Michelle Kuo joined Teach For America and wound up in Helena, Arkansas, where she formed a bond with her student Patrick Browning over literature. "He had a feeling of being somebody who was often observing his peers, rather than getting sucked into their world," she said in an interview with One Day Magazine. "And he also just was naturally drawn to poetry and writing. Sometimes I had to sell poetry to students by talking about how it was a lot like hip-hop, but Patrick understood that intuitively. And I loved that about him—he was very quiet, very introspective. And he flourished at reading."

Eventually, her commitment to Teach For America ended and she moved away for law school. While studying criminal law, she learned that Patrick got in a fight and killed somebody. "I was devastated and honestly just didn't believe it because Patrick had never been violent in my class or at the school," she said. "He even broke up a fight outside of our classroom because he didn't want to see people hurting each other."

This news prompted her to move back to Arkansas and reconnect with Patrick, who was forgotten in the brutal prison system of the rural South. Through reading together with Patrick, Michelle was able to continue Patrick's education and address some of her failures from when she was a teacher. Her new book Reading for Patrick—an important and moving book about education, failure, criminal justice, and redemption—is a product of this time spent with Patrick. 

Michelle Kuo read on Thacker Mountain Radio next Thursday, September 28th. We'll be donating a portion of proceeds to Teach for America.

To reserve your signed copy and learn more about the event click here

Jesmyn Ward returns to Square Books

National Book Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward returns to Square Books on Monday, September 25th, in support of her latest novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, which was longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Fiction. Ward, a Mississippian, was the Grisham Writer in Residence in 2010.

In her first novel since Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds.

As former Square Books bookseller Purvis Cornish says, "Ward delivers again. Told mainly through the voices of Jojo, a teenager and pseudo-father to his younger sister, Kayla, and their estranged mother, Leonie, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a multi-generational and multi-racial family's odyssey through Mississippi, and through the legacies—ghosts—of slavery and Jim Crow, which shape this family's present."

She'll be joined in conversation with the 2017 Grisham Writer in Residence Catherine Lacey. For more information, visit the event page.

Under Harvey's Eye

Hurricane Harvey has cut a path through the South, much like when Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast in 2005. These catastrophic storms leave behind shambles, and some of the books below do justice at describing the horror. Read on in order to grasp the long (and still unfolding) road ahead for those in Texas.

Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones is a big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty. Winner of the 2011 National Book Award.

In The Great Deluge, bestselling author Douglas Brinkley finds the true heroes of the unparalleled Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, and lets the survivors tell their own stories, masterly allowing them to record the nightmare that was Katrina.

Five Days at Memorial uncovers the harrowing story of a hospital during the Katrina floodwaters where several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. 

Kiese Laymon's debut novel Long Division tells about YouTube sensation City Coldson, who moves away from home and is given a book that contains time traveling powers, which enables him to travel back in time and save his family from terrorism by the Ku Klux Klan.

Michael Farris Smith's devastating Rivers is a masterful tale of survival and redemption in a world where the next storm is never far behind. 

A decade later, Katrina: After the Storm traces the storm's immediate damage, the city of New Orleans's efforts to rebuild itself, and the storm's lasting effects not just on the area's geography and infrastructure--but on the psychic, racial, and social fabric of one of this nation's great cities.

America's Great Storm is the memoir from former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and details his experience with guiding the poorest state in the nation out of this tragedy.

The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly is a fictional account about murder and love during the Mississippi Flood of 1927. An extraordinary tale told with beautiful language from two Oxford writers.

Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths.

Drawdown is a collection of 100 solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world.

The Madhouse Effect portrays the intellectual pretzels into which denialists must twist logic to explain away the clear evidence that human activity has changed Earth's climate. Because climate change is fact.

Truth to Power is a book companion to Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

The Sixth Extinction blends intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.


Please Forward is a collection of blog posts from a blogging community that was vital for rebuilding New Orleans.



Catherine Lacey on the season premiere of Thacker Mountain Radio

Thacker Mountain Radio returns to Oxford after a summer spent on the road. This week's author is Catherine Lacey, who is the University of Mississippi's 2017 Grisham Writer in Residence. The show will feature performances by the Memphis reggae band Chinese Connection Dub Embassy and local synth-pop duo And The Echo.

