Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Looking Back on 50 Years of Tennessee Books

50 Books / HT50, Part 8: 2010-2012

Arguably every year is a memorable year for weather in Tennessee, but 2010 and 2011 were especially rough. Middle and West Tennessee suffered devastating flooding in May 2010, with the Nashville area especially hard-hit. (You can find a collection of first-person essays about the flood here.) The spring of 2011 brought dramatic flooding along the Mississippi River, with major impacts on Tennessee’s western border. In Memphis, the river reached its highest point in decades. 

Even as we fought with Mother Nature, there was good news in the literary realm, especially for fiction. This installment of the 50 Books / HT50 series is entirely devoted to novels and features two deftly comic tales, a searing depiction of Stalin’s gulag, a finely wrought drama set in occupied Japan, and an Appalachian story of beauty, climate change, and personal evolution.

Learn more about the 50 Books / HT50 project here, and go here to see all the project posts to date.

The Frozen Rabbi by Memphis native Steve Stern is partially set in the city’s historically Jewish neighborhood, the Pinch. The novel is featured in a 50 Books / HT50 essay. (Algonquin Books, 2010)

The Typist by University of Tennessee, Knoxville English professor Michael Knight tells the story of a young typist in General MacArthur’s headquarters in post-WWII occupied Japan. (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010)

The Family Fang, the debut novel by Sewanee writer Kevin Wilson, is the quirky, comic tale of a dysfunctional family of performance artists dedicated to creating chaos. (Ecco, 2011)

Between Shades of Gray by Nashvillian Ruta Sepetys — the author’s debut YA novel — depicts Stalin’s gulags through the eyes of a 15-year-old Lithuanian girl. (Philomel, 2011)

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver is set in rural East Tennessee, where an extraordinary visitation of monarch butterflies signals an ominous future for the planet and a fateful decision for an unhappy young woman. (HarperCollins, 2012)

Looking Back on 50 Years of Tennessee Books

Humanities Tennessee is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Founded in 1973, we continue to develop ways to connect, learn, and grow as a community.

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