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NC Authors Among Southern Book Prize Finalists

Four North Carolina authors are among the finalists for the 2021 Southern Book Prize, sponsored by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, including one member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.

Well, it’s a bit disingenuous to say “a member.” We’re thrilled that Ed Southern, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, is a finalist in the “Nonfiction” category for his book, Fight Songs: Love and Sports in a Complicated South (Blair).

The other NC-based finalists are Wiley Cash, whose novel When Ghosts Come Home (William Morrow) is nominated in “Fiction;” Alan Gratz, whose YA novel about 9/11, Ground Zero (Scholastic Press), is nominated in “Children’s;” and Jaye Robin Brown, whose YA novel The Key to You and Me (HarperTeen) also is nominated in “Children’s.”

Fight Songs by Ed Southern is a wry and witty commentary on college sports and identity in the complicated social landscape of the South. Ed set out to tell how the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, from beyond the grave, introduced him to his wife, a Birmingham native and die-hard Alabama fan. While he was writing that story, though, 2020 came along. This book explores the connections and contradictions between the teams we root for and the places we plant our roots; between the virtues that sports are supposed to teach and the cutthroat business they’ve become; between the hopes of fans and the demands of the past, present, and future.



When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash is a tender and haunting story of a father and daughter, crime and forgiveness, race and memory. When the roar of a low-flying plane awakens him in the middle of the night, Sheriff Winston Barnes knows something strange is happening at the nearby airfield on the coast of North Carolina. But nothing can prepare him for what he finds: a large airplane has crash-landed and is now sitting sideways on the runway, and there are no signs of a pilot or cargo. As the suspense builds and this compelling mystery unfolds, Wiley Cash delves deep into the hearts of these richly drawn, achingly sympathetic characters to reveal the nobility of an ordinary man struggling amidst terrifying, extraordinary circumstances.


Alan Gratz’ Ground Zero delivers a pulse-pounding and unforgettable take on history and hope, revenge and fear—and the stunning links between the past and present. The novel alternates between a boy visiting his dad at work, on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and an Afghani girl on September 11, 2019, who stumbles upon a wounded American soldier named Taz. Should she help Taz—and put herself and her family in mortal danger? Two kids. One devastating day. Nothing will ever be the same.



The Key to You and Me by Jaye Robin Brown is a sweet and funny LGBTQ+ romance perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Julie Murphy, from the critically acclaimed author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit. It’s a point-of-view rom-com about two girls falling in “like.” Kat Pearson has always suspected that she likes girls but fears her North Carolina town is too small to color outside the lines. But when Piper Kitt comes to spend the summer with her grandmother and train at the barn of a former Olympic horseback rider, Piper’s grandmother hires Kat to give her driving lessons, and everything changes.

For the full list of finalists for the 2021 Southern Book Prize, click here.