Okra Picks are a dozen fresh titles chosen each season that SIBA Indie Bookstores want to handsell. These books should be southern in nature but can cover any genre, not just fiction. Southern readers love their writers, and we want to be at the forefront of bringing them a strong selection of southern titles not to be missed each season.


DISCOVER THE CURRENT CROP OF FRESH OKRA PICKS...

  • A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy

    Final words and heartfelt remembrances from bestselling author Pat Conroy take center stage in this winning nonfiction collection, supplemented by touching pieces from Conroy’s many friends.

    This new volume of Pat Conroy’s nonfiction brings together some of the most charming interviews, magazine articles, speeches, and letters from his long literary career, many of them addressed directly to his readers with his habitual greeting, “Hey, out there.” Ranging across diverse subjects, such as favorite recent reads, the challenge of staying motivated to exercise, and processing the loss of dear friends, Conroy’s eminently memorable pieces offer a unique window into the life of a true titan of Southern writing.

    With a beautiful introduction from his widow, novelist Cassandra King, A Lowcountry Heart also honors Conroy’s legacy and the innumerable lives he touched. Finally, the collection turns to remembrances of “The Great Conroy,” as he is lovingly titled by friends, and concludes with a eulogy. The inarguable power of Conroy’s work resonates throughout A Lowcountry Heart, and his influence promises to endure.

    This moving tribute is sure to be a cherished keepsake for any true Conroy fan and remain a lasting monument to one of the best-loved masters of contemporary American letters.

    BUY FROM AN INDIE

  • A Question of Mercy by Elizabeth Cox

     A Question of Mercy, set in a vivid landscape of the mid-twentieth-century South, is the fifth novel from Robert Penn Warren Award–winning writer Elizabeth Cox. As she challenges notions of individual freedom and responsibility against a backdrop of questionable practices governing treatment of the mentally disabled, she also stretches the breadth and limitations of the human heart to love and to forgive.

    Adam Finney, a young man who is mentally disabled, faces sterilization and lobotomy in a state-supported asylum. When he is found dead in the French Broad River of rural North Carolina, his teenaged stepsister, Jess, is sought for questioning by their family and the police. Jess’s odyssey of escape across four states leads into dark territories of life-and-death moral choices where compassion and grace offer faint illumination but few answers.

    Jess Booker, on the run and alone, leaves the comfort of her home near Asheville, recklessly trekking through woods and hitchhiking her way to a boarding house in tiny Lula, Alabama, a perceived safe haven she once visited with her late mother. Pursued by a mysterious car with a faded “I Like Ike” sticker, Jess is also haunted by memories of her mother’s early death, her father’s distressing marriage to Adam’s mother, the loving bond she was able to form with Adam despite her initial resistance, and her boyfriend Sam’s troubling letters from the thick of combat in the Korean War. In Lula, Jess finds, if only briefly, a respite among a curious surrogate family of fellow displaced outsiders banded together under one roof, and there she finds the strength to heed the call homeward to face the questions she cannot answer about her stepbrother’s death.

    Through her vibrant depictions of characters in crisis and of the lush, natural landscapes of her southern settings, Cox brings to the fore the moral, ethical, and seemingly unnatural decisions people face when caring for society’s weakest members. Grappling with the powerful bonds of love and family, A Question of Mercy recognizes the countless ways people come to help one another and the poor choices they can make because of love—choices that challenge the boundaries of human decency and social justice but also choices that can defy what is legal in the course of seeking what is right.

    Jill McCorkle, a Dos Passos Prize–winning novelist and short story writer and the author of Life after Life, provides a foreword to the novel.

    BUY FROM AN INDIE

  • Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb

    A moving novel about a Holocaust survivor’s unconventional journey back to a new normal in 1940s Savannah, Georgia

    In late summer 1947, thirty-one-year-old Yitzhak Goldah, a camp survivor, arrives in Savannah to live with his only remaining relatives. They are Abe and Pearl Jesler, older, childless, and an integral part of the thriving Jewish community that has been in Georgia since the founding of the colony. There, Yitzhak discovers a fractured world, where Reform and Conservative Jews live separate lives–distinctions, to him, that are meaningless given what he has been through. He further complicates things when, much to the Jeslers’ dismay, he falls in love with Eva, a young widow within the Reform community. When a woman from Yitzhak’s past suddenly appears–one who is even more shattered by the war than he is–Yitzhak must choose between a dark and tortured familiarity and the promise of a bright new life.

