The best books about cultural opposites, southern politics and families

Who am I?

I was a military spouse for 26 years. My husband was stationed at MCAS Cherry Point NC and MCB Camp Lejeune NC, both for two years. We (he and I and our four children) lived on the base. He also served two tours in Vietnam, just like Doreen’s husband, and also at Headquarters, Marine Corps later. The fictional Marine base and town where this takes place is modeled after Camp Lejeune and the adjacent town. I did see the same sign welcoming us to Klan country, on Easter Sunday morning 1972 and have never forgotten it. I also knew Queenie’s counterpart. This novel is in no way autobiographical—I was never as brave as Doreen. 


I wrote...

Queenie's Place

By Toni Morgan,

Book cover of Queenie's Place

What is my book about?

Queenie's Place, set near a military base in NC in 1972, is about a friendship between a young White woman from California and a Black woman raised in the Jim Crow south. From the moment Doreen spots the Welcome to Klan Country sign, North Carolina is one culture shock after another. One day, her car tire goes flat right in front of a roadhouse frequented by Black Marines. Inside, Queenie is holding forth at the piano. The place is jumping. Besides the music, there’s dancing and the best barbecue in North Carolina. When Queenie’s place is closed by the town council, Doreen dons her crusader armor. The clash between the military higher-ups, the town politicians, and Queenie, with Doreen at her side, begins. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Great Santini

Toni Morgan Why did I love this book?

The Great Santini is a biography/memoir of author Patrick Conroy’s father, a Marine pilot – I recommend this book because I think it is such an accurate illustration of military family life and life with a career military man. Especially accurate to me are the struggles it illustrates between husband and wife and father and children. For me, too, it was an interesting coincidence that I substitute taught at the same school in North Carolina (though a different decade) as the author attended as a child when his father was stationed at MCAS Cherry Point.

By Pat Conroy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Great Santini as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pat Conroy’s New York Times–bestselling coming-of-age novel about a son’s struggle to escape the domineering expectations of his volatile military father
 
Marine Col. Bull Meecham commands his home like a soldiers’ barracks. Cold and controlling, but also loving, Bull has complicated relationships with each member of his family—in particular, his eldest son, Ben.
 
A born athlete who desperately seeks his father’s approval, Ben is determined to break out from the colonel’s shadow. With guidance from teachers at his new school, he strives to find the courage to stand up to his father once and for all.
 
Inspired by Pat Conroy’s…


Book cover of The Help

Toni Morgan Why did I love this book?

The Help is set in Mississippi in the 1960’s, and is about an unusual friendship between three women, one White and two Black. The two Black women are maids. The White woman is a recent college graduate. All three find that they don’t fit within the strict confines of Mississippi’s rigid social structure, a structure that’s been around since before the Civil War. Some may think The Help is another ‘White woman to the Rescue’ story, but it’s not. Stockett brings her characters alive and tells their stories with pitch-perfect acumen.

By Kathryn Stockett,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Help as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling novel and basis for the Academy Award-winning film-a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't-nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read.

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's…


Book cover of Mudbound

Toni Morgan Why did I love this book?

Mudbound is about post-WWII in the Jim Crow south. It tells the stories of two returning soldiers in a muddy farm setting. I was raised on a dairy farm with plenty of mud, so I easily identified with the setting. The situation of the two men, one White, one Black, and their families' struggles, physically with the constant mud, and emotionally with the politics of both the era and the place, were graphic. It was a book that was difficult to put down and also difficult to read. In ways I was reminded of 12 Years A Slave.

By Hillary Jordan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mudbound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING CAREY MULLIGAN, GARRETT HEDLUND & MARY J. BLIGE

When Henry McAllan moves his city-bred wife, Laura, to a cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta in 1946, she finds herself in a place both foreign and frightening. Henry's love of rural life is not shared by Laura, who struggles to raise their two young children in an isolated shotgun shack under the eye of her hateful, racist father-in-law. When it rains, the waters rise up and swallow the bridge to town, stranding the family in a sea of mud.

As the Second World War shudders…


Book cover of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Toni Morgan Why did I love this book?

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, set in the early 1990s, is about the changing culture in the rural south. It is also about the friendship of two women, Idgie and Ninny Threadgood, who, in other situations, might not have had the opportunity to know each other so well. They are thrown together and are fighting for survival. The narrator of the book is the nephew of one of the women, Idgie, who has multiple, and sometimes dodgy, adventures that he, Bud, gets to participate in. A good read that became a hit movie.

By Fannie Flagg,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.
 
Praise for Fried Green Tomatoes at…


Book cover of Where the Crawdads Sing

Toni Morgan Why did I love this book?

This story is set in the 1950s along the marshy North Carolina coast. Kya’s mother deserts her first, then her older siblings, leaving Kya to bring herself up. Nature plays a huge role in Kya’s life, as the marsh creatures are her only friends. The people in the nearby town call her the Marsh Girl, and she’s happy with that--until she begins to feel something is missing. Where the Crawdads Sing is both an unusual coming-of-age novel and a murder mystery. And an excellent read.

By Delia Owens,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked Where the Crawdads Sing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

OVER 12 MILLION COPIES SOLD WORLDWIDE
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
A NUMBER ONE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

For years, rumours of the 'Marsh Girl' have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be…


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Bottled Secrets of Rosewood

By Mary Kendall,

Book cover of Bottled Secrets of Rosewood

Mary Kendall Author Of Campbell's Boy

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Storyteller Historian Walking enthusiast Yogi

Mary's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Miranda falls in love with her dream house but soon discovers it's an affair with complications. A lot of them. Rosewood is a centuries old, tumble-down, gambrel roofed charmer located in an isolated, coastal corner of Virginia referred to as "strange". Known for long-standing and antiquated customs, an almost indecipherable brogue and possible witchcraft connections, Miranda shrugs all locational concerns aside to pursue her new love.

When an archeological dig is undertaken at the property, a series of incidents commences that goes beyond just "bumps in the night". Awakened one night by the eerie glow from a ring of fire around her house, Miranda must decide. Should she leave Rosewood or stay---and potentially pay the ultimate price?

Bottled Secrets of Rosewood

By Mary Kendall,

What is this book about?

After a logics professor buys the house of her dreams, she must contend with unexplainable happenings. An ancient blue bottle appears to be at the root of the mysterious incidents, but is it?

Miranda falls in love with her dream house but soon discovers it's an affair with complications. A lot of them. Rosewood is a centuries old, tumble-down, gambrel roofed charmer located in an isolated, coastal corner of Virginia referred to as ""strange"". Known for long-standing and antiquated customs, an almost indecipherable brogue and possible witchcraft connections, Miranda shrugs all locational concerns aside to pursue her new love.

When…


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