monthly fiction preview

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July 2019

The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead
In the late years of Jim Crow, Elwood Curtis is a college-bound youth who is wrongly accused of a crime and sent to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy in Jackson County, Fla, an institution steeped in sadistic abuse and corruption where troublemakers disappear forever. “Inspired by horrific events that transpired at the real-life Dozier School for Boys, Whitehead’s brilliant examination of America’s history of violence is a stunning novel of impeccable language and startling insight.” (Publishers Weekly) The Nickel Boys is Whitehead’s first book following the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novel The Underground Railroad.

Beirut Hellfire Society
by Rawi Hage    
Episodes in a year in the life of Pavlov, a second-generation Beirut undertaker who inherits his father’s role in the Hellfire Society, a clandestine association that cares for the bodies of outcasts and so-called degenerates. Meanwhile, Pavlov witnesses the collapse of his war-ravaged environment. “Despite the mordant mood, there's something vivifying for both the reader and Pavlov alike in these vignettes, a sense that our thoughts about death are the true crucible for our lives, even if our hero is left unimpressed with humanity by the experience...  A well-turned seriocomic tale about death in a place where it's become inescapable.” (Kirkus Reviews) Hage is a Lebanese-Canadian writer, journalist, photographer and winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Award for his debut novel, De Niro's Game (2006).

Delayed Rays of a Star
by Amanda Lee Koe
A 1928 photograph of Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl together at a Berlin party becomes the starting point for a tale that follows these three women as their lives intersect (through film projects and a brief affair between Anna May and Marlene) and diverge, spanning multiple continents and decades. “Ambitious and well-researched… successfully melds historical fact with expansive and generous storytelling… Throughout, their stories contend with the notion of authenticity in life and art—of how performers define themselves in the public sphere and behind closed doors. Readers will find much to ponder in these vivid, fictionalized deep dives into three women who changed cinema.” (Publishers Weekly)

Gods of Jade and Shadow
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Casiopea Tun has accidentally revived the Mayan death god Hun-Kamé, leading her to join his quest to reclaim power over the underworld. “A stirring historical fantasy set in the Roaring Twenties and steeped in Mayan mythology... Lavish clothes; jazzy music; and ruminations on life, death, fate, and the cosmos combine with blood-drenched nightmares, grisly religious rituals, and road-trip high jinks... Snappy dialog, stellar worldbuilding, lyrical prose, and a slow-burn romance make this a standout.” (Library Journal)

Stay and Fight
by Madeline Ffitch
Lily and Karen’s are expecting a baby boy, so they face imminent eviction from their women-only community on the Appalachian Women's Land Trust. Helen is a recent Seattle transplant who moved to 20 acres of wilderness with a boyfriend who decided that he wasn’t cut out for that life and split. Helen invites Lily, Karen and baby Perley to join her homestead and an unusual family is born. “Remarkable and gripping… a messy, real depiction of people who fully embody the imperative of the novel's title. This is a stellar novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

Very Nice
by Marcy Dermansky
Told in vignettes, this literary soap opera involves a love triangle between a recent graduate of a liberal arts college, her writing professor, and her wealthy and recently divorced mother, also starring a poodle named Princess and twins Khloe, a financial analyst and Kristi, a writer at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. “Sly, deceptively simple and thoroughly seductive… Her sharp satire spares none of the characters and teeters brilliantly on the edge of comedy and tragedy.” (Publishers Weekly) Very Nice follows her 2016 novel The Red Car, which was named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle among others. 

Supper Club
by Lara Williams
Roberta is depressed, lonely, and bored with her too-conventional life until she meets Stevie, and they create a women-only supper club where the appetites of women are celebrated and indulged. “Mixing together insights about food and friendship, hunger and happiness, and the space women allot themselves in the world today, Williams writes with warmth, wit, and wisdom, serving up distinctive characters and a delectably unusual story. Williams' debut novel will satisfy your craving for terrific writing and leave you hungry for more from this talented writer.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Stubborn Archivist
by Yara Rodrigues Fowler
A bicultural, bilingual unnamed young woman, born in London to an English father and Brazilian mother, moves through adolescence and young adulthood while coming to terms with her identity in this mix of autofiction and poetry. “Captivating, unconventional… This novel seeps with the sweet satisfaction of staking a place in the world.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Wedding Party
by Jasmine Guillory
Rounding out a trilogy that began with The Wedding Date and continued with The Proposal, The Wedding Party features an unlikely fling between Maddie and Theo, who agree to overlook their differences in order to help their best friend Alexa plan her wedding. Booklist calls it a “hilarious, satisfying romantic comedy.” Readers who are new to the series will have three fun, smart and sexy summer reads to enjoy!

