Sycamore, Bryn Chancellor’s debut novel, has garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, O: The Oprah Magazine, The Library Journal and many other influential periodicals.  Told from the points of view of multiple residents of a small town in Arizona, this novel focuses on a young woman who mysteriously disappeared from the town in 1991. 

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor. HarperCollins, 2017 (paperback edition, 2018)

Tomorrow’s Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew. Kensington, 2019

This historical novel is set in Charlotte in 1961 and shows how the city’s urban renewal program affected the lives of the people whose homes and neighborhoods were destroyed to make room for new real estate projects. While telling the inter-related stories of the three main characters, this book provides a vivid portrait of daily life in the African American neighborhood of Brooklyn just before it was bulldozed.   

Nonfiction 

All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way by Patrice Gopo. Thomas Nelson, 2018

In this collection of personal essays, Patrice Gopo draws on her unusual life story. The child of Jamaican immigrants, Gopo grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. During her early adult years, she spent time in South Africa, where she met her husband, before eventually moving to Charlotte. She addresses such topics as race, immigration and religion in her essays, pulling from events and people in her life.

All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way by Patrice Gopo. Thomas Nelson, 2018

Charlotte True Crime Stories: Notorious Cases from Fraud to Serial Killing by Cathy Pickens. History Press, 2019

The author of several mystery novels, Cathy Pickens turns her attention to real crimes in Charlotte True Crime Stories. In this book, she covers some of the most captivating crimes that have occurred in Charlotte over the past century. Her book includes photographs and press clippings related to these crime stories.  

The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America by Tommy Tomlinson. Simon and Schuster, 2019

In this personal memoir, sports journalist and former Charlotte Observer columnist Tommy Tomlinson candidly discusses his struggle to control his weight, but his book transcends the subgenre of first-person books about weight loss. He also discusses the role that food consumption plays in contemporary American culture.  

The Juggle Is Real: The Off-Camera Life of an On-Camera Mom by Molly Grantham. Miss Meade Publishing, 2020

Molly Grantham’s The Juggle Is Real is a follow-up volume to her humorous and candid memoir Small Victories, which came out in 2017. The Juggle Is Real is just as candid as her first book, but more serious in tone. The book opens with Grantham recounting her visit with her dying mother. From there she writes about experiences of juggling her job and her responsibilities as a parent while working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.  

The Juggle Is Real: The Off-Camera Life of an On-Camera Mom by Molly Grantham. Miss Meade Publishing, 2020

Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever by Gavin Edwards. Dey Street Books, 2019

Gavin Edwards divides the Kindness and Wonder into two sections. The first section focuses on Fred Rogers’ life and his long career in children’s television. In the second section, Edwards distills Mister Rogers’ approach to life down to “ten ways to live more like Mister Rogers right now.” 

Sorting Out the New South City: Race, Class, and Urban Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975 (Second Edition), by Thomas W. Hanchett. University of North Carolina Press, 2020

With the publication of the first edition of Sorting Out the New South City in 1998, Thomas Hanchett established himself as a leading authority on the social history of Charlotte. In this recently released second edition, Hanchett provides an insightful new preface in which he examines the implications of Charlotte’s resegregation and discusses the prospects for reversing this trend.   

Money Rock: A Family’s Story of Cocaine, Race, and Ambition in the New South by Pam Kelley. The New Press, 2018

A former reporter for The Charlotte Observer, Pam Kelley draws on her skills and background as a journalist in this biography of Belton Platt, a notorious Charlotte drug dealer who went by the name of Money Rock. In the process, she also tells the story of Charlotte’s drug culture during the 1980s and ‘90s.

Money Rock: A Family’s Story of Cocaine, Race, and Ambition in the New South by Pam Kelley. The New Press, 2018

Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap by Judy Goldman. Nan A. Talese, 2019

In writing this introspective memoir, Judy Goldman explores how her relationship with her husband changed after he became paralyzed from the waist down as a result of an epidural procedure that went terribly wrong. On one level, the book is an indictment of the callousness of our medical system, but on a deeper level, it is a celebration of a resilient marriage. 

Mid-Reach: A Book to Inspire, Empower, and Celebrate Failing While in the Midst of Success by Betsy Mack. Warren Publishing, 2019

Drawing on her experiences with the Hornets Foundation, Betsy Mack provides readers with a behind-the-scenes look at key moments in her career.  This business memoir is laced with practical advice for professionals who are at the midpoints in their profession.

Poetry 

Family Reunion by Grace C. Ocasio. Broadstone Books, 2020

Through the medium of poetry, Grace Ocasio provides a portrait of an extended African American family. These poems deal with racism and tragedy, but they also touch on the deep relationships that can hold a family together despite life’s tribulations. 

Family Reunion by Grace C. Ocasio. Broadstone Books, 2020

In the Sunroom with Raymond Carver by Dannye Romine Powell. Press 53, 2020

In the opening poem in this collection, the narrator gazes at a photo of Raymond Carver and asks, “How did you manage to grab at happiness, Ray…?” The poems in this collection are about reaching for solace and perhaps a bit of happiness while at the same time dealing with grief and longing.

Oath by Christopher Davis. Main Street Rag Press, 2020

When discussing how living in Charlotte has shaped his poetry, Christopher Davis once wrote that he is “always responding to seasonal and historical events, always bringing my sensory experience, my body, my place, into my poems.” The poems in Oath reflect his experiences living in the Charlotte area as a gay man.  

Mark I. West is a professor of English at UNC Charlotte, where he has taught since 1984. He was recently selected for the Bonnie Cone Professorship in Civic Engagement in recognition for his community-service activities. His articles have appeared in various national publications, such as The New York Times Book ReviewPublishers WeeklyAmericana, and British Heritage.

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