Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes

Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes

Deborah Smith, Sandra Chastain, Virginia Ellis, Debra Dixon, Donna Ball, Nancy Knight

$14.95 May 2000
ISBN: 0-9673035-0-8

Vacation Bible School. Quilt making. Tea drinking. Story telling. Kick your shoes off, find a shady place on the front porch, and enjoy this collection of short stories about life, love, laughter and southern traditions.


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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Come sit on the porch a spell. Let's talk about times gone by and folks we remember, about slow summer evenings and lightning bugs in a jar. Listen to the music of a creaky swing and hand-cranked ice cream and cicadas chorusing in the sultry night air. Let's talk about how things used to be in the South--and for some of us, they way they still are.

Welcome to the world of Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes, where award winning authors Deborah Smith, Sandra Chastain, Virginia Ellis, Debra Dixon, Donna Ball and Nancy Knight come together for the first time to create this poignant, humorous collection of nostalgic tales. Here life's lessons are handed down--liberally sprinkled with hilarity--from eccentric relatives, outrageous pets and unrepentant neighbors, and served up with a generous dollop of that most valued of all Southern commodities: good old fashioned storytelling. From Mississippi to Georgia, from Florida to Tennessee, these daughters of the South will take you on a lush tour of the times and places they know best, each voice as refreshing and inviting as a glass of cold sweet tea on a hot afternoon.

So come. Let us take you back. Let us take you home.


Source: VA Book!
VA Center for the Book
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
Reviewer: Tracy Dunham

If you don't recognize a family member or can't recall a story that could be a twin to one in here, you're a Yankee. That mystical union of Southern pride, sensibilities, and practical faith traipse in all their glory through these stories.

Source: Publishers Weekly
Reviewer: Fiction Notes (April 2000)

A sweeter, smoother-edged American South beckons from the pages of SWEET TEA AND JESUS SHOES, a collection of six stories by Donna Ball, Sandra Chastain, Debra Dixon, Virginia Ellis, Nancy Knight, and Deborah Smith. A horse called Cookie, vacation Bible school, quilt-crocheting parties and coonskin caps conjure up the comfortable if ornery charms of a legendary culture.

Source: Today's Librarian
Reviewer: Short Takes (April 2000)

The warm tones in this compilation of anecdotal reminiscences and personal essays beckon readers to pull up a chair and listen to tales of life in the South. Told with humor and honesty from the perspective of traditional and not-so-typical Southern Belles, the stories piece together a literary quilt of eccentricities in Southern living. The authors share their voices, memories, family secrets and personal disappointments. From tales of the familial tension between Smith's cleverly named "Mamaside" and "Daddyside," to Dixon's yarn about an aunt so mean her stare could "peel paint off the sides of completely weathered barns," the stories are creative and observant. Readers looking for proof that every family is just as off-kilter as their own will particularly enjoy this read. It's about living and loving and learning, regardless of which time zone you call home.

Source: Midwest Book Review
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner

They are true daughters of the South, born storytellers who have created some of the finest romances the world has ever seen. These six authors have formed their own company, BelleBooks, so they can creatively tell tales from the modern world of the South without Manhattan or Toronto changing them. This move is similar to the creators of Image Comics breaking away from Marvel years ago.

There are sixteen tales in this excellent collection written by some of the greats. Sandra Chastain, Deborah Smith, Donna Ball, Virginia Ellis, Deborah Dixon, and Nancy Knight are all known and loved for their works. This book will enhance the high esteem fans have for these authors and will also result in them capturing the mainstream reader. The stories are poignant and heartwarming as they capture the essence of the south. This is a brilliant compilation of southern women's stories in the tradition of Anne Rivers Siddons.

When you get six Southern women together, there's bound to be some great storytelling going on. And that's exactly what you get when you read the wonderful stories found in "Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes," the collection of short stories from six renown Southern authors.

With an invitation for their readers to come sit on the porch a spell, award-winning authors Donna Ball, Sandra Chastain, Debra Dixon, Virginia Ellis, Nancy Knight and Deborah Smith have come together to create a delightfully humorous collection of nostalgic tales that will transport you straight back to the land of warm, peach-scented breezes.

Reared in Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, these six "Daughters of the South" have joined together in a partnership to create BelleBooks, the publisher of "Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes." With the goal of showcasing the rich storytelling traditions of southern women, they plan to acquire novels and story collections that convey their message. "Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes," which will be released in May, will be the first of what promises to be many wonderful books to come from this admirable company.

