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Magic City Gospel

Ashley M. Jones

Hub City Press
$14.95 paperback
5.5 x 8.5
80 pages
January 2017

This title is not yet published.

Magic City Gospel is a love song to Birmingham, the Magic City of the South. In traditional forms and free verse poems, 2015 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award-winner Ashley M. Jones takes readers on a historical, geographical, cultural, and personal journey through her life and the life of her home state. This debut poetry collection is an exploration of race, identity, and history through the eyes of a black woman from Alabama. From De Soto’s “discovery” of Alabama to George Wallace’s infamous stance in the schoolhouse door, to the murders of black men like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner in modern America, Magic City Gospel weaves its story through time, weaving Jones’ personal history with the troubled, triumphant, and complicated history of Birmingham, and of Alabama at large. In Magic City Gospel’s pages, you’ll find that “gold is laced in Alabama’s teeth,” but you will also see the dark underbelly of a state and a city with a storied past, and a woman whose history is inextricably linked to that past. 


In Magic City Gospel, Ashley Michelle Jones writes Birmingham, Alabama with the precision of one who grew up there.  Seeped in the city’s difficult history, its food and folklore, this poetry explores the complicated racial and national identity of the author.  In both free verse and received forms, these poems reverberate with heartache and humor.  Ashley Michelle Jones’s voice speaks to her generation and beyond.  She is an old soul in a young body—her work will serve as an important springboard for questions of race, gender, and social justice.  Simply put, the United States needs Magic City Gospel.  This is a stunning and important debut.
—Denise Duhamel
Ashley Jones lays Alabama bare, wide, beautiful, terrifying and familiar in Magic City Gospel, this wonderful collection thick with where form, history, and even the wind are all rendered blackly and masterfully. Jones’ poems are alive with ghost and kin, God and Black girls, and all are sung, SANG really, under her capable hand. The red dirt is smeared all over this book, where we get to see Sammie Davis Jr. sing for Mike Brown & the Virgin Mary painted Black and Southern. Let Jones show you her land and her people, let me drive you across roads and time and show you what Alabama is about. 
—Danez Smith, author of [insert] boy
Ashley M. Jones’ Magic City Gospel is exact and exacting.  Her intention is to name—and she does so in a way that renders into beauty all that is harsh about the American South.  This is a poetry book that knows how to be a history book, a religious text, a book of redemption.
—Jericho Brown, author of The New Testament