It’s September! You know what that means - Book Season! Tons and tons of new, beautiful books settling onto your shelves, overwhelming your piles, keeping you company while you drink your coffee and try to find wherever you left your slippers last winter.
I’ve got a big list of books, some of which are already available and lots of others to look forward to throughout the coming months. If you see one that you want to make sure that you read, or that would make a great gift for someone special, do not hesitate to get in touch about a pre-order - firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to do that for you!
Also, I know it feels too early to start thinking about holiday shopping, but keep in mind that the same shipping and availability issues we had last year will still be around this year. Shop small businesses early. We want to help you get the books you’re looking for in time and with a minimal amount of stress.
Stay well and well read!
In Radiant Fugitives, unborn baby Ishraaq tells the story of his soon-to-be mother, Seema. Growing up in India with her parents and her sister, Seema did everything to gain the approval of her father. When she comes out as a lesbian, he cuts her out of the family, forbidding her mother, Nafeesa, to speak to her on the phone in their home, and keeping her news from her sister, Tahera, allowing her to believe that Seema abandoned her. Fifteen years later, during President Obama's first term, the women find themselves together for the first time. Seema is expecting her first child, and her family comes to be with her through her delivery. What follows is a sweeping story full of love and grief and anger. Nafeesa has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness and knows that this will be the last time she sees her daughters. Seema is estranged from her husband, the father of her child, and unsure of her feelings about her current lover and how she wants her to fit into Ishraaq's life. Tahera, a devout Muslim, questions the safety of bringing her children up in the Muslim faith after their mosque is vandalized and school playground is set on fire.
I loved every minute of this book. Nawaaz Ahmed writes passionately about this broken family, imbuing them with so much life. They want desperately to be understood, but moving past the roles they played as children proves to be an almost impossible task. With so much distance, difference, and hurt between them, can they heal? More importantly, can they find a way to care for and support each other in their vastly different lives? This is one of the best, most impressive debuts I've ever read.
Charlotte McConaghy is back with another fascinating, propulsive page-turner - this time, about wolves. McConaghy is a special writer. She creates books that readers can’t help but immerse themselves in. Once There Were Wolves is set in the Scottish Highlands where Inti Flynn is working with a group of biologists to reintroduce wolves into the area. Her project is met with hesitation from some and violent encounters, both human and animal, seem inevitable. Mc Conaghy’s writing, just like Migrations, is full of so much beauty and heartbreak, but this time, there’s a bit of mystery thrown in.
If you’re a reader who enjoys stories with a strong sense of place, Maurice Carlos Ruffin should be one of your go-to authors (ahem, if you haven’t looked into We Cast a Shadow, Ruffin’s debut, I don’t know what you’re waiting for!). This newest collection of stories is set in New Orleans and I loved every minute of it. It’s full of human stories about a woman doing everything she can to save the home that’s been in her family for generations; a formerly affluent couple who has fallen on hard times and turns to crime; a young boy helping his father, just out of prison, look for work; a group of men hurrying to save an elderly man from the rising waters of Hurricane Katrina; and so many others. If you’re a person not immediately drawn to short stories, this a great option if you’re ready to give them a try. Each piece is deeply character-oriented, full of heart and sweat and bone. It’s likely to be one of my favorites this year.
Speaking of short stories, one of my favorite writers released his first short story collection and it’s just so darn good. If you’ve been here for a while, you know that Brandon Taylor’s Real Life was my favorite last year. Filthy Animals is a return to all the things I loved about Real Life, but in short story form. Taylor weaves shorter fiction together with one, longer interconnected set of stories about a young man and two dancers in an open relationship. Their relationship ebbs and flows and intensifies throughout the collection, giving readers a longer narrative to return to, while still exploring the voices of many others - all searching for love and kindness in a world that is quick to escalate to violence instead.
COMING SOON! Send us an email at email@example.com to pre-order.
Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood by Dawn Turner - available September 7, 2021
Too often, BIPOC people are expected to share their own personal stories as if they are the voice of an entire group of people, not just one person with a singular experience. Dawn Turner’s memoir fights against that violent expectation. Three Girls from Bronzeville features three women: the author, her sister, and her best friend. All three women grew up together in the same building in Bronzeville, a historic Chicago neighborhood. Despite their similar upbringings, each woman’s life takes a dramatically different trajectory. Turner, an award-winning journalist and novelist, sets out to tell their stories. This is a powerful book, full of love, outrage, and a determination to shed light on nuanced stories that are too often erased and overlooked.
Beautiful Country is one of my favorite books of the year. Qian Julie Wang tells the story of her journey from China to the United States at the age of seven. We are invited into the first five years of her life in the United States through the eyes of her seven-year old self: a powerful vantage point from which to experience her desire to be reunited with her father in this "Beautiful Country," her mother's tireless work ethic and eventual illness, and her own constant hunger and striving to fit into a group of friends from which she must hide her undocumented status. The most memorable part of this memoir is Young Qian's desire to be completely invisible while desperately hoping to be seen by her teachers, friends, and parents. Her seven-year old self works feverishly to translate her parents' ceaseless pursuit of employment into the more effortless expressions of love that she felt while she lived in China. Her experiences as an undocumented person are vital in our understanding of how this country treats immigrants and whether the wellbeing of others is truly a concern of our developed society. In so many ways, Wang's family, who fled China during the Cultural Revolution, is hungry for an American Ideal that just doesn't exist; a freedom of expression, care, knowledge, and opportunity that we endlessly tout, but rarely examine from the perspective of people like Young Qian. Wang is a masterful storyteller; Beautiful Country is required reading.