The Wind That Lays Waste
by Selva Almada
In rural Argentina, unexpected car trouble prompts an encounter between evangelical preacher  Reverend Pearson, his skeptical teenage daughter Leni, mechanic and atheist Gringo Brauer, and his assistant Tapioca. “Drawing language from each character's worldview, and interspersing short sermons, Almada weaves together a quick and tightly told novel that includes smart glimpses into the past, which reveal odd parallels among the four and force each to question the roles of fate, providence, and agency in his or her life... She's been billed as a promising voice in Latin American literature, and this tale delivers readily on that promise.” (Booklist)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2019

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
by Ocean Vuong
Poet Vuong’s collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds (2016) won the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, was selected as a best book by the New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR, and on and on and on. His first novel is a coming of age story in the form of a letter written by a man to his mother, who can’t read. Called Little Dog, he retraces his upbringing as a Vietnamese refugee being raised in working-class Connecticut by his traumatized and abusive single mom and grandmother, and his tender teenage first love with Trevor. “Poetic in the deepest sense—not merely on the level of language, but in its structure and its intelligence… an uncategorizable hybrid of what reads like memoir, bildungsroman, and book-length poem. More important than labels, though, is the novel's earnest and open-hearted belief in the necessity of stories and language for our survival. A raw and incandescently written foray into fiction by one of our most gifted poets.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Mostly Dead Things
by Kristen Arnett
In this dark and quirky novel set in Florida, Jessa inherits her father’s failing taxidermy business following his suicide. She’s also dousing her broken heart in beer since her lover (and former sister-in-law) has split, leaving Jessa to shoulder the burden of caring for her family alone. Meanwhile, Jessa’s mother starts posing taxidermied animals in racy vignettes in the shop window—which opens a surprising door. “Set in a richly rendered Florida and filled with delightfully wry prose and bracing honesty, Arnett’s novel introduces a keenly skillful author with imagination and insight to spare.” (Publishers Weekly)

Patsy
by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Patsy doesn’t feel cut out for motherhood, so she decides to leave her six-year-old daughter Tru with her grandmother in Jamaica and reunite with her old lover Cicely in Brooklyn. But her old romance and New York life don’t turn out as expected, not to mention the stress of living as an undocumented person. Meanwhile, Tru’s story unfolds as she grapples with abandonment and sexuality. Patsy is the latest novel from the author of Here Comes the Sun (2016), winner of multiple honors including a Lambda Literary award. “It's a marker of Dennis-Benn's masterful prowess at characterization and her elegant, nuanced writing that the people here—even when they're flawed or unlikable—inspire sympathy and respect. Dennis-Benn has written a profound book about sexuality, gender, race, and immigration that speaks to the contemporary moment through the figure of a woman alive with passion and regret.” (Kirkus Reviews)

In West Mills
by De'shawn Charles Winslow
Azalea "Knot" Centre is a fiercely independent schoolteacher in rural West Mills, North Carolina who loves moonshine, literature and unattached romantic flings—but the most important men in her life are friends: Valley, a Gay bartender and steadfast neighbor Otis Lee (and his wife Pep). “This tender, exuberant, and impressively crafted debut novel spans decades of family upheaval and painful secrets… Through more than 40 years of ups and downs, Knot and Otis Lee's story makes you feel the enduring grace and potential redemption to be found in even the unlikeliest of extended families. Winslow's heroine isn't easy to like. But over time, she reaches into your heart and touches it deeply. So does this book.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Searching for Sylvie Lee
by Jean Kwok
As a child, Sylvie Lee was raised by her grandmother in Amsterdam because her immigrant parents in the U.S. were too poor to raise her. As an adult, Sylvie returns to Amsterdam to care for her dying grandmother, but sometime after her death, Sylvie disappears. Her sister Amy makes the voyage to Amsterdam in search of her sister, uncovering long held family secrets in the process. Kwok is the award-winning author of Girl in Translation (2010) and Mambo in Chinatown (2014). “Her sharp and surprising language transports readers across the globe on a breathless and emotionally complex journey. Excellent from every angle, this is a can’t-miss novel for lovers of poignant and propulsive fiction.” (Booklist)