Catherine Lacey is the author of Nobody Is Ever Missing, winner of a 2016 Whiting Award and a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award. She was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and is based in Chicago.

Her latest novel, The Answers, follows a struggling Mary who lives in New York City and needs a certain health treatment she can't afford. She's in serious debt and out of options when she signs up for a mysterious job advertised as "The Girlfriend Experiment," which she learns is the creation of narcissstic actor Kurt Sky. Determined to find the perfect relationship, Sky hires several women to provide different girlfriend-like functions. Mary's role is to play the "Emotional Girlfriend" and she falls into Kurt's ego-driven and messy attempts at human connection.

Dwight Garner of the New York Times wrote, "In her new novel, The Answers, she sweeps you up in the formidable current of her thought, and then she drops you down the rabbit hole. She’s the real thing, and in The Answers she takes full command of her powers."

Told in her signature spiraling prose, The Answers is full of the singular yet universal insights readers have come to expect from Lacey.

August 31st - 6pm - Off Square Books

First Amendment Sales Tax Holiday

In celebration of the vital importance of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits, among other things, "the making of any law abridging the freedom of speech" or "infringing upon the freedom of the press," Square Books will offer our customers a 7% discount on book purchases all weekend, starting on August 25th through August 27th.

The discount effectively nullifies the amount of sales tax for customers, as Square Books is still required to collect and pay that tax.

This promotion celebrates the great traditions of free expression and free press in our nation and the rich tradition of Mississippi's literature.

It occurs on the same weekend that the State Legislature grants a sales tax holiday to anyone in Mississippi purchasing guns, a Second Amendment tax holiday initiated in Governor Phil Bryant's first term.

We encourage the Mississippi legislature to one day initiate a similar holiday for the sale of books.

An Interview with Richard Howorth

With the Tuesday release by Doubleday of Camino Island, a crime thriller about the heist of rare book manuscripts from Princeton University–and the cast of characters that sets out to find the robbers, recover the manuscripts, and ensure justice for all in just under 300 pages–Grisham will hit the road again on a much-anticipated book tour that will include a stop at Square Books on June 20. While much has changed since that initial book signing event in Oxford 28 years ago, Square Books owner Richard Howorth looks back fondly on memories that link Square Books to Grisham’s early career, and the special regard each still holds for the other. Interview by Jana Hoops. Special to Clarion-Ledger Sunday print edition (June 4). Click here to read the interview, or click the "read more" link below.

Order a signed copy of Camino Island

Camino Island opens with a Princeton library heist of valuable manuscripts, a charismatic bookstore owner (no, this resembles no one we know) whose sideline of antiquarian books might have a shady side, and a young woman, a struggling writer, who is hired by an insurance firm to find facts and play dumb. The recipe of interesting characters and a rollicking plot, sprinkled with literary treats, makes for Grisham at his best. Order a signed first edition of Camino Island.

Living in Mississippi: The Life and Times of Evans Harrington

Living in Mississippi: The Life and Times of Evans HarringtonA little over a year ago Robert Hamblin's excellent brief biography of William Faulkner, Myself and the World, appeared here. Recently we received another most welcome 148-page biography by Hamblin, Living in Mississippi: The Life and Times of Evans Harrington, the story of one of Mississippi's most courageous intellectuals and social activists. Harrington (1925-97) was one of the most popular professors on campus, teaching all creative writing classes (Poetry, the Short Story, and Expository Prose) and most modern literature courses (Modern American Drama, the Modern English Novel, and Modern Poetry) at a time when English departments almost universally taught the work of only dead writers. Harrington was active in important civil rights and free speech issues and cases. Upon receiving the ACLU's Civil Libertarian of the Year award, one of the writers Harrington was responsible for bringing to the University of Mississippi, Barry Hannah, said, "He is Emerson's 'American Scholar.' He is Whitman's 'man of the open road.' He is not just a supporter of of the arts, civil rights, and humanitarian enlightenment, but a great participator." We will celebrate Robert Hamblin's life of Evans Harrington at the close of this year's Faulkner Conference—of which Harrington was it's 1974 co-founder. The book is now available. -- RH