With the end of each year, I always take a moment to look in the rear-view mirror before I step on the gas pedal and make my merge into the traffic of the new year. For Charlotte’s community of readers and writers, 2022 turned out pretty well. The year saw the launching of Litmosphere: Journal of Charlotte Lit and the return of EpicFest, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s free literary festival for children and their families. The year also marked the return of the library’s Verse and Vino as an in-person event. Numerous books by Charlotte writers came out in 2022. Listed below are twelve of my favorites. These books include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s books:
Burning Shakespeare by A. J. Hartley. In this time-travel novel, an American businessman and Shakespeare hater travels back in time to Renaissance London on a mission to eradicate Shakespeare from history. He is countered by three recently deceased people from our time who are given an opportunity to come back to life if they go back in time and stop the businessman from carrying out his mission.
Deadly Declarations by Landis Wade. This mystery novel is set in a fictional retirement community located in Charlotte. Three residents of the “Independence Retirement Community” join forces to solve a mystery related to the famous and controversial Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The protagonists in this novel are anything but retiring. They are feisty, independent, and fully engaged in the world around them. They take on a powerful law firm, a corrupt politician, and a secret society and they prove that they are more than equal to the challenge.
The Grand Design: A Novel of Dorothy Draper by Joy Callaway. For the most part, this historical novel takes place in The Greenbrier, the famous resort in West Virginia. The central character has much in common with Dorothy Draper, the pioneering interior designer who renovated The Greenbrier after it was used as a makeshift hospital during World War II.
Manmade Constellations by Misha Lazzara. This contemporary novel combines the pleasures of an American road-trip story with the emotional tug of a relationship story involving two traveling companions from quite different worlds.
Secret Lives by Mark de Castrique. The central character in this thriller mystery is Ethel Fiona Crestwater, a 75-year-old retired FBI agent who runs a boardinghouse near Washington, D.C. The reviewer from Publishers Weekly describes this character as “an elderly Nancy Drew” who is “ready to bend a few rules to achieve her goal of seeing justice done.”
Song of Redemption by Malika J. Stevely. Most of this historical novel takes place on a French and English-speaking plantation in Louisiana in the years just before the Civil War, but the opening chapter is set in 1932. In this chapter, a group of construction workers are fixing up an abandoned plantation mansion when they discover the body of a woman behind one of the walls. This event actually happened. When Malika heard about it, she decided to write a novel based on the life of this woman.
Child: A Memoir by Judy Goldman. In Child, Judy writes about her relationship with Mattie Culp, the Black woman who cared for Judy as a white Jewish girl growing up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, during the 1940s and ‘50s. Judy examines how the racism of the Jim Crow South affected her relationship with Mattie.
Legacy: Three Centuries of Black History in Charlotte, North Carolina by Pamela Grundy. This book provides readers with a concise overview of the history of Black culture in Charlotte. As Pamela documents in her book, African Americans have played important roles in the history of Charlotte from the origins of the city in the 1750s to the present day.
The House Inside My Head by Chris Arvidson. In this debut chapbook, Chris writes about specific places and her responses to these places. Among the places she explores are Lake Michigan, Jerusalem, a bathroom at a rest stop, and the Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte.
The Metaphorist by Martin (Marty) Settle. The poems in this collection look at nature through a metaphorical lens. To quote Marty, “This book of poetry comes, first of all, from my unending love of plants and animals. Over the years, I have become quite familiar with the flora, fauna, and fungi of our region. But these poems are not just any nature poems, but nature poems that are in line with current, ecological discoveries and philosophies.”
All the Places We Call Home by Patric Gopo. In the beginning of All the Places We Call Home, a young girl spins a globe on her bedside table and wonders about the various places that figure in her family history. Like Patrice, the girl lives in America but has family roots in multiple parts of the world. The girl’s mother then shares bedtime stories about these special places.
The Talk by Alicia D. Williams. The Talk tells the story of Jay, a young Black boy who is growing up in an American city with his tight-knit family and his regular group of neighborhood friends. At first, Jay is more or less oblivious to the realities of racial prejudice, but as he matures, his parents and grandparents take him aside and talk to him about how to respond to racial profiling and other forms of prejudice that Black children, especially Black boys, often encounter when they make the transition from childhood to pre-adolescence. The Talk is a book about racism, but at its core, it is a celebration of a loving Black family.
THERE ARE MORE THAN TWELVE
The twelve books mentioned above are by no means the only books that Charlotte-area writers published in 2022. I could mention many more books, including a number of excellent scholarly works written by professors I know at UNC Charlotte. Still, this list provides a good sampling of the wide variety of books that came out of Storied Charlotte in 2022.