Ayesha At Last
by Uzma Jalaluddin
Ayesha is an independent feminist, aspiring poet and school teacher in this Indian-Muslim retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in current day Toronto. Khalid disapproves of Ayesha’s modern style and her family, yet he can’t stop thinking about her or running into her, especially when they both join a committee for planning a Muslim Youth Conference at their mosque. “With humor and abundant cultural references, both manifest in the all-seeing all-criticizing aunty brigade, Jalaluddin cleverly illustrates the social pressures facing young Indian-Muslim adults. Jalaluddin stays true to the original Austen while tackling meatier issues likes workplace discrimination, alcoholism, and abortion. Even readers unfamiliar with Austen’s work will find this a highly entertaining tale of family, community, and romance.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Travelers
by Regina Porter
A terrible event involving two white police officers on a rural road in Georgia in 1966 changes Agnes Miller’s life forever, and looms large over the experiences of many others into the 21st century in this nonlinear, sprawling story of connected lives. “The intersections of history, race, place, and related ways of thinking play out in the characters’ lives and have consequences that may not be obvious for decades... readers will certainly be drawn in by Porter’s sharp writing and kept hooked by the black-and-white photographs interspersed throughout the book, which give faces to the evocative voices.” (Booklist)

The Gone Dead
by Chanelle Benz
From the author of the story collection The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead (named a Best Book of 2017 by The San Francisco Chronicle) a novel about Billie James, a 34-year-old woman who exhumes the past after she inherits the shack in the Mississippi Delta where her late father, a renowned but underrated poet, died under mysterious circumstances decades earlier. “A rich, arresting exploration of racial injustice and the long shadows cast by family legacy… Populated by a cast of delightfully untrustworthy characters, and told from multiple points of view, Billie’s quest to discover what really happened one night 30 years earlier is propulsive from the outset, culminating in a wrenching final scene… A beautiful and devastating portrait of the modern South, this book will linger in the minds of readers.” (Publishers Weekly)

Among the Lost
by Emiliano Monge, translated by Frank Wynne
An award-winning Mexican writer whose honors include the Bogotá39 list of the best fiction writers under 40 from across Latin America, Monge’s latest novel to be translated into English is describes 24 hours in the lives of lovers and human traffickers Estela and Epitafio, quoting both Dante’s Inferno and real life migrants. “Monge realistically describes the horrors facing the men, women, and children making the journey, though there’s also a surreal quality to the landscape the star-crossed lovers and those depending on them traverse. Monge shows how the corruption of the soul afflicts young and old alike when the powerful prey on the vulnerable, yet he also creates nuanced villains grappling with self-doubt and fear. In a remarkable literary feat, this tale of the dire events of one day illuminates the past, the present, and the future.” (Booklist)

The Tenth Muse
by Catherine Chung
Katherine is a brilliant Mathematician who was the only woman in her graduate program at MIT in the 1960s. After a distinguished career, she persists in her quests to solve the Riemann hypothesis and discover the truth about her identity and long-held family secrets. “A powerful and virtuosically researched story about the mysteries of the head and the heart.” (Kirkus Reviews) Her previous novel Forgotten Country was named a Best Book of 2012 by The San Francisco Chronicle.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May 2019

The Farm
by Joanne Ramos
Jane, an out-of-work Filipina immigrant, is forced by financial desperation into work as a high-end surrogate at a secretive and luxurious facility in the Hudson Valley. It is the nicest place she’s ever lived, but she’s not allowed to leave, she’s under constant surveillance and she’s separated from her six-month-old daughter, in service to an Orwellian operation that exploits mostly poor women of color. “Throughout, questions of money, ethics, privilege, and ambition arise as each character makes compromises—or straight-up lies to herself... An alarmingly realistic look at the power of wealth and access buoyed by clear, compelling storytelling and appealing, if not always likable, characters.” (Booklist)

The Confessions of Frannie Langton
by Sara Collins
In the early 19th century, Frannie Langton is an enslaved woman from a Jamaican plantation who ends up in London in service to the Benham household, where she falls into a forbidden affair with Marguerite Benham. When the Benhams are found murdered, Frannie is accused of the crime and her trial becomes a sensational scandal. “There's betrayal, depravity, pseudoscience, forbidden love, drug addiction, white supremacy, and, oh yes, a murder mystery with tightly wound knots to unravel... Collins' debut novel administers a bold and vibrant jolt to both the gothic and historical fiction genres, embracing racial and sexual subtexts that couldn't or wouldn't have been imagined by its long-ago practitioners. Her evocations of early-19th-century London and antebellum Jamaica are vivid and, at times, sensuously graphic. Most of all, she has created in her title character a complex, melancholy, and trenchantly observant protagonist… [a] gripping, groundbreaking debut.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Flight Portfolio
by Julie Orringer
Varian Fry is an American journalist embroiled in an operation to help artists and intellectuals escape Nazi-occupied France, when he crosses paths with Elliott Schiffman Grant, a former Harvard classmate and object of an intense mutual attraction. “Orringer seamlessly combines compelling inventions with complex fact: figures including Marc Chagall and Andre Breton make vivid appearances, while Skiff and his relationship with Fry are unforgettable fictional creations. Brilliantly conceived, impeccably crafted, and showcasing Orringer’s extraordinary gifts, this is destined to become a classic.” (Publishers Weekly)