Source: Times Record News
Reviewer: Sharon Galligar Chance

Among the charming and hilarious stories found in "Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes" are a variety of life's lessons concerning eccentric relatives, outrageous pets, and unrepentant neighbors, to name a few of the unsuspecting victims these ladies target in their good-natured writings. Among my favorite stories (and I really liked them all) "Sweet Tea" by Debra Dixon, is the recounting of the Southern bride-to-be's encounter with an uppity future mother-in-law and her refusal to partake in a Southern delicacy - a cool glass of sweet tea.

Another delightful story, "Jesus Shoes" by Sandra Chastain, is set during the Depression and finds a young girl's fascination with her brand-new Sunday School sandals. This fascination takes a turn when she encounters two brothers whose life situation would gently alter the child's outlook on what was important in life forever.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be glad you picked up this unforgettable collection of life lessons, as seen through Southern eyes. So I lift my glass of good ol' sweet tea and give praise to the gracious ladies of Belle Books. Sisters, you've done us all proud.

Source: Romantic Times
Reviewer: Pat Rouse, Romantic Times Columnist

In May, BelleBooks first publishing venture, SWEET TEA AND JESUS SHOES will take readers on a delightful trip through the south and its traditions through charming vignettes from its six southern belle author partners, Deborah Smith, Virginia Ellis, Nancy Knight, Sandra Chastain, Debra Dixon and Donna Ball. These fine veteran writers not only treat their fans to wonderful stories but also dish up their favorite recipes like Sweet Tea and Mama's Pecan Pie for readers to savor! Don't miss this simply yummy anthology!

Source: Baptists Today
Reviewer: John D. Price

Those drawn to good storytelling will enjoy this collection of tales. All are by southern women. Most are warm, funny and nostalgic. Some touch on the spiritual aspects of life in the South.

Six talented and award-winning authors (Donna Ball, Sandra Chastain, Debra Dixon, Virginia Ellis, Nancy Knight and Deborah Smith) draw from their life experiences and vivid imaginations to create stories that make you laugh, think and remember. And the first story, "The Jesus Shoes," will even preach a little.

Source: Southern Scribe Reviews
Reviewer: Joyce Dixon

Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes is the debut book from BelleBooks, a small publishing house that caters to Southern fare. The anthology is a collection of family stories that depict the love of family, tradition, and humor which can appear eccentric in other regions, but south of the Mason-Dixon, it's just family.

The six owners of BelleBooks who created this collection of childhood memories and family scenes are talented storytellers. They have weaved knee-slapping humor, two-hanky emotion, and pro-wrestling action into a rich tapestry that defines what it is to be born Southern.

Childhood memories in "The Jesus Shoes" and "Keeper of the Stick" are moving in the way they portray the courage and moral strength found in the young. Other tales from childhood recall the animals. Everything from the main attraction at a gas station to the dog from hell, will have the reader holding his sides from laughing. Southerners have no shame when it comes to sharing family stories. In fact storytelling rich in eccentric behavior and a love of traditions is celebrated as the highest form of family honor.

The family stories are rich in the love-hate relationship that occurs. But in the South, roots are deep in memory and cultivated to last generations to come. "From Whence We Come" celebrates Southerners love of family history and the joy to be found in forgotten relatives. "Big Daddy's Outhouse" and "Grandpapa's Garden" give two extreme views of marriage. One is manipulation and the other is love after death. Then there are the stories of death. Where the ashes of a least favorite aunt may get the last act of revenge, or a fight between current and ex-wife may cause the deceased husband to rise from the dead. Finally, there are the family stories that show the protective love of kin, where the elite of a steeplechase or a rude prospective mother-in-law may hold airs meant to be brought down.

Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes joins the works of Fannie Flagg, Lewis Grizzard, and Florence King in capturing the Southern experience. Pull up a rocker and pour another sweet tea.

Source: CompuServe & BookNook Romance Reviews
Reviewer: Lisa Hamilton

Sandra Chastain starts off this book with THE JESUS SHOES. As a child, Sandra looked forward to attending summer bible school. Armed with her brand-new white sandals she joins her friends at the small country church for a week of bible readings and most importantly, an hour of crafts. She is startled to see two young men join the group who actually showed up without any shoes on their feet. While it wasn't a crime to be barefoot, it certainly wasn't fitting that they have dirty feet in church. Sandra set out to teach them a lesson, in turn learning a life lesson for herself.

