Cover Image: Memphis


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Member Reviews

This book is like a massive old American cuddle full of Southern charm. Set in the home of the blues Memphis Tennessee it follows the 3 generations of women in a family and how their loves, lies and mistakes leave an imprint, not only on themselves, but on generations to come. It's well written, the characters are well rounded and full of life and I looked forward to picking up the book at every opportunity I got. Highly recommended. Thanks to Tara Stringfellow, John Murray and Netgalley for the ARC.
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nice premise and a great read.
- thanks to netgalley and the publisher for providing me with the ARC in exchange for an early review.
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Tara M. Stringfellow’s début novel, Memphis, is a gripping and equally touching story that spans three generations of Black women in the North family. Joan was only a young child when she last visited the family home in Memphis, but now she and her sister and mother are returning to the house that carries family secrets and history in every fibre. Joan can’t change what has happened to her, or any of the women in her family, in the past, but she can create a beautiful future if she only follows her artistic passions.

This is a stunning book that will touch souls as it celebrates Black womanhood, female bonds, Black joy, and Black artistry. A vivid portrait of three generations of the North family, from young Joan back to her grandmother Hazel, it showcases the enduring strength of what is passed down from mother to daughter, and at the same time is a love letter to the city of Memphis that they call home. The city is far from perfect, of course, but the bustle of Beale Street on summer nights, and the neighbourhood that come together in times of need make it a community worthy of this ode.

As well as exploring the warmth of this family, Stringfellow also dives into the darker aspects of the family’s history, exploring some difficult and dark topics; from sexual assault to racism and the lynching of Hazel’s husband, Myron, by his all-White police squad. By supporting one another, the North women – and the other Black women in the neighbourhood – remain resilient.

The author also brilliantly weaves real-life historical events such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the events of 9/11 throughout this fictional narrative to tie the North women firmly into history. 

Jumping back and forth through time, the story of the North women is one that will pull you in as Tara M. Stringfellow perfectly balances the darkness with the enduring bonds and Black joy that hold these women together.
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Devastating, brutal and beautiful - while Stringfellow writes with ease, Memphis' content is far from easy.
That said, this short story managed to pack in all the literary punches I adore: a multigenerational saga earmarked by several significant events in contemporary history, resilient and tenacious women, a medium-paced plot, unpretentious language - oh, the list goes on!

Many has sung the novel's praises, but for me the highest compliment I can pay of Memphis and Tara M. Stringfellow's authorship is that it knocked me right out of my (five month) reading slump, being the first book I have finished since January (!). If that doesn’t convince you that this one has something special to offer, I don’t know what will.
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One word review - ouch 

In some ways this is a great story of girl power in others it is a painful exploration of race relations in the US from 1943 to 2003. The narrative is told from the view point of female only characters from different generations but all related to each other.

The way the book is told means we know the outcome of some events before we know what the events are for example we know that Joan’s grandfather is lynched but we are a heck of a way through the switching narratives before we learn why.

The book explores the impact of world events and how they have affected the North family. We see WWII, the twin towers and parts of the war on terror. In one particular case we see how violence as part of the army begins to translate to violence at home. We also see gang violence and how that impacts a community.

I loved the female centric nature of the novel and the way that while the women may make choices that others don’t agree with the attitude is not I told you so but what do you need. I appreciated the fact that all these women are talented in their own way especially Joan and her aunt and August and her hair. It was also great to see the women taking charge of their education and becoming whatever they want to be.

I also found it great that Memphis was almost a character as well, the descriptions of the land, the seasons, the community and the music shop all appealed to me enormously.

For a debut novel this one really packs a punch and it does make you think about what it meant and what it still does mean to be a black woman in the US.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who wants to understand more about the lives of black people in Memphis and who isn’t afraid of reading painful events.
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A solid debut novel retracing the lives of 3 generations of women from a family in Memphis. 
The book begins with a car journey back to Memphis, and it also brings the reader on a journey through time and family roots. The narrative is non linear and works quite well but I did wonder where the story was going for a while or rather if we were going to get some sense of closure. We do, and there is hope but I was left wanting a little more. 

It’s a story of loss but also love, race and legacy. It’s compelling and I can see why people love it. Motherhood and sisterhood are themes that I really enjoy reading about and it certainly delivered in that regard. 
What I enjoyed the most were the female characters, they were extremely well written especially Joan and Miss Dawn, I could have read a whole book on Miss Dawn actually!
Well worth a read, it’s a 3.5⭐️ from me. 

There are content warnings so do check them out before delving in. 

