Before We Visit the Goddess
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Sabitri once dreamt of a college education. Her daughter, Bela, who left India years ago, contacts her desperate for help: Sabitri’s U.S. born grandchild, Tara, wants to drop out of college. Sabitri must write the grandchild she’s never met and convince her to pursue her education. Sabitri’s letter launches a reflection on her life as the stories of the three generations across the world unfold. “Divakaruni's gracefully insightful, dazzlingly descriptive, and covertly stinging tale illuminates the opposition women must confront, generation by generation, as they seek both independence and connection” (Booklist). Divakaruni is probably best known to local readers for her Oakland-set novel The Mistress of Spices (1997), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award.
by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
McKinney-Whetstone returns with a intricately woven tale of African American lives in post-Civil War Philadelphia. Midwife Sylvia delivers Meda’s baby, but the father (her white employer) insists she be told that the child has died. Orphans Linc and Bram are raised as brothers and led to believe they are white boys. Their paths all fatefully converge at Lazaretto, a quarantine hospital where immigrants make their first stop in the new world. “Language sings throughout,” says Kirkus Reviews, which calls this book “A sophisticated and compelling novel that comes alive through a rich cavalcade of vibrant characters and a suspenseful plot.” McKinney-Whetstone is a two time winner of the American Library Association Black Caucus Literary Award for Fiction and is best known for her novel Tumbling (1996).
by Marie Ndiaye
Clarisse Rivière left her impoverished youth behind by reinventing herself and keeping some major secrets. Her husband and daughter have no idea that her real name is Malinka. Nor do they know about her mother, Ladivine, a poor African cleaning woman she furtively visits once a month. Furthermore, she has not told Ladivine about her husband or daughter, also named Ladivine. With a dash of magical realism, this novel captures the secrets and yearnings of three lonely women. “Sadness, regret, and insidious dread permeate every page of this beautifully crafted, relentless novel” (Publishers Weekly). Ndiaye is the author of numerous novels and plays in her native French, including Three Strong Women (Trois femmes puissantes) which won the 2009 Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award.
The Translation of Love
by Lynne Kutsukake
Intertwining stories set the stage for this historical debut set in post-World War II U.S. occupied Tokyo. After their internment in a Canadian camp, twelve-year-old Aya and her dad were forced to move to Japan. Aya’s a misfit who barely speaks Japanese, but is befriended by Fumi, who needs help writing a letter to General MacArthur asking for help finding her missing sister. Their teacher, Sensei Kondo, moonlights as a translator of letters for women desperately trying to contact their American GI sweethearts, while U.S. born Cpl. "Matt" Matsumoto is assigned to the job of translating the letters sent to the occupying forces. Kirkus calls it “A vivid delight,” and “Emotionally rich without turning saccharine, twisting without losing its grounding in reality, Kutsukake's novel is classic historical fiction at its best.”
Tuesday Nights in 1980
by Molly Prentiss
This debut captures a swiftly shifting SoHo art scene through the prism of a love triangle. Raul, a painter and an exile of Argentina’s Dirty War, is on the cusp of success; James is an art critic on the rise whose synesthesia gives him an extraordinary point of view; Lucy is an ingénue from Idaho looking for a New York adventure. “An agile, imaginative, knowledgeable, and seductive writer, Prentiss combines exquisite sensitivity with unabashed melodrama to create an operatic tale of ambition and delusion, success and loss, mystery and crassness” (Booklist).
Even in Paradise
by Elizabeth Nunez
In this Caribbean take on Shakespeare, our King Lear is Peter Ducksworth, a wealthy Trinidadian landowner of English ancestry. He decides to give his three daughters their inheritance in advance of his death, a plan which leads to family discord and deceit. The narrator, Émile, is a college student of partial African descent who has a romantic eye on Corinne, the youngest Ducksworth daughter and whose best friend Albert is engaged to the eldest Ducksworth. Kirkus calls it “an epic tale of family betrayal and manipulation couched in superbly engaging prose and peopled with deftly drawn characters,” “a subtle, organic exploration of politics, class, race, and privilege,” and “a dazzling, epic triumph.” Elizabeth Nunez is a Trinidadian-American novelist who has won many awards including the American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the NAACP Image Award and the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award.
Our Young Man
by Edmund White
Award winning author White introduces us to Guy, a young man from rural France. On a visit to Paris, he is discovered by a modeling agent, launching a career that takes him to New York City. We get a glimpse of gay life through the eyes of a naïve and magnetic man in the era of AIDS and disco, as he pursues sex, money and love. Kirkus calls it “a playful yet searching novel” “with wit and gently arch humor” and “a closely written, multidimensional coming-of-age novel that captures a time of whispers, elaborate codes, and not inconsiderable danger.”
by David Means
Hystopia is an off-the-rails alternate imagining of the 1960s in which the theme of memory looms large. JFK has survived multiple assassination attempts and 3 terms of office, meanwhile suicidal Vietnam vet Eugene Allen pens a novel-within-the-novel in which a governmental organization called the Psych Corps scrubs the minds of vets clean with mandatory therapy and drug use. Crooked Psych Corps agents are on the trail of a murderous vet who is evading the treatment and leaving a bloody trail. “By turns disturbing, hilarious, and absurd, Means' novel is also sharply penetrating in its depiction of an America all too willing to bury its past” (Booklist). The author’s last story collection, The Spot (2010) was the recipient of multiple honors, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
by Patrice Nganang, translation by Amy Reid
Cameroonian author Nganang offers a genre-bending critique of colonialism that blends history with magical realism. 9-year-old Sara is given to the exiled Sultan Njoya for his harem. Bertha, teacher and caretaker for the wives, believes Sara is the reincarnation of her late son and transforms her into the tragically lost boy. “Readers will slowly uncover a history of Cameroon that parallels, mirrors, and subverts history in service of Nganang's brilliant mythmaking” (Publishers Weekly).
by Karim Miské, translation by Sam Gordon
Ahmed Taroundat lives in Paris’s bustling and diverse 19th Arrondissement. After his neighbor Laura is brutally killed, he becomes a suspect. Once cleared, Ahmed begins his own investigation into her killing, discovering the dark side of his neighborhood and a dangerous new drug. Miské, an Arab-French documentary film maker and writer, won an English PEN Award for this novel that Library Journal calls an “amazing page-turner” that “redefines noir at its darkest.”
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