okra picks

Okra Picks are a dozen fresh titles chosen each season that SIBA Indie Bookstores want to handsell. These books should be southern in nature but can cover any genre, not just fiction. Southern readers love their writers, and we want to be at the forefront of bringing them a strong selection of Southern titles not to be missed each season.


DISCOVER THE CURRENT CROP OF FRESH OKRA PICKS...

  • The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

    The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
    Quirk Books, April, 2020

    I flew through this book! It was a great depiction of Southern housewives in the 90's. The mixture of quirkiness, horror, and Hendrix's unique take on vampires made it hard to put down."
    ~ Amanda Bradley, Blytheville Book Company, Blytheville, AR


    Steel Magnolias meets Dracula in this '90s-set horror novel about a women's book club that must do battle with a mysterious newcomer to their small Southern town, perfect for murderinos and fans of Stephen King.

    Patricia Campbell's life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she's always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they're as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.

    One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor's handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn't felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in.

    Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia's life and try to take everything she took for granted—including the book club—but she won't surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong.

  • Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

    Simon the Fiddler Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles
    William Morrow, April, 2020

    "Like her splendid earlier novel, News of the World, Paulette Jiles' Simon the Fiddler is set in a post-Civil War Texas. I was instantly charmed by this beguiling tale, equal parts adventure yarn, love story, and candid chronicle of life after great conflict."
    ~ Clara Boza, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC


    The critically acclaimed, bestselling author of News of the World and Enemy Women returns to Texas in this atmospheric story, set at the end of the Civil War, about an itinerant fiddle player, a ragtag band of musicians with whom he travels trying to make a living, and the charming young Irish lass who steals his heart.

    In March 1865, the long and bitter War between the States is winding down. Till now, twenty-three-year-old Simon Boudlin has evaded military duty thanks to his slight stature, youthful appearance, and utter lack of compunction about bending the truth. But following a barroom brawl in Victoria, Texas, Simon finds himself conscripted, however belatedly, into the Confederate Army. Luckily his talent with a fiddle gets him a comparatively easy position in a regimental band.

    Weeks later, on the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon and his bandmates are called to play for officers and their families from both sides of the conflict. There the quick-thinking, audacious fiddler can't help but notice the lovely Doris Mary Aherne, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel's daughter.

    After the surrender, Simon and Doris go their separate ways. He will travel around Texas seeking fame and fortune as a musician. She must accompany the colonel's family to finish her three years of service. But Simon cannot forget the fair Irish maiden, and vows that someday he will find her again.

    Incandescent in its beauty, told in Paulette Jiles's trademark spare yet lilting style, Simon the Fiddler is a captivating, bittersweet tale of the chances a devoted man will take, and the lengths he will go to fulfill his heart's yearning.

  • The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels

    TITLE The Prettiest Starby Carter Sickels
    Hub City Press, April, 2020

    "Told with empathy and heart, as well as a pitch-perfect sense of time and place, The Prettiest Star is a deeply affecting story about what it means to understand each other and where we come from, even when our lives have taken us light years away."
    ~ Ashley Warlick, M. Judson Booksellers and Storytellers, Greenville, SC


    A stunning novel about the bounds of family and redemption, shines light on an overlooked part of the AIDs epidemic when men returned to their rural communities to die, by Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award-winning author Carter Sickels.

    EW's 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2020

    O Magazine's "31 LGBTQ Books That'll Change the Literary Landscape in 2020"

    BookRiot's "Most Anticipated Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books of 2020"

    Atlanta Journal Constitution's "10 Southern Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2020"

    Bitch Media "27 Novels Feminists Should Read in 2020"

    Xtra 12 LGBTQ "Books You Won't Want to Miss in 2020"

    A stunning novel about the bounds of family and redemption, shines light on an overlooked part of the AIDs epidemic when men returned to their rural communities to die, by Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award-winning author Carter Sickels.

    Small-town Appalachia doesn't have a lot going for it, but it's where Brian is from, where his family is, and where he's chosen to return to die.

    Set in 1986, a year after Rock Hudson's death brought the news of AIDS into living rooms and kitchens across America, Lambda Literary award-winning author Carter Sickels's second novel shines light on an overlooked part of the epidemic, those men who returned to the rural communities and families who'd rejected them.

    Six short years after Brian Jackson moved to New York City in search of freedom and acceptance, AIDS has claimed his lover, his friends, and his future. With nothing left in New York but memories of death, Brian decides to write his mother a letter asking to come back to the place, and family, he was once so desperate to escape.