Thanks to @johnMurrays and to @netgalley for this ARC in return for my honest review. Memphis is now out.
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I read a lot of contemporary fiction, but also multi-generational books taking place in the US. So when I saw the cover and blurb of Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow, I knew I had to read it. I got attached to the characters straight away. My favourites were the main narrator, Joan, but also her aunt August. 

I think the tagline for this book is misleading. It's not a "joyous celebration of the enduring strength of female bonds". Yes, there is joy, true Black joy - my favourite being the scenes in August's hair salon - but there is a great deal of trauma too. I am drawn to sad, character-driven books, so I devoured this book, but please, check the trigger warnings. 

If you like Yaa Gyasi, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Maya Angelou, I highly recommend this book. It deals with female solidarity, mother-daughter relationships, poverty, abuse, police brutality, war, adeptly blending historical events (the assassination of MLK, the murder of Emmett Till, 9/11…) with fiction.

It made me want to visit the South. The was the community was described, the mentions of food, sounds, people, and dresses especially? 🤩👗 All of it was vivid and fascinating. 

My only gripe was with some of the characters' arcs, especially the men. The ending left certain things ambiguous. But this is a solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 for me. Adding @tarastringfellow to my list of auto-buy authors!

Very many thanks to @netgalley and @johnmurrays for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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An absorbing story of three generations of Southern Black women supporting each other through unimaginable violence and abuse. Our protagonist is 10 year old Joan, who is swept up in the middle of the night by her mother, to flee from her abusive military father to safe haven of the ancestral home in Memphis. Whilst there is love and support in Memphis, the inhabitants of the house and the town have their own dark and complicated history. Harrowing and heartfelt the strength of the women in this story is beautiful and compelling. This really was an impressive debut novel. Would love to read whatever Tara Stringfellow writes next.
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A brilliant and absorbing tale of a Southern family struggling to understand what that word means. An illuminating examination of how family also interacts with forgiveness and guilt, and the strength of the bond between mother and child. Would highly recommend!
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i really really liked this one!! one of my tops of 2022. this follows the women of a black family who grew up and have links to memphis and what brought them back over the years. it jumps around in time a lot and there are a few different povs but i really liked how it all came together. the writing was so so good
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Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow

Joan can't change her family's past.
 But she can create her future.

Joan was only a child the last time she visited Memphis. She doesn't remember the bustle of Beale Street on a summer's night. She doesn't know she's as likely to hear a gunshot ring out as the sound of children playing. How the smell of honeysuckle is almost overwhelming as she climbs the porch steps to the house where her mother grew up. But when the front door opens, she does remember Derek.

This house full of history is home to the women of the North family. They are no strangers to adversity; resilience runs in their blood. Fifty years ago, Hazel's husband was lynched by his all-white police squad, yet she made a life for herself and her daughters in the majestic house he built for them. August lives there still, running a salon where the neighbourhood women gather. And now this house is the only place Joan has left. It is in sketching portraits of the women in her life, her aunt and her mother, the women who come to have their hair done, the women who come to chat and gossip, that Joan begins laughing again, begins living.

Memphis is a celebration of the enduring strength of female bonds, of what we pass down, from mother to daughter. Epic in scope yet intimate in detail, it is a vivid portrait of three generations of a Southern black family, as well as an ode to the city they call home.

There’s a point in this book where Miriam remembers her mother Hazel waking her up, leaving her little sister August asleep and how one day she fixed her a breakfast fit for a king. There were green tomatoes and grits, spicy pork and scrambled eggs, chatting like a normal day. Miriam was distracted by the delicious meal and didn’t notice her mother filling the jug. Then suddenly threw the whole jug of cold water over her daughter. Miriam thought her mother had lost her mind. All she said was ‘you ready’ and that afternoon took her to her first activist’s sit in. Miriam’s experience is similar to the one I had reading this incredible book. I’d just settle into the story when suddenly something was revealed that was so momentous I would have to take a moment, blind-sided by what had just happened. Memphis is the home of three generations of African-American women from grandmother Hazel, her two daughters Miriam and August, and Miriam’s daughters Myra and Joan. Their personal lives are set against a backdrop of American history from the early 1950s through to the 2000s, taking in world-changing events like the Kennedy assassinations and 9/11. Told in sections from each woman’s viewpoint, Stringfellow takes us back and forth across the 20th Century. Each step back in time informs the present, showing us where Joan has come from and each day forward moves Joan into her future. 

