Recent Books by Bay Area Authors

The Bay Area has a rich literary history and has been home to some of the most well-known writers of the last century - Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Alice Walker, Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s also home to an exciting array of literary voices today. Here are a few books from the last two years by Bay Area authors.

Fiction:


How much of these hills is gold 
/ C Pam Zhang

Ba dies in the night; Ma is already gone. Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam are suddenly alone in a land that refutes their existence. Fleeing the threats of their western mining town, they set off to bury their father in the only way that will set them free from their past. Along the way, they encounter giant buffalo bones, tiger paw prints, and the specters of a ravaged landscape as well as family secrets, sibling rivalry, and glimpses of a different kind of future. 

Bestiary : a novel / by K-Ming Chang 

One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterward, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with strange powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth—and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.

The color of air : a novel / Gail Tsukiyama

Daniel Abe, a young doctor in Chicago, is finally coming back to Hawai'i. He has his own reason for returning to his childhood home, but it is not to revisit the past, unlike his Uncle Koji. Koji lives with the memories of Daniel’s mother, Mariko, the love of his life, and the scars of a life hard-lived. He can’t wait to see Daniel, who he’s always thought of as a son, but he knows the time has come to tell him the truth about his mother, and his father. But Daniel’s arrival coincides with the awakening of the Mauna Loa volcano, and its dangerous path toward their village stirs both new and long ago passions in their community.

The son of good fortune : a novel Lysley Tenorio 

Excel spends his days trying to seem like an unremarkable American teenager. When he’s not working at The Pie Who Loved Me (a spy-themed pizza shop) or passing the time with his girlfriend Sab (occasionally in one of their town’s seventeen cemeteries), he carefully avoids the spotlight. But Excel knows that his family is far from normal. His mother, Maxima, was once a Filipina B-movie action star who now makes her living scamming men online. The old man they live with is not his grandfather, but Maxima’s lifelong martial arts trainer. And years ago, on Excel’s tenth birthday, Maxima revealed a secret that he must keep forever. “We are ‘TNT’—tago ng tago,” she told him, “hiding and hiding.” Excel is undocumented—and one accidental slip could uproot his entire life. 

Casting aside the paranoia and secrecy of his childhood, Excel takes a leap, joining Sab on a journey south to a ramshackle desert town called Hello City. Populated by drifters, old hippies, and washed-up techies—and existing outside the normal constructs of American society—Hello City offers Excel a chance to forge his own path for the first time. But after so many years of trying to be invisible, who does he want to become? And is it possible to put down roots in a country that has always considered you an outsider?

 

The city in the middle of the night / Charlie Jane Anders 

January is a dying planet—divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk. But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside. Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal. But fate has other plans—and Sophie's ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

Of women and salt / Gabriela Garcia 

In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.

A sky beyond the storm : a novel / by Sabaa Tahir 

Fourth in the An Ember in the Ashes series and picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…

The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning. By his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family. Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom. And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows.

Nonfiction:

The forests of California : a California field atlas / written and illustrated by Obi Kaufmann 

A major work that not only guides readers through the Golden State’s forested lands, but also presents a profoundly original vision of nature in the twenty-first century. The Forests of California features an abundance of Obi Kaufmann’s signature watercolor maps and trail paintings, weaving them into an expansive and accessible exploration of the biodiversity that defines California in the global imagination. Expanding on the style of the Field Atlas, Kaufmann tells an epic story that spans millions of years, nearly one hundred species of trees, and an astonishing richness of ecosystems.

Unforgetting : a memoir of family, migration, gangs, and revolution in the Americas / Roberto Lovato 

An urgent, no-holds-barred tale of gang life, guerrilla warfare, intergenerational trauma, and interconnected violence between the United States and El Salvador, Roberto Lovato’s memoir excavates family history and reveals the intimate stories beneath headlines about gang violence and mass Central American migration, one of the most important, yet least-understood humanitarian crises of our time—and one in which the perspectives of Central Americans in the United States have been silenced and forgotten. 

An onion in my pocket : my life with vegetables / Deborah Madison 

Deborah Madison has profoundly changed the way generations of Americans think about cooking with vegetables, helping to transform “vegetarian” from a dirty word into a mainstream way of eating. But before she became a household name, Madison spent almost twenty years at the Zen Center in the midst of counterculture San Francisco. In this warm, candid, and refreshingly funny memoir, she tells the story of her life in food—and with it, the story of the vegetarian movement—for the very first time. From her childhood in Northern California’s Big Ag heartland to sitting sesshin for hours on end at the Tassajara monastery; from her work in the kitchen of the then-new Chez Panisse to the birth of food TV to the age of farmers’ markets everywhere,  An Onion in My Pocket is a deeply personal look at the rise of vegetable-forward cooking and a manifesto for how to eat (and live) well today.

