The Magnolia Code


If you would like your book signed and inscribed with a personal message by Joan, please indicate to whom you'd like it inscribed in the " Order Comments (for special instructions)" at the bottom of the checkout page, when placing your order. 

In her memoir, The Magnolia Code, a name she and her sister gave to the unwritten rules they were expected to live by, Joan Brooks Baker takes the reader on her personal journey - growing up privileged as the Yankee daughter of dyed-in-the-wool Southerners, in the post–World War II New York City - to finding where she belonged, as a photographer, living in the high desert of New Mexico.  The Magnolia Code decreed that appearances are more important than truth, and the desires of men always trump those of women. Neither sat well with Baker. She might have succumbed to the promise of easier safety the Magnolia Code offered; instead, she persevered in her desire to find her own way, navigating the paradox of the diverging paths of security offered by “the code” and her own sense of who she wanted to be in the world. 

Within each chapter, Baker narrates her life story from childhood, as the feisty “Cactus Pete,” to the present day. She examines relationships within her primary and extended families, some amusing, some enlightening, many defying “the code” to find role models in rebellious women, including her Aunt Billie, who challenged her to be herself regardless of the consequences. Ultimately, Baker discovers who she is and where she belongs through her work as a photographer. As she witnesses and documents women’s lives in other cultures, she sees herself reflected in their eyes. She begins to make peace with her upbringing, to reject The Magnolia Code without abandoning her family heritage, to balance the darkness with light.

Baker’s memoir will find an audience with women all too familiar with the constraints of society, class, and a culture that has not honored their personal experiences. Baker’s tale, both humorous and poignant, of a woman coming into consciousness could not be more perfect for these times. The Magnolia Code is a current and universal story for those interested in exploring life’s dualities. 

The Magnolia Code has been honored as a 2020 Distinguished Favorite by the Independent Press Awards.

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The Magnolia Code Cover Image
ISBN: 9781934491683
Availability: Available to Ship - Est. Delivery in 8-13 Business Days
Published: SF Design, LLC / Frescobooks - June 4th, 2020


Celebrating the power of story, the inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will be an unforgettable weekend dedicated to a shared love and language of ideas. Collected Works Bookstore is thrilled to be the official bookstore of the Festival. 

Bestselling, prizewinning authors and literary legends like Margaret Atwood, Joy Harjo, Colson Whitehead, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, amongst others, will headline the festival, discussing their work with readings and book signings that set the stage for further inspired conversations.

NOTE: If you purchase a festival event ticket that is INCLUSIVE of the author's book, you will receive that book upon check-in for your event at the festival.

To order books by festival authors directly from CW, see below. Collected Works will be carrying a wide selection of books by all participating authors available for online pre-order and at the on-site festival bookstore May 20-23.

Purchase your tickets from the SF Literary Festival website here.

Purchase your books by festival authors directly from CW below:

Margaret Atwood     Freddie Bitsoie     Sandra Cisneros

Lynn Cline     William deBuys     Ashley Ford

John Grisham     Roshi Joan Halifax     Joy Harjo

Anne Hillerman     Cheryl Alters Jamison     Craig Johnson

Asma Khan     Phil Klay      Jon Krakauer

Valeria Luiselli     Deborah Madison      Emily St. John Mandel

George R. R. Martin      James McGrath Morris     Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co. 

Carmella Padilla     Douglas Preston     Kirstin Valdez Quade

Bob Shacochis     Henry Shukman     Hampton Sides

Bryant Terry     Darryl Lorenzo Wellington     Colson Whitehead

Don Winslow     Lawrence Wright