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Publisher's Summary

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • READ WITH JENNA BOOK CLUB PICK AS FEATURED ON TODAY • 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.

“A rhapsodic hymn to Black women.”—The New York Times Book Review 

“I fell in love with this family, from Joan’s fierce heart to her grandmother Hazel’s determined resilience. Tara Stringfellow will be an author to watch for years to come.”—Jacqueline Woodson, New York Times bestselling author of Red at the Bone

Summer 1995: Ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father’s explosive temper and seek refuge at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. This is not the first time violence has altered the course of the family’s trajectory. Half a century earlier, 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 the city. Joan tries to settle into her new life, but family secrets cast a longer shadow than any of them expected.

As she grows up, Joan finds relief in her artwork, painting portraits of the community in Memphis. One of her subjects is their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who claims to know something about curses, and whose stories about the past help Joan see how her passion, imagination, and relentless hope are, in fact, the continuation of a long matrilineal tradition. Joan begins to understand that her mother, her mother’s mother, and the mothers before them persevered, made impossible choices, and put their dreams on hold so that her life would not have to be defined by loss and anger—that the sole instrument she needs for healing is her paintbrush.

Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of unforgettable voices that move back and forth in time, Memphis paints an indelible portrait of inheritance, celebrating the full complexity of what we pass down, in a family and as a country: brutality and justice, faith and forgiveness, sacrifice and love.  

©2022 Tara M. Stringfellow (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Narrators Karen Murray and Adenrele Ojo perform this celebrated debut novel by former attorney Stringfellow with a deliberate rhythm and poignant empathy.... Murray's and Ojo's narrations give life to three generations of African-American women. They also use their voices to show how faith and love can create hope." —AudioFile

“Written with the grace of a poet, Memphis is as hopeful as it is heartbreaking. I fell in love with this family, from Joan’s fierce heart to her grandmother Hazel’s determined resilience. Tara Stringfellow will be an author to watch for years to come.... A stellar debut.” —Jacqueline Woodson, bestselling author of Red at the Bone

“In luminous, lyrical prose, Tara Stringfellow sings the song of the North women—and the North men—with wisdom, humor, and deep humanity. Memphis is an American epic, a tribute to life in all of its sorrow and joyful resilience.” —Chloe Benjamin, bestselling author of The Immortalists

Editor's Pick

A vibrant celebration of female resilience
Tara M. Stringfellow’s debut novel traces the lives of four Black women from a Tennessee family. Hazel, Miriam, August, and Joan are the bold and beautiful North women, and they each take a turn recounting the violence, injustice, abuse, and trauma that shape their lives. Narrators Karen Murray and Adenrele Ojo tell this story with exceptional beauty, thanks to Stringfellow’s lyrical prose. The gentleness with which the performers unspool the events spanning from the 1930s to 2003 in succinct, nonlinear vignettes is remarkable. Their voices give a heartrending story its heart in Memphis. —Margaret H., Audible Editor

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What listeners say about Memphis

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Awful narrator

To start, I am from Memphis and have lived here my whole life. The first two chapters are interesting and I will be reading this in print format as the narrator is terrible. The southern accents are miserable. I do not think the narrator has heard an accent of someone who lives in Memphis, or any southern accent at all, outside of movies or tv. The male voices she does are equally bad. I can’t listen anymore. Just read this in print

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Drawn out and regurgitated

I was initially enjoying the book. However; it seemed to drag without any true climaxes. No forgiveness or true depth to the characters. The story just regurgitates what is already known.

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annoying narration, confusing timelines

I so wanted to enjoy this.
I found the narration incredibly annoying. It was as if different people were narrating the same character. Didn't seem consistent.
The story went off on so many tangents, making it hard to follow most of the time.

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Disappointment

Interesting enough story but it was slow moving. I expected to experience more of the flavor of the city. The women were not that like able. The writer needed a better editor. If you want to play a drinking game, count the number of times she uses “butter pecan” to describe a color.

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Wonderful!

I loved this book. The story is lyrical, gripping, deep, tough, beautiful, and full of redemption. I loved all of the characters. The narrators do a terrific job. I hated for it to end!

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Such a great story of true family bonds

Love every part of this story and it’s salute to the black family. Appreciated and related to the complexities of the relationships and celebrated the authenticity of the voice of the black child, girl and woman!! Thank you Tara!

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Great story and writing

The author paints a beautiful picture with her words. You can tell that a poet wrote this book. The book tells the story of the North women, each Chapter is a different time/period told from the perspective of each woman.

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Memphis

Wonder6 engrossing story detailing the black women system of support for each other and survival through their mutual care and love in all circumstances.

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Slow but good!

started out slow and hard to comprehend, but i pressed through and caught the vibe of the writer and enjoyed fully

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Memphis!!!!

Very powerful! Amazing storyline!! Loved that she talked about the past and present. Excellent!!! Love it!