Red, White & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston
This fun, queer romantic comedy with a political twist imagines what happens when Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the first woman President of the United States, falls in love with Prince Henry of England. “The impossible relationship between Alex and Henry is portrayed with quick wit and clever plotting. The drama, which involves political rivals, possible betrayals, and even a meeting with the queen, is both irresistible and delicious.” (Publishers Weekly)

New Daughters of Africa
Edited by Margaret Busby           
Publishing legend Busby edited the groundbreaking anthology Daughters of Africa in 1992, celebrating an international collection of writings by women of African descent. She returns with a focus on today’s generation of writers, featuring many of the authors you would expect—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Edwidge Danticat, Roxane Gay, Nnedi Okorafor and Zadie Smith among them—plus many new names, perfect for readers who love to encounter new writers.

Red Birds
by Mohammed Hanif
After his plane crashes in a Middle Eastern desert, Major Ellie is taken to the very refugee camp he was sent to bomb. His rescuer, clever 15-year-old refugee Momo, is scheming ways to find his recently disappeared brother. “Hanif’s superb novel, with its elements of magic realism, is told from multiple points of view, principally those of Momo, Ellie, and—in a whimsical touch—Momo’s dog, Mutt, who may be wiser than the humans… Hanif has written a splendidly satirical novel that beautifully captures the absurdity and folly of war and its ineluctable impact on its survivors. At turns funny and heartbreaking, it is a memorable contribution to the literature of conflict.” (Booklist) Hanif’s 2008 novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes was longlisted for the Booker Prize.

Where We Come from
by Oscar Cásares
12-year-old Orly’s mom recently died, and his dad has sent him to stay with his godmother Nina on the Texas border for a few weeks over the summer. But Nina has a secret—she’s been helping undocumented immigrants and coyotes—and 12-year-old Daniel is currently hiding out in the backyard casita. “As Nina, Orly, and Daniel learn each other's secrets, the reader is treated to a novel that addresses the complexity of immigration, identity, and assimilation while telling close, intimate stories... this quiet, delicate book delivers a truly timeless emotional punch.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Disappearing Earth
by Julia Phillips
On a remote peninsula in eastern Russia, in a city ripe with cultural and ethnic tensions, two young sisters go missing. Over the next twelve months, women across the region feel the impact of the girls’ disappearance as the stories of the survivors intertwine with a gripping mystery. “Dazzlingly original… Phillips, a Fulbright fellow whose work has appeared in Slate and the Atlantic, has written a knock-out novel that combines literary heft with a propulsive plot.” (Library Journal)

Home Remedies: Stories
by Xuan Juliana Wang
A debut collection of 12 stories imagine the lives of millennials of Chinese descent around the globe. “Wang’s formidable imagination is on full display… Wang proves herself a promising writer with a delightfully playful voice and an uncanny ability to evoke empathy, nostalgia, and wonder.” (Publishers Weekly)

China Dream
by Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew
Director of the China Dream Bureau Ma Daode has influence, wealth, attentive mistresses, and a scheme to control the dreams of his fellow citizens, yet he is haunted by the nightmares of his own past. “Ma (The Dark Road, 2013) has forged an impressive literary career by criticizing the government of the country of his birth, from which his work has been banned for 25 years… In his startling and irreverent parody, Ma finds compassion amid the sex and violence that shape a history of injustice and a nation's vulnerability.” (Booklist)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April 2019

Normal People 
by Sally Rooney
Connell is a popular athlete and son of a single, working class mom and Marianne is an antisocial loner from a wealthy family. The two brainy teens form an unlikely secret relationship, and their on-again, off-again status follows them into their college years. “In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy… Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become. Absolutely enthralling. Read it.” (Kirkus ReviewsOakland readers have been clamoring for this book ever since it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last July, even before it won "Irish Novel of the Year" at the Irish Book Awards, the Costa Book Award, and a nomination for the Women’s Prize. It will finally arrive stateside mid-April, after months of being in hot demand in the British Isles (where The Guardian called it “the literary phenomenon of the year”).

