Bookshelf: Atlanta authors among National Book Award finalists

New releases include books on racial disparity in housing and a historical horror novel set in Georgia.

In this week’s Bookshelf, we talk about a local author and illustrator who are in the running for a major literary prize, a book about racial disparity in Atlanta’s housing market and the book launch for a creepy horror story that takes place in South Georgia.

An honor to be nominated: Finalists for the National Book Awards were announced last week, and among them is “Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice” (W.W. Norton, $22.95), a graphic memoir by a trio of talented Southern storytellers, two of them based in Atlanta.

Credit: Norton Young Readers

Credit: Norton Young Readers

In October 1968, Stone Mountain resident Tommie Smith stood on the podium in Mexico City and received his gold medal for winning the 200-meter sprint in the Olympic Games. Then, he and bronze medal winner John Carlos made history by raising their fists in protest of racial injustice against African Americans. As a result, the men were kicked out of the Olympics, received death threats and were banned from competing for the rest of their lives.

The memoir was co-written with North Carolina-based author Derrick Barnes, winner of the Newberry Award and Coretta Scott King Author Honor for his 2018 children’s book “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut.”

The powerful illustrations are by Atlanta resident Dawud Anyabwile, who also illustrated Kwame Alexander’s New York Times bestselling graphic novel “The Crossover.”

The book is one of five finalists for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Also a finalist in the nonfiction category is Imani Perry’s “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation” (HarperCollins, $28.99). The essay collection includes a tough-love assessment of Atlanta. Despite its reputation as a “Black mecca,” Perry expounds on the racial disparity in home ownership and education.

“Atlanta has this imagery as a kind of panacea for black folks … yet, it’s still this profoundly unequal city,” Perry told me in a phone interview earlier this year. “There’s all this prosperity, but there’s a great deal of poverty and a lot people who have been there for multiple generations who have been locked out of the prosperity of the city. There’s an identity to the city that it’s inclusive, and there’s a reality that a lot of the abundance of the city isn’t wholly inclusive or shared.”

National Book Awards winners will be announced Nov. 16.

Credit: University of California Press

Credit: University of California Press

Speaking of disparity: Imani Perry’s essay on Atlanta would make a perfect appetizer for Dan Immergluck’s new book, “Red Hot City: Housing, Race, and Exclusion in Twenty-First Century Atlanta” (University of California Press, $26.95). A professor in the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University, Immergluck elaborates on that theme of racial exclusionary tactics in our rapidly gentrifying city.

Immergluck will give a talk on the book at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the GSU Library, classroom 1, 100 Decatur St., Atlanta. The event is free but requires registration through

The GSU Library will also host a conversation between Maurice Hobson, associate professor of African American Studies at GSU, with Joe Coscarelli, a culture writer for The New York Times and author of “Rap Capital: An Atlanta Story” (Simon and Schuster, $29.99), at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19. The event will be held in the library’s Kopleff Recital Hall. Admission is free but requires registration through

Credit: MCD

Credit: MCD

Happy pub day: Now that it’s October and the haunting season is upon us, the time is ripe for the Oct. 11 launch of “The Hollow Kind” (MCD, $28) by Andy Davidson, an assistant professor of English at Middle Georgia State University in Macon.

This Southern gothic story is set on a turpentine farm in South Georgia, where Nellie and her 11-year-old son Max have sought refuge from a marriage gone bad. The year is 1989, and the farm, Redfern Hill, has been left to Nellie by her deceased grandfather, a man she barely knew. What starts out as odd creaks in the floor, scratches in the walls and the occasional disappearance of objects slowly escalates as the evil entity that holds sway over the house and land reveals itself.

Redfern Hill’s dark forces has roots in the story of Nellie’s grandfather, August Redfern, which is told in alternating chapters. Beginning in 1917, August Redfern is the new proprietor of the turpentine farm and is newly married to a pregnant wife. He feels optimistic about the future, but things quickly go south, starting with his wife’s deepening malaise and the unexpected birth of twin boys.

There’s something horrific in Redfern Hill, and Nellie and Max find themselves forced to face it down.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at, and follow her on Twitter at @svanatten.