Inspired by the author’s own family history, Tara Stringfellow’s debut novel, Memphis, is a triumphant ode to the power of art in the face of brutality. Tracing three generations of a family constantly redirected by violence, Memphis paints a stark reality of what it means to be Black in the American south. When Joan, the daughter of the family and an aspiring artist, begins to channel her hurt into sketching the women of North Memphis, she begins to paint her own path to healing.
Stringfellow joined writer-editor Christine Pride for an exploration of this brilliant interrogation of dichotomies—police brutality and justice, powerlessness and freedom, fate and forgiveness, doubt and faith, sacrifice and love.
By Tara Stringfellow
Published by Penguin Random House
A spellbinding debut novel tracing three generations of a Southern Black family and one daughter’s discovery that she has the power to change her family’s legacy.
In the summer of 1995, ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father’s violence, seeking refuge at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, Joan’s grandfather built this majestic house in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglass—only to be lynched days after becoming the first Black detective in Memphis. This wasn’t the first time violence altered the course of Joan’s family’s trajectory, and she knows it won’t be the last. Longing to become an artist, Joan pours her rage and grief into sketching portraits of the women of North Memphis—-including their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who seems to know something about curses.
Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of voices, Memphis weaves back and forth in time to show how the past and future are forever intertwined. It is only when Joan comes to see herself as a continuation of a long matrilineal tradition—and the women in her family as her guides to healing—that she understands that her life does not have to be defined by vengeance. That the sole weapon she needs is her paintbrush.
Inspired by the author’s own family history, Memphis—the Black fairy tale she always wanted to read—explores the complexity of what we pass down, not only in our families, but in our country: police brutality and justice, powerlessness and freedom, fate and forgiveness, doubt and faith, sacrifice and love.
Tara M. Stringfellow
Tara M. Stringfellow
Poet, former attorney, Northwestern University MFA graduate, and semifinalist for the Fulbright Fellowship, Tara M. Stringfellow has written for Collective Unrest, Minerva Rising, Jet Fuel Review, Women Arts Quarterly Journal, and Apogee Journal, among other publications. After having lived in Okinawa, Ghana, Chicago, Cuba, Spain, Italy, and Washington, D.C., she moved back home to Memphis, where she sits on her porch swing every evening with her hound, Huckleberry, listening to records and chatting with neighbors.
Photo Credit: Matthew F. Thomas
Christine Pride is a writer, editor, and longtime publishing veteran. She’s held editorial posts at many different trade imprints, including Doubleday, Broadway, Crown, Hyperion, and Simon & Schuster. As an editor, Christine has published a range of books, with a special emphasis on inspirational stories and memoirs, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. As a freelance editorial consultant, she does select editing and proposal/content development, as well as teaching and coaching, and pens a regular column—“Race Matters”—for Cup of Jo. She lives in New York City.
Photo Credit: Christine Han