Virginia Ellis is next with NO MORE MICKEY MOUSE. As a child, Ms. Ellis' Grandmother moves into the house with them bringing a black and white TV. They were warned to not interrupt Grandmother while she watches her soap operas and one afternoon, Ms. Ellis learned the meaning she learns what happens when Grandmother is interrupted.

NOLA'S ASHES is Deborah Smith's contribution and it tells the tale of cranky Great-Aunt Nola and her final lesson to be taught.

GRANDMA TELLS A TALE by Donna Ball is up next with a story about her Grandmother's last Christmas and learning that it's the thought that counts.

KEEPER OF THE STICK is from Virginia Ellis. The daughter of a trucker, Virginia is given the important task of holding up a stick to keep some cows from bolting away from the truck as they are being loaded. It just goes to show that childhood memories aren't always what they seem to be. A LITTLE BIT SQUIRRELLY by Nancy Knight is another offering and it tells the amusing story of Peanut the squirrel and his passion for pecans.

SWEET TEA & JESUS SHOES is filled with all sorts of literary gems such as BIG DADDY'S OUTHOUSE and UNCLE CLETE'S BELL. From beginning to end I loved each story and was truly sorrowful when the book was done. Not only had it entertained from front to back but it made me wish I'd grown up Southern. SWEET TEA & JESUS SHOES is a delightful read and I treasured every word.

Source: Romantic Times Magazine
Reviewer: Cindy Schwalb

The ladies of BelleBooks invite you to join them in a celebration of small-town nostalgia, simple folks and sultry days in their new anthology SWEET TEA AND JESUS SHOES. For those who have never encountered the charm of southern storytelling, the experience is like no other. It begins with a humble, unassuming narration, or just the opposite, a swift kick in the shins. Southern stories adopt a poetic rhythm and heighten the senses with exactness: a rose bush that blooms on the same day every year, the three tingling scents that linger on a certain street corner, the exact way to eat corn on the cob. Characters dish out colloquialisms that border on Forrest Gump-style brilliance. And nature, quite often in the form of heat, provides a backdrop inseparable from story or people. The difference in a southern story is, of course, plot, for true southerners see a hundred new stories in every day. Their whole lives are lived and remembered through a series of tales. And no two are alike.

SWEET TEA AND JESUS SHOES is a special collection for all of those reasons, but what makes this anthology a little sweeter is the women behind it. Time-honored favorite romance authors Deborah Smith, Sandra Chastain, Debra Dixon, and Donna Ball have joined up with women's fiction writers Virginia Ellis and Nancy Knight to form BelleBooks--the first publishing company dedicated to preserving the tradition of southern storytelling through the eyes of women.

With more than 200 books between them and numerous awards, we can expect to share an exciting future with these formidable belles: their talent will build our keeper shelves. In their first release, slice-of-life tales tackle southern issues and values, offer autobiographical sketches, promote eccentricity and even include traditional southern recipes. But most of all, SWEET TEA AND JESUS SHOES will charm us into being life-long fans of these southern belles.

Source: TheRomanceReader.com
Reviewer: Susan Scribner

4 hearts ! I have to admit at the onset of this review that I'm not a big short story fan. Give me a 500-page novel to sink my teeth into any day, but I generally don't understand how it is possible to have a deep and meaningful relationship with characters who only stick around for 10 or 20 pages. My husband, however, appreciates the genre. He claims that it is fiction in its most pure form, a neat little package of perfectly structured words and ideas. Done right, short stories have the potential to be just as rewarding as full length novels.

Despite my reservations, I was pleasantly surprised by Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes (you've got to love the name), the launch title of BelleBooks. This independent small press was recently formed by six southern romance authors. Some of the 15 stories work better than others, but taken altogether they form a delightful, bright and sometimes crazy patchwork of Southern life, reflecting a proud and unique heritage. I can just imagine the six women sitting around the kitchen or the porch, swapping these tales, laughing and one-upping each other.

The strongest of the stories combine oddball humor, poignancy and eccentric family members, often with a zinger at the end. In Deborah Smith's "Nola's Ashes," the narrator faces the unusual dilemma of what to do with the ashes of a deceased great-aunt who had spent her life making everyone else miserable. At the same time, she realizes the stress that her mother has faced coping with the "Daddyside" relatives for many years. In "Grandma Tells a Tale" by Donna Ball, the narrator's Grandma Hilda manages to spin a fascinating yarn for her family one Christmas night, despite the fact that she has butchered every other story she has tried to tell.