    The Prettiest Star is told in a chorus of voices: Brian's mother Sharon; his fourteen-year-old sister, Jess, as she grapples with her brother's mysterious return; and the video diaries Brian makes to document his final summer.

    This is an urgent story about the politics and fragility of the body, of sex and shame. Above all, Carter Sickels's stunning novel explores the bounds of family and redemption. It is written at the far reaches of love and understanding, centering on the moments where those two forces stretch toward each other and sometimes touch.

  • The Coyotes of Carthage by Steven Wright

    The Coyotes of Carthage The Coyotes of Carthage by Steven Wright
    Ecco, April, 2020

    "Dark humor and dark money make for a compelling combination and Dre Ross may be the most sympathetic villain around. A cautionary tale for our times full of heart and dire warnings of how politics can go wrong."
    ~ Jan Blodgett, Main Street Books, Davidson, NC


    A blistering and thrilling debut—a biting exploration of American politics, set in a small South Carolina town, about a political operative running a dark money campaign for his corporate clients

    Dre Ross has one more shot. Despite being a successful political consultant, his aggressive tactics have put him on thin ice with his boss, Mrs. Fitz, who plucked him from juvenile incarceration and mentored his career. She exiles him to the backwoods of South Carolina with $250,000 of dark money to introduce a ballot initiative on behalf of a mining company. The goal: to manipulate the locals into voting to sell their pristine public land to the highest bidder.

    Dre arrives in God-fearing, flag-waving Carthage County, with only Mrs. Fitz's well-meaning yet naïve grandson Brendan as his team. Dre, an African-American outsider, can't be the one to collect the signatures needed to get on the ballot. So he hires a blue-collar couple, Tyler Lee and his pious wife, Chalene, to act as the initiative's public face.

    Under Dre's cynical direction, a land grab is disguised as a righteous fight for faith and liberty. As lines are crossed and lives ruined, Dre's increasingly cutthroat campaign threatens the very soul of Carthage County and perhaps the last remnants of his own humanity.

    A piercing portrait of our fragile democracy and one man's unraveling, The Coyotes of Carthage paints a disturbingly real portrait of the American experiment in action.

  • Blue Marlin by Lee Smith

    Blue Marlin Blue Marlin by Lee Smith
    Blair, April, 2020

    "Lee Smith is a remarkable voice and someone you hope to spend an afternoon with. Her sense of humor and attention to detail make this quick read a delight. How would you feel when your parents try to take you away on a 'we have to patch up the family' trip? You can sense the tension and laugh out loud at the lens of Jenny's point of view."
    ~ Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC


    On a patched-up family vacation to Key West, a young girl seeks out movie stars and redemption for her fractured family.

    Lee Smith brings her masterful storytelling magic to this jewel of a novella that follows Jenny, an adventurous thirteen-year-old, down to Key West for a patched-up family vacation following the discovery of her father's illicit affair.

    Available for the first time as a stand-alone novella, this book centers on the Blue Marlin Motel in 1959, where Jenny, her beautiful socialite mother, and chastened father share their sunny days with movie stars who are in town to make the movie Operation Petticoat.

    Jenny is precocious and a bit of a sleuth, so her innocent "observations" to uncover the secrets of movie stars also end up revealing the secrets of her own family. Jenny confronts the frailty of family life while also vying for the attention of actor Tony Curtis and even a role in his movie. Smith delivers humor and honesty to her flawed characters with genuine Southern dignity.

  • Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey

    Feels Like Falling Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey
    Gallery Books, April, 2020

    "Diana is one of my top five favorite book characters of all time: she's witty, she's got a spine of steel, and she's from a social class that tends to be glossed over in women's fiction. I loved how heartwarming this book was. I say this about all of Kristy's books, but it genuinely made me laugh out loud and tear up, too!"
    ~ Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL


    Parade's 20 Most Anticipated Books of Early 2020
    SheKnows' 10 of the Most Anticipated Books Coming in 2020
    Mary Kay Andrews' Reading Challenge Women's Fiction Pick
    Working Mother's 20 Most Anticipated Books of 2020 for Working Moms

    From "the next major voice in Southern fiction" (Elin Hilderbrand) and the bestselling author of the Peachtree Bluff series comes an odd-couple tale of friendship that asks just how much our past choices define our happiness.

    It's summertime on the North Carolina coast and the livin' is easy.

    Unless, that is, you've just lost your mother to cancer, your sister to her extremist husband, and your husband to his executive assistant. Meet Gray Howard. Right when Gray could use a serious infusion of good karma in her life, she inadvertently gets a stranger, Diana Harrington, fired from her job at the local pharmacy.