Trust Exercise 
by Susan Choi
David and Sarah, freshmen at a competitive suburban performing arts high school in the 1980s, fall in love but their intense relationship is short lived.  As their stories unfold, the narrative reveals its own unreliability in bold twists. Choi is the author of My Education (2013) and the Pulitzer prize finalist American Woman (2003). “Choi’s new novel, her fifth, is titled “Trust Exercise,” and it burns more brightly than anything she’s yet written. This psychologically acute novel enlists your heart as well as your mind. Zing will go certain taut strings in your chest.” (New York Times

Women Talking
by Miriam Toews
For two years, the women and girls of a South American Mennonite enclave have been sexually assaulted in their sleep. They were told it was the work of demons, but now they know they’ve been drugged and raped by men in their own community. Now eight women are meeting in secret to decide whether or not to flee, with minutes of their meetings kept by a trusted male school teacher since the women are illiterate. “An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture from the author of All My Puny Sorrows (2014)… Stunningly original and altogether arresting.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Parisian
by Isabella Hammad
In 1914, 19-year-old Midhat Kamal leaves his Palestinian home for Montpelier, France in pursuit of a medical degree. He finds a welcoming home with his mentor Dr. Frederic Molineu, and falls hard for the professor’s daughter, Jeannette. When he discovers he has been betrayed by Dr. Molineu, he abruptly leaves for Paris, but his heart will not forget his love for Jeannette. When Midhat ultimately returns to his Palestine, both his homeland and his heart are irreversibly changed. “By 1936, Midhat has witnessed a number of historical regional changes, including British rule and the Arab fight for independence. Richly textured prose drives the novel’s spellbinding themes of the ebb and flow of cultural connections and people who struggle with love, familial responsibilities, and personal identity. This is an immensely rewarding novel that readers will sink into and savor.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Editor
by Rowley, Steven
James Smale is a young gay author whose autobiographical debut novel captures his problematic relationship with his mother. He catches the interest of a major publishing house where his new editor is none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. As the relationship between the writer and the editor deepens, she encourages him to confront his family in order to finish his book. “While diving deeply into questions of identity, loyalty, and absolution within the bonds of family, Rowley, author of the beloved Lily and the Octopus (2016), soars to satisfying heights in this deeply sensitive depiction of the symbiotic relationships at the heart of every good professional, and personal, partnership.” (Booklist)

The Affairs of the Falcons
by Melissa Rivero
Ana Falcón and her family fled Peru for New York in the 1990s. As they struggle to build a new life, undocumented Ana and her husband Lucho work themselves to the bone while indebting themselves to a loan shark. “The pressures—personal, financial—that Ana faces will be recognizable to most readers, but the fact that the Falcóns are undocumented immigrants adds a layer of complexity and peril to every choice they make… Ana is a very well-crafted protagonist, sympathetic but not perfect. Her situation is circumscribed, but Rivero gives her considerable agency—including the freedom to make dubious choices… Thoughtful and eye-opening, this is an admirable debut.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Sabrina & Corina 
by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Fajardo-Anstine makes her debut with a collection of eleven stories set in Colorado that feature the lives of Latina women of Indigenous descent, including teen mothers, victims of violence and crime, and the dead and dying. “Achingly realistic… Fajardo-Anstine takes aim at our country's social injustices and ills without succumbing to pessimism. The result is a nearly perfect collection of stories that is emotionally wrenching but never without glimmers of resistance and hope.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Prince of Monkeys 
by Nnamdi Ehirim
Ihechi is a young man with a tight knit group of friends coming of age in Lagos, Nigeria in the late 20th century. Their lives are somewhat carefree until tragedy strikes at an anti-government rally and Ihechi’s life takes a surprising direction. “Nigerian writer Ehirim's audacious debut novel follows a teenager's quest for self-definition in a country in search of itself... Told in beautifully evocative prose, a panoramic novel showing that the price of growing beyond one's origins might be steeper than anticipated.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Optic Nerve 
by María Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead
This first novel and first work in translation by an Argentinian journalist and art critic is sure to please fans of fiction and art. The narrator of this autofictional work muses on her life in Buenos Aires and constantly finds connection between her life and art as she looks back on her past, her city, culture, motherhood and womanhood. “Phenomenal… With playfulness and startling psychological acuity, Gainza explores the spaces between others, art, and the self, and how what one sees and knows form the ineffable hodgepodge of the human soul. The result is a transcendent work.” (Publishers Weekly)

Springtime in a Broken Mirror 
by Mario Benedetti, translated by Nick Caistor
Santiago is a political prisoner in an Uruguayan prison in the 1970s, connected to his family only through letters. Meanwhile, exiled in Buenos Aires, his wife Graciela struggles with guilt and her newfound love for another, and daughter Beatriz no longer remembers her native country.  Available for the first time in English, this novel was originally published in 1982 by one of Uruguay’s most renowned authors of the 20th century, often compared to Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes. “Rich, heartbreaking… Benedetti’s tender yet unflinching portrait of a family in the crushing straits of history is a welcome addition to the small (and hopefully growing) catalogue of his work that has been translated into English.” (Publishers Weekly)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March 2019