Sing a rhythm, dance a blues : education for the liberation of Black and Brown girls / Monique W. Morris

Wise Black women have known for centuries that the blues have been a platform for truth-telling, an underground musical railroad to survival, and an essential form of resistance, healing, and learning. In her highly anticipated follow-up to the widely acclaimed Pushout, Monique W. Morris invokes the spirit of the blues to articulate a radically healing and empowering pedagogy for Black and Brown girls. She brings together research and real life in this chorus of interviews, case studies, and the testimonies of remarkable people who work successfully with girls of color. The result is this radiant manifesto—a guide to moving away from punishment, trauma, and discrimination toward safety, justice, and genuine community in our schools.

Stranger faces Namwali Serpell

If evolutionary biologists, ethical philosophers, and social media gurus are to be believed, the face is the basis for what we call "humanity." The face is considered the source of identity, truth, beauty, authenticity, and empathy. It underlies our ideas about what constitutes a human, how we relate emotionally, what is pleasing to the eye, and how we ought to treat each other. But all of this rests on a specific image of the face. We might call it the ideal face. What about the strange face, the stranger's face, the face that thwarts recognition? In a collection of speculative essays on a few such stranger faces—the disabled face, the racially ambiguous face, the digital face, the face of the dead—Namwali Serpell probes our contemporary mythology of the face. Stranger Faces imagines a new ethics based on the perverse pleasures we take in the very mutability of faces.

Wiving : a memoir of loving then leaving the patriarchy / Caitlin Myer 

At thirty-six years old, Caitlin Myer is ready to start a family with her husband. She has left behind the restrictive confines of her Mormon upbringing and early sexual trauma and believes she is now living her happily ever after . . . when her body betrays her. In a single week, she suffers the twin losses of a hysterectomy and the death of her mother, and she is jolted into a terrible awakening that forces her to reckon with her past—and future. This is the story of one woman’s lifelong combat with a culture—her “escape” from religion at age twenty, only to find herself similarly entrapped in the gender conventions of the secular culture at large, conventions that teach girls and women to shape themselves to please men, to become good wives and mothers. An electric debut that loudly redefines our notions of womanhood, Wiving grapples with the intersections of religion and sex, trauma and love, sickness and mental illness, and a woman’s harrowing enlightenment. 

The alignment problem : machine learning and human values / Brian Christian 

Today’s “machine-learning” systems, trained by data, are so effective that we’ve invited them to see and hear for us—and to make decisions on our behalf. But alarm bells are ringing. Recent years have seen an eruption of concern as the field of machine learning advances. When the systems we attempt to teach will not, in the end, do what we want or what we expect, ethical and potentially existential risks emerge. Researchers call this the alignment problem. An unflinching reckoning with humanity’s biases and blind spots, our own unstated assumptions and often contradictory goals. A dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, it takes a hard look not only at our technology but at our culture—and finds a story by turns harrowing and hopeful.

Why we swim / Bonnie Tsui

We swim in freezing Arctic waters and piranha-infested rivers to test our limits. We swim for pleasure, for exercise, for healing. But humans, unlike other animals that are drawn to water, are not natural-born swimmers. We must be taught. Our evolutionary ancestors learned for survival; now, in the twenty-first century, swimming is one of the most popular activities in the world. Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck. New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui, a swimmer herself, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what it is about water that seduces us, despite its dangers, and why we come back to it again and again.

Recollections of my nonexistence / Rebecca Solnit 

In Recollections of My Nonexistence, Rebecca Solnit describes her formation as a writer and as a feminist in 1980s San Francisco, in an atmosphere of gender violence on the street and throughout society and the exclusion of women from cultural arenas. She tells of being poor, hopeful, and adrift in the city that became her great teacher, and of the small apartment that, when she was nineteen, became the home in which she transformed herself. She explores the forces that liberated her as a person and as a writer–books themselves; the gay community that presented a new model of what else gender, family, and joy could mean; and her eventual arrival in the spacious landscapes and overlooked conflicts of the American West. Beyond being a memoir, Solnit’s book is also a passionate argument: that women are not just impacted by personal experience, but by membership in a society where violence against women pervades. Looking back, she describes how she came to recognize that her own experiences of harassment and menace were inseparable from the systemic problem of who has a voice, or rather who is heard and respected and who is silenced–and how she was galvanized to use her own voice for change.

*All descriptions are from publishers.