    Diana Harrington's summer isn't off to the greatest start either: Hours before losing her job, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of their shared house with only a worn-out Impala for a bed. Lucky for her, Gray has an empty guest house and a very guilty conscience.

    With Gray's kindness, Diana's tide begins to turn. But when her first love returns, every secret from her past seems to resurface all at once. And, as Gray begins to blaze a new trail, she discovers, with Diana's help, that what she envisioned as her perfect life may not be what she wants at all.

    In her warmest, wisest novel yet, Kristy Woodson Harvey delivers a discerning portrait of modern womanhood through two vastly different lenses. Feels Like Falling is a beach bag essential for Harvey fans—and for a new generation of readers.

  • Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney

    Before She Was Helen Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney
    Poisoned Pen Press, May, 2020

    "If you read Caroline B Cooney back in the day like I did, you will love this new one. No one is who they seem to be. Cooney keeps you on the edge of your seat as the narrative flashes between the main character and her past, describing how she evades an old stalker to reclaim her life. Cooney reminds the fans why she's been a huge name in thriller fiction for decades."
    ~ Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA


    A new mystery from international bestselling author Caroline B. Cooney! She thought fifty years was long enough to escape her past. She was wrong.

    Clementine Lakefield leads a simple life in her retirement community in Sun City, South Carolina. She plays cards, substitute teaches, and has learned to text with her niece and nephew; but Clemmie is not who she says she is. Behind her carefree facade, she is hiding a lifetime of secrets.

    When Clemmie's curmudgeonly neighbor goes missing, Clemmie suddenly finds herself thrust into the spotlight at the center of a dangerous conspiracy.

    From international bestselling author Caroline B. Cooney comes Before She Was Helen, an absorbing mystery that explores the danger of confronting your own past life.

  • Lobizona by Romina Garber

    Lobizona Lobizona by Romina Garber
    Wednesday Books, May, 2020

    "This is not your typical werewolf book. Think more Harry Potter meets Argentinian folklore meets the hope/terror of people coming to the US to start a better life. The world-building in this book is amazing because it's familiar yet so new at the same time."
    ~ Candace Conner, The Haunted Book Shop, Mobile, AL


    In Lobizona,bestselling author Romina Garber weaves together Argentine folklore and what it means to be illegal in a timely, intimate, and emotionally powerful narrative.

    Some people ARE illegal.

    Lobizonas do NOT exist.

    Both of these statements are false.

    Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who's on the run from her father's Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

    Until Manu's protective bubble is shattered.

    Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious "Z" emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

    As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it's not just her U.S. residency that's illegal. . . . it's her entire existence.

  • Boys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson

    The Boys of AlabamaBoys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson
    Liveright, May, 2020

    "Genevieve Hudson brings to life a brutal yet spellbinding exploration of teenage masculinity, and the horrors that it is capable of setting loose. In her haunting debut novel - part coming-of-age, part Southern gothic, part queer lit - she highlights the fear and excitement, the love and the loss, that inevitably accompanies being a new face in a new place."
    ~ Gage Tarlton, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC


    O, The Oprah Magazine • "31 LGBTQ Books That'll Change the Literary Landscape in 2020"
    Lit Hub • "Most Anticipated Books by LGBTQ Authors For the First Half of 2020"
    Ms. Magazine • "Reads for the Rest of Us: Feminist Books Coming Out in 2020"

    "A gripping, uncanny, and queer exploration of being a boy in America, told with detail that dazzles and disturbs." —Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir

    In this bewitching debut novel, a sensitive teen, newly arrived in Alabama, falls in love, questions his faith, and navigates a strange power. While his German parents don't know what to make of a South pining for the past, shy Max thrives in the thick heat. Taken in by the football team, he learns how to catch a spiraling ball, how to point a gun, and how to hide his innermost secrets.

    Max already expects some of the raucous behavior of his new, American friends—like their insatiable hunger for the fried and cheesy, and their locker room talk about girls. But he doesn't expect the comradery—or how quickly he would be welcomed into their world of basement beer drinking. In his new canvas pants and thickening muscles, Max feels like he's "playing dress-up." That is until he meets Pan, the school "witch," in Physics class: "Pan in his all black. Pan with his goth choker and the gel that made his hair go straight up." Suddenly, Max feels seen, and the pair embarks on a consuming relationship: Max tells Pan about his supernatural powers, and Pan tells Max about the snake poison initiations of the local church. The boys, however, aren't sure whose past is darker, and what is more frightening—their true selves, or staying true in Alabama.