I loved the earliest years where grandmother Hazel meets Myron and they fall in love. Their courtship is so sweet and has an innocence about it and I think that’s what makes later events such a shock. The fact that Myron has come so far and become part of law enforcement in those times feels like such an incredible achievement. Your fellow officers are supposed to be your brothers, but despite working alongside him, this all white squad don’t count him as one of them. We don’t see the lynching, but we don’t need to. Our place is with the women of this story. Hazel is nine months pregnant, filled with grief, anger and a frustration borne from knowing that whatever you achieve, however loud you scream, your achievement and voice mean nothing. The author managed to deeply touch me with that sense of powerlessness. There’s such a maelstrom of emotions when she gives birth: knowing this little girl will never know her daddy; wishing Myron was there to support her; the fear of knowing she’s alone as a parent and her girls depend on her; the joy of this new life coming into the world. These women feel so real because Stringfellow cleverly evokes the complexity of human emotions, it’s rare that we only feel one at a time. In grief we can still feel moments of joy and even if we are happy, there can be moments of doubt or fear. Such moments of inner conflict follow us into the second generation of women, sisters Miriam and August. When Miriam escapes domestic violence, returning to the house Myron built in Memphis, she’s torn in two directions. She really has nowhere else to go and she longs for home and the consolation and support of her sister, but Joan has a moment of recognition. Have they been here before? The truth is they have, 

The women in this family are strong and they need to be. Some of what happens to them over their three generations is terrible and you will probably have a good cry like I did. I was touched by what Hazel, Miriam and Joan go through, but there were also quieter struggles that touched me such as August’s decision to care for her mother, the loneliness she must feel with both her mum and sister gone, the fear she feels for her son Derek, growing up as a black man in a place where shootings and gangs are commonplace. Her mixed feelings of guilt, anger and love that come with being a mother of a son who does things that are unforgivable. I also loved the camaraderie of her salon and the strength she gets from the women who are her customers and her community. I was touched by her ability to take pleasure and solace when it’s offered, despite it not being the love and companionship she craves - that comes from the women in her life. The pain these women go through makes the good times even more enjoyable and I really felt the joy and relief when they came out of a tough time. The author manages to capture that sense of peace I have seen in my counselling room, when the long held fear, anger and shame that comes from trauma is finally let go. That need for revenge finally silenced. The chance for joy and celebration to fill the void left behind and communing with others who know your journey. 

“𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘳𝘥 𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘴 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳. 𝘓𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴, 𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘪𝘵𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧, 𝘉𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬. 𝘓𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘬 𝘨𝘭𝘢𝘴𝘴. 𝘓𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘶𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘵 𝘢 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺. 𝘈 𝘤𝘢𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘉𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘧𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘭𝘦 𝘫𝘰𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘶𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮.”
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For three generations the women of the North family have lived in the house that Myron built for his wife.  Myron, a black police officer, was murdered by his white colleagues, leaving his wife to bring up the family.  Miriam married to a Chicago man whose successful Army career hides the trauma of war, August left with a son who she fears is bad.  Joan, attacked as a toddler, looking for an escape and her sister, Mya, the brains for the family learn the value of family and the link to Memphis
At its heart this is a family saga, but one with the veins of BLM pulsing through it.  Whilst there is some positive in the tale I did find it rather depressing but the tales of the individuals are woven cleverly and it is a good read.
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"As my mother helped undress me with a gentleness that only increased my fear, I understood then why the first sin on this earth had been a murder. Among kin."

Thank you, NetGalley and John Murray Press for the chance to read and review Memphis by Tara M Stringfellow!

Memphis is an absolutely wonderful book! It's the story of 4 women and how they work to protect each other and their families from the violence that is never too far from their home.

The story starts with Miriam moving back to her home in Memphis to live with her sister, August, and her son, in their mother Hazel's old home, after Jax, her army husband takes his anger out on her in front of their children. It's early on that we realize that Joan (Miriam's older daughter) was assaulted by her cousin at the age of 3. While action was taken then, they're all living under the same roof which doesn't make things any easier on Joan and her little sister My.

Honestly, one wouldn't be able to tell that this was a debut novel. Tara M. Stringfellow put together a beautiful book on how complicated family can be. This is not to say that Derek is ever forgiven by his mother or family, he is taken from his family for some time as well, but the entire situation makes you feel really incredibly helpless. As family what do you do?
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This is such a beautiful book. I could have kept on reading about these interesting individuals forever. Their stories were so poignant. Each women had different forms of hardship and heartache yet their humour and high spirits rang out. I felt I was there in Memphis with them. I would encourage everyone to read it
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I am a massive fan of multi-generational stories, particularly ones that feature strong female characters, so I was delighted to be approved to read Stringfellow’s debut. 

Hazel was nine months pregnant when her husband was lynched by his Memphis police squad. Miriam had to flee her violent marriage for the safety of her two girls, Joan & Mya. August had to turn her back on her dreams to provide for her family. 

I loved this book! Memphis spans over 70 years, from World War 2 to the civil rights movement to 9/11. 

