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More book award nominees featured

Robert Morgan talks about “Chasing the North Star” on “North Carolina Bookwatch” today at noon and Thursday, June 29, at 5 p.m.

Author of “Gap Creek,” Morgan’s “Chasing the North Star,” is a finalist for the Southern Book Award. Set in pre-Civil War times, the story follows a crafty teenaged runaway slave named Jonah Williams on a northward journey toward freedom, from the Carolina mountains all the way to Ithaca, New York.

Along the way, Jonah’s adventures and his contacts with the people he meets are reminiscent of the travels of Inman, the Civil War soldier in Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain.”

Early on Jonah meets a young enslaved woman named Angel, who decides to follow him. Sometimes together, sometimes separated, they make their sometimes different ways toward freedom, drifting past Asheville in a stolen small boat on the French Broad River, walking to Kingsport, finding work in a high-class brothel in Roanoke, with close calls and adventures on every pathway and at every stop.

Peter Geye wrote in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “What is unequivocal about this novel is the verve of Morgan’s scenic imagination. Whether he’s writing about a master whipping his slave or Jonah and Angel making love for the first time or, perhaps the novel’s most stunning scene, Jonah riding an unmoored shack down a flooded river plain, the writing is visual and powerful and even breathtaking at times.”

Vivian Howard talks about “Deep Run Roots” on “North Carolina Bookwatch” SundayJuly 2, at noon and Thursday, July 6, at 5 p.m.

“Eastern North Carolina is my Tuscany, my Szechuan, my Provence,” writes Howard in her memoir “Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South,” a finalist for the Southern Book Award.

Public television’s popular program, “A Chef’s Life,” made Howard and her Kinston restaurant, Chef and the Farmer, known and admired across the country. With her photograph on the lovely cover of her book she made The New York Times bestseller list.

She writes, “This book is the story of my life so far, told through the ingredients that fill the plates and pantries of my home: Deep Run, North Carolina. A tiny farming community about halfway between Raleigh and the Atlantic Ocean, Deep Run is a nondescript dot on Eastern North Carolina’s flat coastal plain. No stoplights, no strip malls – Deep Run is not a town; it’s a fire district.

“This is a Southern cookbook, but not one that treats the South like one big region where everybody eats the same fried chicken, ribs, shrimp and grits, collard greens, and gumbo. Instead, I interpret Southern cooking the way we understand French, Italian, and Chinese food: as a complex cuisine with abundant variations shaped by terrain, climate, and people.”

Other finalists for the Southern Book Award are listed at https://www.sibaweb.com/siba-book-award

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