The Old Drift 
by Namwali Serpell
A chance encounter between an English colonist, an Italian hotel manager and an African busboy launches a series of events linking the fates of their descendants, in a complex plot set against the backdrop of the past, present and future of the nation of Zambia. “Serpell expertly weaves in a preponderance of themes, issues, and history, including Zambia’s independence, the AIDS epidemic, white supremacy, patriarchy, familial legacy, and the infinite variations of lust and love… Intricately imagined, brilliantly constructed, and staggering in its scope, this is an astonishing novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

Gingerbread
by Helen Oyeyemi
Winner of the 2010 Somerset Maugham Award (White is for Witching) and a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (Mr. Fox) Oyeyemi returns with another novel inspired by classic children’s tales. Harriet Lee is famous for her gingerbread, but when her daughter Perdita bakes up her own confection it leads her into danger. “Oyeyemi takes the familiar contours of a children's tale and twists it into something completely new, unsettling, and uncanny. There are changelings, mysterious rich benefactors, a country that might not exist, corrupt, capitalist factory owners, and living dolls with forthright opinions... A strange, shape-shifting novel about the power of making your own family.” (Kirkus Reviews)

A Woman is No Man
by Etaf Rum
 In 1990, an arranged marriage takes 17-year-old Isra from her home in Palestine to a Palestinian enclave in Brooklyn, where she begins a life of subservience and abuse. As Isra gives birth to four daughters and no sons, the tension intensifies and continues to impact the next generation of young women. “Through well-developed characters and a wonderfully paced narrative, she exposes the impact that the embedded patriarchy of some cultures can have on women while showing more broadly how years of shame, secrets, and betrayal can burden families across generations… Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)

Lot
by Bryan Washington
A collection of stories depict the coming of age of a gay Afro-Latinx young man who is losing his family bit by bit: his often absent father finally leaves, his brother enlists, his sister starts a family, until finally he is left with his mother and their struggling Houston restaurant. “Washington is a dynamic writer with a sharp eye for character, voice, and setting. This is a remarkable collection from a writer to watch.” (Publishers Weekly) You can get a preview of his work in The New Yorker here.

Queenie
by Candice Carty-Williams
25-year-old Jamaican British Londoner Queenie Jenkins is having a terrible year. She’s still reeling from a bad breakup, her dating life is terrible, and she’s moved in with her traditional and judgmental grandparents. “Fast moving and with a strong sense of Queenie’s London, this entertains while tackling topics like mental health and stigma, racism and tokenism, gentrification, and the isolation of social-media and dating-app culture. This smart, funny, and tender debut embraces a modern woman’s messiness.” (Booklist)

The Other Americans
by Laila Lalami
When Moroccan-born restauranteur Driss Guerraoui is killed in a hit and run, a multitude of lives are shaken, including family members, the undocumented man who witnessed the accident, and the detective trying to solve the crime. “Powerful… In a narrative that succeeds as mystery and love story, family and character study, Lalami captures the complex ways humans can be strangers not just outside their “tribes” but within them, as well as to themselves.” (Publishers Weekly) Lalami’s previous novel, The Moor’s Account (2014) won multiple awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

The Bird King
by G. Willow Wilson
Known for her graphic novels and the World Fantasy Award-winning debut novel Alif the Unseen (2012), Willow takes readers to a fantastical version of Muslim Spain in the era of the Inquisition. Fatima, a concubine of the Sultan, dearly loves her friend Hassam, a mapmaker with mysterious powers. When she inadvertently exposes Hassam to grave danger, Fatima must help him find an escape in this swashbuckling adventure. “This is a novel that thoughtfully contemplates the meaning of love, power, religion, and freedom. But even while exploring all of these heavy issues, this is a fun, immersive adventure that moves at a brisk pace through lush settings, across dangerous terrain, and eventually out to the open sea.” (Booklist)

The Parting Glass
by Gina Marie Guadagnino
After fleeing their native Ireland in 1837, Maire O'Farren and her twin brother Seanin arrive in New York City. Assuming new identities as Mary Ballard and Johnny Prior, they secure work in the tony Walden household where they both fall for the beautiful and rich Charlotte. “Debut author Guadagnino explores love and passion, family and loyalty, and class and gender… Well-researched historical details lend authenticity to Guadagnino's captivating work, right down to the diction of the dialog. The limited opportunities afforded to women and immigrants by society colors this tale of passion and lies.” (Library Journal)

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
edited by Nisi Shawl
Lovers of speculative fiction will want to get their hands on this anthology featuring authors of color including Andrea Hairston, Steven Barnes and Rebecca Roanhorse. “This book’s wide range of stories is its greatest strength… every reader will find something worth rereading.” (Publishers Weekly)