    Writing in verdant and visceral prose that builds to a shocking conclusion, Genevieve Hudson "brilliantly reinvents the Southern Gothic, mapping queer love in a land where God, guns, and football are king" (Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks). Boys of Alabama becomes a nuanced portrait of masculinity, religion, immigration, and the adolescent pressures that require total conformity.

  • We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

    We Are Not From HereWe Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
    Philomel Books, May, 2020

    "I still don't know if I have fully recovered from reading this novel, but I know that I needed to read it. It is both devastating yet compulsively readable; difficult to get through yet necessary. One in the ranks of The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and should be put into every American's hands."
    ~ Olivia Schaffer, The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA


    A poignant novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border, inspired by current events.

    Pulga has his dreams.

    Chico has his grief.

    Pequeña has her pride.

    And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they've grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.

    Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life—if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.

    In this striking portrait of lives torn apart, the plight of migrants at the U.S. southern border is brought to light through poignant, vivid storytelling. An epic journey of danger, resilience, heartache, and hope.

  • A Taste of Sage by Yaffa S. Santos

    A Taste of SageA Taste of Sage by Yaffa S. Santos
    Harper Paperbacks, May, 2020

    "When you mix delicious food and hate to love romance in a book, you instantly have me hooked. Julien is a celebrated chef who is known for his good looks but bad attitude. Lumi can't stand Julien, but tastes his cooking because it looks so irresistible and she's overcome with intense emotions and has her wondering if she wants more. If you are looking for something fun, tasty, and will test your senses, you will enjoy this book."
    ~ Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square, McDonough, GA


    From talented new writer, Yaffa S. Santos, comes this unforgettable, heartwarming, and hilarious rom-com about chefs, cooking, love, and self-discovery that is a cross between The Hating Game and Sweetbitter.

    Lumi Santana is a chef with the gift of synesthesia—she can perceive a person's emotions just by tasting their cooking. Despite being raised by a single mother who taught her that dreams and true love were silly fairy tales, she decides to take a chance and puts her heart and savings into opening a fusion restaurant in Inwood, Manhattan. The restaurant offers a mix of the Dominican cuisine she grew up with and other world cuisines that have been a source of culinary inspiration to her.

    When Lumi's eclectic venture fails, she is forced to take a position as a sous chef at a staid, traditional French restaurant in midtown owned by Julien Dax, a celebrated chef known for his acid tongue as well as his brilliant smile. Lumi and Julien don't get along in the kitchen--to say Lumi is irritated by Julien's smug attitude is an understatement, and she secretly vows never to taste his cooking. Little does she know that her resolve doesn't stand a chance against Julien's culinary prowess.

    As Julien produces one delectable dish after another, each one tempting Lumi with its overwhelming aromas and gorgeous presentations, she can no longer resist and samples one of his creations. She isn't prepared for the feelings that follow as she's overcome with intense emotions. She begins to crave his cooking throughout the day, which throws a curveball in her plan to save up enough money and move on as soon as possible. Plus, there's also the matter of Esme, Julien's receptionist who seems to always be near and watching. As the attraction between Lumi and Julien simmers, Lumi experiences a tragedy that not only complicates her professional plans, but her love life as well...

    Clever, witty, and romantic, A Taste of Sage is sure to delight and entertain readers until the very last page.

  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

    The Vanishing HalfThe Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
    Riverhead Books, June, 2020

    "This beautifully paced and thought-provoking novel is one to enjoy slowly, savoring as you consider the big questions this book poses: who are we when we shed the markers that once defined us, how do our pasts inform our choices and desires, and what does it mean to be a family.
    ~ Megan Bell, Underground Books, Carrollton, GA


    From The New York Times-bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

    The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

    Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

    As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.

  • The Unwilling by John Hart

    The UnwillingThe Unwilling by John Hart
    St. Martin's Press, June, 2020

    "With his signature beautiful writing style, Hart leads readers on a mystery that ends up not being the one you might not have thought it would be, and each twist and reveal brings up new questions to keep the reader engaged in a big way."
    ~ Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC


    Set in the South at the height of the Vietnam War, The Unwilling combines crime, suspense and searing glimpses into the human mind and soul in NYT bestselling author John Hart's singular style.

    Gibby's older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison.

    Jason won't speak of the war or of his time behind bars, but he wants a relationship with the younger brother he hasn't known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whisky and older women.

    But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, one of the women taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. The woman finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after.

    Given his violent history, suspicion turns first to Jason; but when the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother's hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns and outlaw motorcycle gangs. What he discovers there is a truth more bleak than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra's murder, but the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison. This is crime fiction at its most raw, an exploration of family and the past, of prison and war and the indelible marks they leave.