The two stories that close the collection are the lengthiest, and stand interesting counterpart to each other. The heroine in Debra Dixon's "Sweet Tea" watches in dismay as her Yankee fiancé and her prospective mother-in-law react to a traditional Southern meal with barely disguised disdain. Donna Ball's "Fingerprints," however, depicts a typical family gathering that miraculously turns the newest in-law - a whiny, snobbish" city girl" - into a true family member. These two stories seem to contain opposite messages about the potential for outsiders to understand and fit into traditional Southern culture.

But I wouldn't spend too much time analyzing the meaning of the stories in Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes. Just sit back and listen to the voices.

These authors' published romances span the genre, including historicals, categories, contemporaries and romantic suspense. Now they are editing and agenting their own work, and obviously having a good ol' time. The launch of BelleBooks is definitely successful - I'm eager to see where the journey takes them.

Source: Romance Communications
Reviewer: Carol Durfee

An entertaining collection of nostalgic, memory-laded tales of life in the south. Characters are brought vividly to life in these vignettes of families, friendships, and life, letting you feel as if you are right there amongst them. Each author's voice is uniquely refreshing. Included are 16 different stories with writing which flows smoothly from one yarn to the next. Never a dull moment! The authors have also shared a collection of recipes mentioned in their stories.

SWEET TEA AND JESUS SHOES is as rich in southern tradition as a hand-stitched quilt. You will want to share this one with family and friends. This book is delightfully touching and sometimes humorous, so good it left me yearning for more. You won't want to miss this trip down memory lane! Take the journey, you won't be sorry.

Source: www.FictionForest.com/TheArbor
Reviewer: Fran Baker (Once a Warrior, Delphi Books)

Fix yourself a glass of cold sweet tea (the recipe is in the back of the book), find yourself a comfortable chair, and prepare to enjoy this thoroughly delightful collection of southern short stories from some of the most talented and prolific authors writing today.

Each story in this anthology is unique. From Sandra Chastain's poignant portrayal of children's cruelty to other children ("The Jesus Shoes") to Debra Dixon's eye-opening revelations about "uppity" Northerners ("Sweet Tea"), the reader is drawn into a world where, in the absence of cable television and the Internet, people sat in their parlors or on their front porches and talked.

They reminisced about their eccentric relatives ("Uncle Clete's Bell" by Nancy Knight) and their outrageous pets ("Cookie, The One-Eyed Wonder Horse" by Virginia Ellis). They reminded themselves and each other about the subtle but important differences between rural southerners and big-city southerners ("Flying on Fried Wings" by Deborah Smith). They routinely "dissed" those damn Yankees ("Fingerprints" by Donna Ball) and weren't the least bit repentant about doing so.

And their children and grandchildren - these six daughters of the South - listened.

In the end, Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes is about family. It's about life's lessons being handed down from one generation to the next. It's about the ties that bind and sometimes chafe, but ties that will never be broken as long as parents and grandparents talk to their own children and grandchildren. And this book, with its generous dollops of humor and nostalgia, reminds us that that is the most important life's lesson of all.

Source: www.briefme.com
Reviewer: Bea Sheftel

A beautiful web site created by a group of six talented, and multi-published romance authors. If you enjoy romance you know the names; Nancy Knight; Deborah Smith; Sandra Chastain; Virginia Ellis; Donna Ball; and Debra Dixon. The web site celebrates the establishment of their own independent publishing company and their first project which is an anthology of stories. SWEET TEA AND JESUS SHOES is a trade paperback size book filled with charming, inspiring, touching, and humorous stories from the rich storytelling traditions of the South. There are a few excerpts from some of the stories featured in Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes. The author's page features photos of the six women and their personal stories of the times and places they know best. For instance: Sandra Chastain, a native Georgian, and the author of thirty-nine books and two novellas with four more books under contract. Her last two books were Doubleday Book Club selections. You can get a free recipe for Southern pecan pie, or read back issues of their Gazette. This is an interesting site and one of particular interest to any one who enjoys good down home stories.

Source: www.inscriptionsmagazine.com
Reviewer: Heather Froeschl

Six southern, veteran authors tell tales of living in the South and life's lessons, through "black sheep" relatives, persistent pets and neighborly nosiness. Stories such as these could be heard from Grandmom or Great Aunt Alma about everyday events, like how Thanksgiving turned into a funeral family reunion, or how a pitcher of sweet tea can illuminate the great divide of North and South.