Colson Whitehead's books are a gift to lovers of great storytelling, and Harlem Shuffle is no exception. Set in late 50s and early 60s Harlem, Ray Carney is a furniture salesman desperately trying to free himself from the crookedness that his father passed down to him in his blood. Carney prides himself on being just a little "bent." He's proud of the family that he has made and the furniture store that he owns and operates, his own little piece of Harlem with his name in lights. But Carney is also pulled toward the darker side of his nature by his cousin, Freddie, who sometimes brings stolen goods to his store that he sells, no questions asked. Freddie gets him involved in a heist that changes the course of his life, and Whitehead brings us along for the whole joyous, twisty, heartbreaking ride. My favorites moments of this book are the quiet ones - descriptions of interiors, complete with Carney's huge catalog of knowledge about furniture; his memories of Harlem as a child and the evolution of the neighborhood into a kingdom that he owns a small piece of; his desire to create a life at home with his wife and children that does not in any way resemble the brokenness of his own. Whitehead is a master at telling this engaging - and often fun - caper of a story, set against riots for racial justice that frustratingly mirror protests today, 50 years later. His world of Harlem, and New York City in general, paints a picture of crooked people at all levels of society: Black and white, rich and poor, impervious to punishment and perpetually punished.
Rachel Long’s award-winning poetry collection, My Darling from the Lions, is bright and sharp; a memorable exploration into what it means to be a girl who grows into a woman. Long explores childhood, dating, gender and racial violence, parenting, and so much more throughout her collection. Her unique voice is a joy to read.
The Crime Without a Name: Ethnocide and Erasure of Culture in America by Barrett Holmes Pitner - available October 12, 2021
In The Crime Without a Name: Combatting Ethnocide and the Erasure of Culture in America, Barrett Holmes Pitner has written a brilliant book - part history, part philosophy, part linguistic exploration, part personal journey. His writing is eloquent and fascinating, the scope of his work is impressive, and his argument is cogent and persuasive. If you're looking for reasons why it's important to learn about the true history of this country, look no further than The Crime Without a Name. This is a vital book.
In Gentrifier, Anne Elizabeth Moore takes on Detroit's housing crisis, and larger trends of gentrification in America's urban centers. Moore's writing is eloquent and lyrical, concise, funny, and heartbreaking, but always accessible, making the complex issues at the heart of her memoir easier to understand than the wonky, political conversation that often accompanies the housing crisis. Moore receives a home from an arts organization in the heart of Detroit's Bangladeshi community, Banglatown. The intention of the organization is to give writers a place to write and create and contribute to local culture. Moore writes about each of her neighbors, especially the young women around her, with curiosity and genuine care. As she invests in her new home and community, the devastating history of her house is made clear to her, sending her on a journey to a truth that she refuses to ignore.
I must admit, I was a bit intimidated by Kalani Pickhart's debut novel, I Will Die in a Foreign Land. I've not read a lot of books about Ukraine, their recent political struggle, and the people who have fought for their home - plus, I just thought it might be devastatingly sad. And of course, it is sad, but more than that, it's absolutely beautiful and clings to hope so desperately that I was left feeling optimism for the characters that people the novel and for Ukraine itself. Pickhart weaves together the history of Ukraine with the stories of four citizens who have come to the Maidan to fight for the country they love. They move in and out of each other's stories in such a lovely way; Pickhart's writing is quiet, understated, and unexpected. I can't wait to read more from her.
Trust is a slim novel packed with so much intrigue. I absolutely loved it. Domenico Starnone, through the fantastic translation of Jhumpa Lahiri, tells the story of Teresa and Pietro, two people in a turbulent and toxic relationship. After yet another argument, they decide to tell each other the worst thing they have ever done. They break up soon after their admissions and readers are left to wonder about their confessions as they hold each other in emotional hostage through decades. Starnone is a fascinating and enigmatic writer, telling the story from the perspective of both Pietro and Teresa. But how much has he chosen to tell his readers? How much can we ever really know each other? Trust each other? I couldn't put this one down.
I abosolutely loved Kyle Lucia Wu's debut novel, Win Me Something. It follows Willa, a twenty-something college graduate and biracial Chinese American woman whose loneliness and disconnection from those around her are palpable on each and every page. Willa finds a job as a nanny for a wealthy family in Tribeca, unsure of what she wants from her future but in need of money for her steep rent. As she spends more time with Bee and the Adrien family, Willa remembers her own childhood, growing up with her white mother in New Jersey and spending short visits with her Chinese father, stepmom, and half sisters in Upstate New York. Wu has written a beautiful, sometimes maddening, always insightful story of a woman desperately searching for a place to belong, to be seen, to be cared for.
People From My Neighborhood: Stories by Hiromi Kawakami - available November 30, 2021
At first, People From My Neighborhood, Hiromi Kawakami's newest collection of interconnected stories, feels a bit disorienting, perhaps even alienating. Readers are dropped into a strange neighborhood full of secrets and mysteries that are never explained. But as you move through the very short stories, familiar faces appear, and what began as a tentative walk, furtively peeking into backyards, becomes a warm and magical stroll with characters you've come to thoroughly enjoy and care for. This book celebrates the fact that we're ultimately all mysteries to each other; revel in the strangeness.