Sing to It: New Stories
by Amy Hempel
Hempel, a master of the short story form and winner of multiple awards including the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction, returns with her first collection in over a decade. “Bold, disconcerting, knockout stories… In stories that can be funny, brutal, poetic, blunt, elusive, or all of the above, this accomplished collection highlights Hempel's signature style with its condensed prose, quirky narrators, and touching, disturbing, transcendent moments.” (Publishers Weekly)

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February 2019

Black Leopard, Red Wolf
by Marlon James
Multi-award-winning Jamaican author Marlon James follows up his Booker Prizewinning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) with the first of a series of fantasy novels the New Yorker calls “an African Game of Thrones.” "Readers will discover mermaids, vampires, zombies, and witches, along with edge-of-your-seat chills and cheeky humor... James’ world building weaves in cultural references from Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali, Congo, Burkina Faso, and Senegal as he spins his griot’s tale of love, revolutions, murder, and magic. Gender-bending romance, fantastical adventure, and an Afrocentric setting make for an inventive and engaging read. ” (Booklist)

Lost Children Archive
by Valeria Luiselli
A husband, wife, and two young kids from New York on a road trip to Arizona find themselves plummeting into the immigration crisis in the latest novel from the winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, two National Book Critics Circle nominations, and a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" award. “Juxtaposing rich poetic prose with direct storytelling and brutal reality and alternating narratives with photos, documents, poems, maps, and music, Luiselli explores what holds a family and society together and what pulls them apart… Her superb novel makes a devastating case for compassion by documenting the tragic shortcomings of the immigration process.” (Publishers Weekly)

American Spy
by Lauren Wilkinson
At the height of the Cold War in the mid-1980s, Marie Mitchell’s stalled FBI career takes a turn when she’s suddenly tapped to join a task force targeting the Marxist and pan-Africanist president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara. “Written as a confession addressed to her twin sons following an assassination attempt on her life, the novel is a thrilling, razor-sharp examination of race, nationalism, and U.S. foreign policy that is certain to make Wilkinson’s name as one of the most engaging and perceptive young writers working today. Marie is a brilliant narrator who is forthright, direct, and impervious to deception—traits that endow the story with an honesty that is as refreshing as it is revelatory. This urgent and adventurous novel will delight fans of literary fiction and spy novels alike.” (Publishers Weekly)

Bowlaway
by Elizabeth McCracken
No one knows in Salford, Massachusetts knows where Bertha Truitt came from, but when she opens a bowling alley in the early 1900s, it becomes the center of town and she it’s most notable resident. A quirky family saga with heart featuring love, loss, and bowling from the author of six books including The Giant’s House (1996) and Story Prize winner Thunderstruck & Other Stories (2014). “Mysteries human and supernatural percolate, punctuated by unlikely passions, crimes, and bizarre deaths as scoundrels, godsends, lost souls, and screw-ups converge at the bowling alley... McCracken writes with exuberant precision, ingenious lyricism, satirical humor, and warmhearted mischief and delight.” (Booklist)

The Night Tiger
by Yangsze Choo
In 1930s colonial Malaysia, 11-year-old Ren has been tasked with a mission to find his late employer’s dismembered finger, so that he may reunite it with the corpse and allow the dead’s soul to rest. As Ren pursues the man’s dying wish, Ji Lin finds a mysterious digit while she works a second job at a dance hall. “Choo [author of The Ghost Bride, 2013] weaves her research in with a feather-light touch, and readers will be so caught up in the natural and supernatural intrigue that the serious themes here about colonialism and power dynamics, about gender and class, are absorbed with equal delicacy. Choo has written a sumptuous garden maze of a novel that immerses readers in a complex, vanished world.” (Publishers Weekly)

Leading Men
by Christopher Castellani
Castellani combines fact with fiction to imagine the lives of Tennessee Williams, his longtime lover Frank Merlo, and Swedish ingenue and future film star Anja Blomgren. When the three meet in 1953 at a party thrown by Truman Capote in Portofino, Italy, Williams and Merlo decide to take the young woman under their wing. “Spectacular… Castellani’s novel hits the trifecta of being moving, beautifully written, and a bona fide page-turner. This is a wonderful examination of artists and the people who love them and change their work in large and imperceptible ways.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
by Anissa Gray
Three adult sisters face devastating challenges in this debut novel. Althea, once the family matriarch and a community leader, may be heading to prison with her husband for fraud. Youngest sister Lillian, who cares for her ailing mother-in-law while struggling with the memory of abuse at the hands of her brother, steps up to take care of Althea’s teenage children. Meanwhile, middle sister Viola is grappling with a separation from her wife and a history of bulimia. “Gray’s engrossing and moving debut novel considers secrets and lies and their effect on the families of three sisters... Alternating among each sister’s perspective, the story unravels at a measured pace, deliciously feeding the reader surprises about the past and present throughout.” (Booklist)