Each story takes on a life of its own with a detailed plot, rich characters and humor reminiscent of family legends. How does one dog take charge of the best shindig Grandpa has ever been to and another dog serve up a perfect blend of revenge and mint topped beverage? Why would a family leave their mark on a house with bloody fingerprints on the mantle? And how is it that generations of one family just cannot hold onto the land that is their heritage?

The stories are packed with side-tales and interwoven moments of life, each able to stand on its own, but being part of the collection, you feel as though you are visiting on a dear friend's front porch, and each guest is taking a turn at the story telling. The southern voices that are relaying the tales are mothers, aunts, sisters and grandmas, with a bit of self thrown in for good measure.

The characters are real and dear, sinful and precious. Too many to describe in detail, suffice it to say these are no Southern belles, but true women with intricate lives, strong minds and vivid personalities. Each speaker has her own dreams, trials and tribulations. In the short time that we spend with each, we get to know her with enough vividness to bring her to life.

The book is well composed; the stories are cut to perfect gems. Folklore, family history, and our nation's rich heritage are all rolled into a nice little read for the front porch swing. If you haven't got one, by the time you finish this book you might be inspired to go out and buy one. I so enjoyed visiting for a spell that I wish I could go back for another glass of sweet tea.


Welcome to the world of Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes, where award winning authors Deborah Smith, Donna Ball, Sandra Chastain, Virginia Ellis, Nancy Knight, and Debra Dixon come together for the first time to create this poignant, humorous collection of nostalgic tales.

Here life's lessons are handed down-liberally sprinkled with hilarity-from eccentric relatives, outrageous pets and unrepentant neighbors, and served up with a generous dollop of that most valued of all Southern commodities: good old fashioned storytelling. Below you'll find a few excerpts from some of the stories featured in the upcoming Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes.

Grandma Tells A Tale— Donna Ball

The Jesus Shoes— Sandra Chastain

From Whence We Come— Debra Dixon

The Keeper of the Stick— Virginia Ellis

Uncle Clete's Bell— Nancy Knight

Nola's Ashes— Deborah Smith


by Donna Ball

The first time Grandma Hilda met my daughter's fiance, she looked him up and down and declared mildly, "Why he looks just like that fellow on that television show. Killed three women, didn't he? Raped them too. Lord, child, how did you ever meet such a man?"

The Jesus Shoes

by Sandra Chastain

For me, at age eight, the beginning of summer was signaled by Vacation Bible School and a new pair of white patent leather sandals with little silver buckles. Shoes were rationed and I, in my sublime ignorance, had no idea of the sacrifices my grandparents made to provide those sandals. No matter that my body was adored with sun-dresses made from chicken feed sacks, my feet were on the Glory Road.

From Whence We Come

by Debra Dixon

Southerners don't care who your great-great-great-great Grandfather was or how many times he met the queen. What we want to know is whether or not you have the coat he was married in. Or the first pair of shoes he bought for his children. Or the three teacups and five saucers your great Aunt Precious didn't break over Uncle Dickie's head when he came home too drunk to know he smelled like adultery.

The Keeper of the Stick

by Virginia Ellis

I found myself standing near Daddy's eighteen wheeler with a stick in my hand. My job, because I was the smallest, was to stand beyond the gate for the pen and keep the cows from running right past it. Daddy explained that these cows were scared of humans and that if I waved that stick, they'd turn the other way. All I had to do was stand there.

Uncle Clete's Bell

by Nancy Knight

I'd never met Sally Faye, but she started right off explaining that she and Junior were thinking about separating. God had called Junior to the ministry and had given him Bobbi Sue to take care of. I didn't know exactly who Bobbi Sue was, but I assured Sally Faye that everything would work out. She just needed to be patient.

"Men," I explained, "Sometimes get the craziest notions. He'll come to his senses pretty quick, I'm sure." I wasn't sure at all, but it was the least I could offer in the way of reassurance.

by Deborah Smith

Like most southern women, I was often the referee for two opposing teams: Mama's side of the family and Daddy's side of the family. We abbreviated the terms and rolled the key words together as a shorthand to make the distinctions easier. Mamaside. Daddyside. For example, my Mama's mother used to say: The youngins on your Mamaside never think to poke things up their noses for fun. But the youngins on your Daddyside will stick a dadblame crawfish up their snout if you let 'em.

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