    Set amid the backdrop of America’s postwar south, Among the Living grapples with questions of identity and belonging, and steps beyond the Jewish experience as it situates Yitzhak’s story within the last gasp of the Jim Crow era. That he begins to find echoes of his recent past in the lives of the black family who work for the Jeslers–an affinity he does not share with the Jeslers themselves–both surprises and convinces Yitzhak that his choices are not as clear-cut as he might think.

    Recommended by Southern Indies
    “What is unusual and so appealing about Jonathan Rabb’s Among the Living is that the novel takes two issues that separately we’ve heard so much about—the European Jewish experience and the Jim Crow era south—and blends them together in a way that demonstrates a fresh perspective. I found it powerful and engaging.” —Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL

     

    BUY FROM AN INDIE | READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

  • Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

    "Meet the new Ramona Quimby!" -- Entertainment Weekly

    Gertie Reece Foy is 100% Not-From-Concentrate awesome. She has a daddy who works on an oil rig, a great-aunt who always finds the lowest prices at the Piggly Wiggly, and two loyal best friends. So when her absent mother decides to move away from their small town, Gertie sets out on her greatest mission yet: becoming the best fifth grader in the universe to show her mother exactly what she'll be leaving behind. There's just one problem: Seat-stealing new girl Mary Sue Spivey wants to be the best fifth grader, too. And there is simply not enough room at the top for the two of them.

    From debut author Kate Beasley, and with illustrations by Caldecott Honor artist Jillian Tamaki, comes a classic tale of hope and homecoming that will empty your heart, then fill it back up again--one laugh at a time.

    BUY FROM AN INDIE | READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

  • Hungry Is a Mighty Fine Sauce by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

    Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, the Belle of All Things Southern, is serving up down-home southern dishes with a healthy side of laugh-out-loud entertainment in Hungry Is a Mighty Fine Sauce. Featuring dozens of tried-and-true recipes complemented by entertaining stories, your hunger--and your craving for humor--are sure to be satisfied! Uncomplicated, delicious recipes including Bodacious Black Bean Salad and Spicy Sausage and Crawfish Spread (125 recipes, to be exact!) fall into categories including Feeding the Funny Farm, Carnivores Are Us, Holidays in Dixie, and Watching the Curves. Eye-catching photos, guaranteed to make your mouth water, are included throughout...sure to be a much-appreciated gift or centerpiece on your very own kitchen countertop.

    BUY FROM AN INDIE

  • Love, Alice by Barbara Davis

    From the author of Summer at Hideaway Key comes a sweeping new Southern women’s fiction novel about forgiving the past one letter at a time...

    The truth lies between the lines...

    A year ago, Dovie Larkin’s life was shattered when her fiancé committed suicide just weeks before their wedding. Now, plagued by guilt, she has become a fixture at the cemetery where William is buried, visiting his grave daily, waiting for answers she knows will never come.

    Then one day, she sees an old woman whose grief mirrors her own. Fascinated, she watches the woman leave a letter on a nearby grave. Dovie ignores her conscience and reads the letter—a mother’s plea for forgiveness to her dead daughter—and immediately needs to know the rest of the story.

    As she delves deeper, a collection of letters from the cemetery’s lost and found begins to unravel a decades-old mystery involving one of Charleston’s wealthiest families. But even as Dovie seeks to answer questions about another woman’s past—questions filled with deception, betrayal, and heartbreaking loss—she starts to discover the keys to love, forgiveness, and finally embracing the future…

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  • Robert Walker by Corey Mesler

    “Robert Walker, the main character of Corey Mesler’s book of the same name is a man adrift in Memphis. Walker is homeless and he moves through the city connecting with both his own past and the city’s needy and vulnerable. Readers will find something gentle, wise and moving in these pages.”

    —Darcey Steinke, author of Sister Golden Hair and Suicide Blonde

    Robert Walker is homeless. He awakes one morning in his box to find half his face paralyzed. In perplexity, in anguish, he moves. He walks to mimic normality and he walks because it is what he does. Walking for Robert Walker is life. The novel follows two crucial days in his journey while he traverses the city of Memphis, encountering the familiar, the foreign, the desolate and the joyous. During these two days Robert Walker is forced to face himself and, in opposition to his dedication to a desired anonymity, he is forced to rejoin the world.

    BUY FROM AN INDIE

  • The Book of Isaias by Daniel Connolly

    In a green town in the middle of America, a bright 18-year-old Hispanic student named Isaias Ramos sets out on the journey to college.

