Alabama Bookshelf – September 2023

Alabama Living Magazine

In this periodic feature, we highlight books either about Alabama people or events, or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to Due to the volume of submissions, we are unable to feature all the books we receive.

The Unsettled, by Ayana Mathis, Knopf, $14.99 (cultural heritage) This multi-generational novel is set in the 1980s in racially and politically turbulent Philadelphia as well as the tiny town of Bonaparte, Alabama, a Black community whose legacy and land a grandmother is fiercely trying to defend from White developers. The novel is about looking for a place to belong, having and losing land and what it means for a fractured family in America, according to the author.

Coastal Alabama Alphabet, by Rebecca M. Giles and Karyn W. Tunks, Brother Mockingbird, $21.99 (picture book/nonfiction) People, places, and events from Grand Bay to Orange Beach all make lower Alabama unique. Rhymed verse and interesting facts are paired with illustrations and work by local artists to highlight the distinct features of the area. The book also promotes learning with a hidden picture activity and glossary.

Memories of a Tuskegee Airmen Nurse and her Military Sisters, by Pia Marie Winters Jordan, University of Georgia Press/NewSouth Books, $29.95 (women’s history) The book focuses on the two dozen or so Black women, graduates of nursing schools throughout the country and lieutenants in the Army Nurse Corps, who staffed the station hospital on the base where the famed Tuskegee Airmen were undergoing training. The Airmen were not the only ones making Black history during World War II, the author found; these nurses had to fight gender as well as racial discrimination. 

Air Born, by Jan Davis, Ballast Books, $29.99 (aviation/history) Ben Smotherman, a B-17 pilot in World War II, was shot down over Holland in 1943 and was a prisoner of war for 21 months. Years later, after perusing his wartime log, his daughter, Jan Davis, made discoveries about her father’s experiences that shed light on her own life path. Davis is a space shuttle astronaut, flew NASA jets and completed three spaceflights, with more than 674 hours in orbit. She is also a member of North Alabama EC.

The Archaeology of Protestant Landscapes, by Kimberly Pyszka, University of Alabama Press, $49.95 (Alabama history) Part of a series titled The American South: New Directions and Perspectives, this work focuses on three religious institutions in the U.S. South in the 18th and 19th centuries, including St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in central Alabama. The author uses three case studies to highlight the social roles that religious organizations played in the development of communities.

Five Points South: Poems from an Alabama Pilgrimage, by Nancy Owen Wilson, Kelsay Books, $20 (poetry) A memoir written in poetic format, the book chronicles a road trip by the author, in which she revisits the places, characters and events of her heartland. She tackles difficult subject matter, including race and the legacy of slavery, but readers will likely come away with a feeling of hope.


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