Stringfellow does a great job weaving each character’s narrative together, making it incredibly seamless. I’m still thinking about these characters deeply and it’s been a few days now since I’ve read it. Her writing is so emotive and it had me in tears on several occasions. There are definitely trigger warnings to this book so please do the research before reading it. 

Memphis is a book about overcoming adversity in its essence. It is about resilience, strength and courage. It is such a heart-wrenching and powerful read. Definitely one I’ll be thinking about for a long time. 

Anyone who loves a good multi-generational saga, historical fiction and books that focus on strong female characters will certainly enjoy this one. 

Massive thank you to John Murray Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read this ARC.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

Memphis is a wide-ranging story focusing on the fate of one Black family (made up mostly of women) in the last 70 years of American history. Undercurrents of racism, domestic violence and mental health flow through the story, but the characters of Miriam, August, Joan and Hazel are shining beacons that pull you through. Despite their misfortunes, the Norths are a family you would want to be part of. Stringfellow has written a powerful ode to Black femininity and humanity that deserves to be read everywhere.
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WOW!! MEMPHIS is absolutely one of those books that will stay with you, it is a captivating story that elegantly showcases the resilience, courage and tenacity of Black women.

Filled with a beautiful lyrical language, Stringfellow writes a story inspired by her own family history. It follows, Hazel, Miriam, August and Joan, three generations of North women living in Memphis, Tennessee.  I loved the family dynamics, the community solidarity and seeing how each woman adjusted and dealt with all the challenges that came their way. 

After the first chapter I thought it would be an extremely trauma heavy focused read, but as I read on, it became clear that while the book mentions several awful events, ones that affect the lives of these women and the men around them. The story as a whole explores the consequences of living through abuse, poverty, the civil rights movement, racism and police brutality. It’s about how problem's get passed down the generations, to continue to affect people’s lives and the hope and love that can be a constant driving force. 

A stunning debut from an author I’m excited to read more from in the future.


CW: Mentions of rape, violence, abuse, death
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Memphis tells the story of the women of the North family - Hazel, Miriam, August and Joan. It tells the story of a neighbourhood in North Memphis, and the people who live there. Celebrating joyous moments but also not shying away from the brutalities of life, Memphis does feature some events that are upsetting. If you need content warnings please seek them out.

Memphis honours black women. Stringfellow lovingly imbues her characters with strengths and flaws, representing them as rounded individuals that leap off the page.

There are many instances of stunning, poetic prose throughout this story. Music is a strong through-line as it nurtures the soul, and food which nurtures the body.

I recommend this read. If anything I wish it had been longer and we'd spent more time with the family. I did wonder about the placement of some of the sections we read and if these could have been arranged chronologically.

A strong 🌟🌟🌟🌟 read for me. I look forward to reading more from this author. my thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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Such a joy, and a powerhouse of a book.  The story of one family- three generations - told primarily through the voices of Hazel, Miriam and Joan.   All 3 have gone through, and survived traumatic events - and this is the story of their resilience, their strength and their talents to survive, against a charismatic Memphis backdrop.   All three are terrifically drawn characters, and whilst so many books with multiple characters you end up favouring one or two of the narratives - this was a total pleasure to read all of the voices.  As it jumped timelines or voices I never felt the flow was disrupted and a truly satisfying read as a result.
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Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow

“Men and death. Men and death. How on earth y’all run the world when all y’all have ever done is kill each other?”

In this striking debut novel we follow three generations of women who live in the town of Douglass, in South-West America. To summarise, the three generations are:
- Hazel: the eldest of the women
- Miriam and August: the children of Hazel
- Joan and Mya: the children of Miriam 

This was a difficult story to read, with acts of such violence and hatred, but we are left with the undeniable power of sisterhood. Throughout the years we see the women of this family support each other through some incredibly traumatic periods as they come out the other side to flourish in their own way. A huge theme in this book is dealing with trauma and how to find yourself within that. The women all make some incredibly difficult decisions, but support one another through them. 

They are all such incredibly strong female characters that are truly inspiring- finding love after the brutal murder of her husband, leaving an abusive partner, following a passion for the arts, and maintaining true love for their family. 

I honestly cannot believe that this is a debut novel, the writing is so breathtaking and lyrical that it pulls you in to feel every single emotion that these characters are feeling. Throughout the 70 years that this novel spans, the chapters jump between character perspective and timezone. This is a very difficult writing style to pull off and I can honestly say that Stringfellow does this incredibly well. 

This will be in my 2022 favourites for sure, happy publication day Tara!


⚠️CW// rape, sexual assault, child abuse, domestic abuse, gun violence, racism 

[ad-gifted book]
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