    Isaias, who passed a prestigious national calculus test as a junior and leads the quiz bowl team, is the hope of Kingsbury High in Memphis, a school where many students have difficulty reading. But Kingsbury’s dysfunction, expensive college fees, and forms printed in a language that’s foreign to his parents are all obstacles in the way of getting him to a university.

    Isaias also doubts the value of college and says he might go to work in his family’s painting business after high school, despite his academic potential. Is Isaias making a rational choice? Or does he simply hope to avoid pain by deferring dreams that may not come to fruition? This is what journalist Daniel Connolly attempts to uncover in The Book of Isaias as he follows Isaias, peers into a tumultuous final year of high school, and, eventually, shows how adults intervene in the hopes of changing Isaias’ life.

    Mexican immigration has brought the proportion of Hispanics in the nation’s youth population to roughly one in four. Every day, children of immigrants make decisions about their lives that will shape our society and economy for generations. This engaging, poignant book captures an American microcosm and illustrates broader challenges for our collective future.

    BUY FROM AN INDIE | READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

  • The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

    What isn't written, isn't remembered. Even your crimes. Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person's memories--of parents, children, love, life, and self--are lost. Unless they have been written.

    In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn't written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.

    But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence - before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.

    BUY FROM AN INDIE

  • The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham

    “In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. All of these hues are me; I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils of love, land, identity, family, and race emerges The Home Place, a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist and professor of ecology J. Drew Lanham.

    Dating back to slavery, Edgefield County, South Carolina—a place “easy to pass by on the way somewhere else”—has been home to generations of Lanhams. In The Home Place, readers meet these extraordinary people, including Drew himself, who over the course of the 1970s falls in love with the natural world around him. As his passion takes flight, however, he begins to ask what it means to be “the rare bird, the oddity.”

    By turns angry, funny, elegiac, and heartbreaking, The Home Place is a remarkable meditation on nature and belonging, at once a deeply moving memoir and riveting exploration of the contradictions of black identity in the rural South—and in America today.

    BUY FROM AN INDIE | READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

  • The King of the Birds by Acree Graham Macam

    In this picture book, inspired by the life of Flannery O’Connor, a young fan of fowl brings home a peacock to be the king of her collection, but he refuses to show off his colorful tail. The girl goes to great lengths to encourage the peacock to display his plumage — she throws him a party, lets him play in the fig tree, feeds him flowers and stages a parade — all to no avail.

    Then she finally stumbles on the perfect solution. When she introduces the queen of the birds — a peahen — to her collection, the peacock immediately displays his glorious shimmering tail.

    This delightful story, full of humor and heart, celebrates the legacy of a great American writer.
    Includes an author’s note about Flannery O’Connor.

    BUY FROM AN INDIE

  • Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

    #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with an emotionally powerful story of unconditional love, its challenges, its risks and most of all, its rewards.

    At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear...and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding-one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined.

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  • Virgin and Other Stories by April Ayers Lawson

    One of New York Magazine's "45 New Books to Read This Fall" | One of The Millions' "Most Anticipated" for the second half of 2016 | One of The Huffington Post's "20 New Books You'll Need For Your Shelf in Fall 2016" |One of The Boston Globe's "most anticipated" for Fall 2016

    Set in the American South, at the crossroads of a world that is both secular and devoutly Christian, April Ayers Lawson’s stories mine the inner lives of young women and men navigating sexual, emotional, and spiritual awakenings. In the title story, Jake grapples with the growing chasm between him and his wife, Sheila, who was a virgin when they wed. In “Three Friends in a Hammock” the tension and attraction is palpable between three sexy, insecure young women as they tug and toe the rope of their shared sack. “The Way You Must Play Always” invites us into the mind of Gretchen, young-looking even for thirteen, as she attends her weekly piano lesson, anxiously anticipating her illicit meeting with Wesley, her instructor’s adult brother who is recovering from a brain tumor. Conner, the cynical sixteen-year-old narrator of “The Negative Effects of Homeschooling,” escorts his mink-wearing mother to the funeral of her best friend, Charlene, a woman who was once a man. And in “Vulnerability” we accompany a young married painter to New York City, lured there by an art dealer and one of his artists. Both are self-involved and have questionable intentions, but nevertheless she is enticed.

    Nodding to the Southern Gothic but channeling an energy all its own, Virgin and Other Stories is a mesmerizing debut from an uncannily gifted young writer. With self-assurance and sensuality, April Ayers Lawson unravels the intertwining imperatives of intimacy―sex and love, violation and trust, spirituality and desire―eyeing, unblinkingly, what happens when we succumb to temptation.

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