The Hundred Wells of Salaga
by Ayesha Harruna Attah
In late-19th-century Ghana, Aminah’s life is devastated when she is abducted, enslaved and eventually purchased by Wurche, the ambitious daughter of a chief. Ghanaian author Attah “is adept at leading readers across the varied terrain of 19th-century Ghana and handles heavy subjects with aplomb. Two memorable women anchor this pleasingly complicated take on slavery, power, and freedom.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Willa & Hesper
by Amy Feltman
Willa and Hesper are MFA students at Columbia who share a short-lived but passionate romance. Their break up prompts both women to pursue personal journeys around the globe.  “Thoughtful and fascinating… Feltman stays away from happy ending conventions and skillfully weaves glimmers of hope and healing throughout, making for a keenly perceptive novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

Sea Monsters
by Chloe Aridjis
Seventeen-year-old Luisa impulsively runs away from her Mexico City home with a boy she barely knows. They land at a beach on the Pacific Coast, where Luisa becomes obsessed with a band of escaped Soviet circus performers. Aridjis, a Mexican author who lives in London, is best known for her debut novel Book of Clouds (2009), which won the French Prix du Premier Roman Etranger. “This work deftly communicates the wonder and amazement of discovery characterizing Luisa's inner and outer worlds. Aridjis is an accomplished wordsmith, and readers will find themselves rereading many passages in this wise, marvelous novel.” (Library Journal)

Looking for more reading recommendations? Try our service for readers,Book Me! Fill out an online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in January 2019

An Orchestra of Minorities
by Chigozie Obioma
Following the success of Booker Prize shortlisted novel The Fishermen, Obioma returns with a story narrated by a 700-year-old spirit, featuring the struggles of Nigerian chicken farmer Chinonso and his love Ndali, the daughter of a wealthy family. In an attempt to win her family’s approval, Chinonso sells everything he owns to pay for a University degree in Cyprus. When he arrives he discovers he has been robbed and stranded by a terrible scam. “Obioma’s novel is electrifying, a meticulously crafted character drama told with emotional intensity. His invention, combining Igbo folklore and Greek tragedy in the context of modern Nigeria, makes for a rich, enchanting experience.” (Publishers Weekly)

We Cast a Shadow
by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
In the near future, racism in America is on the rise. The unnamed narrator of this novel endures humiliation and tokenization at his job because he will do anything for his son, Nigel. Wishing to spare Nigel the dangers of being young and Black in America, he becomes obsessed with an experimental surgical procedure that will make Nigel look white. “Set in a disturbingly familiar near future, where entire black neighborhoods are imprisoned in the name of security and “the bad blacks” can be denuded and deported under the “Dreadlock Ordinance,” Ruffin's debut novel is a harsh indictment of a society that views blackness as a disorder and that forces black men to choose between self-respect and survival… Brilliant and devastating.” (Booklist)

The Water Cure
by Sophie Mackintosh
In a dystopian future wracked by environmental disasters, sisters Grace, Lia, and Sky live in seaside isolation with their father and mother. Their only visitors are women seeking cures and feeling violence, until their father disappears and three strange men wash up on shore. “Mackintosh's intense, ambitious debut, longlisted for the Man Booker, evokes a feminist dystopia where three sisters live in isolation meant to protect them from a toxic world that has become particularly dangerous for women… Mackintosh's gripping novel is vicious in its depiction of victimhood, vibrant when victims transform into warriors, and full of outrage at patriarchal power, environmental devastation, and the dehumanization of women.” (Publishers Weekly)

99 Nights in Logar
by Jamil Jan Kochai
After having lived in the U.S. for half of his life, 12-year-old Marwand takes a family summer trip to their native village of Logar near American-occupied Kabul in Afghanistan. An unfriendly encounter with a dog leads to an adventure with relatives as they regale each other with stories. “With beautiful prose that encompasses the brutality of life in Afghanistan without overshadowing the warmth of family, culture, and storytelling… A vivid and moving novel about heritage, history, and the family bonds that transcend culture.” (Kirkus Reviews)  

Sugar Run
by Mesha Maren
Jodi McCarty is 35 when she completes her Georgia prison sentence for shooting her girlfriend Paula when she was a teenager. On a quest to keep a promise she made to Paula, she meets and falls for Miranda, mother of three with serious troubles of her own. “A world of shifting allegiances, small-town bigotry, draining poverty, pervasive substance abuse, and secrets as destructive as the blasts used in fracking on the property down the road from the farm... This impressive first novel combines beautifully crafted language and a steamy Southern noir plot to fine effect.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Here and Now and Then
by Mike Chen
Kin Stewart, a time traveler from the year 2142, finds himself stuck in 1990s San Francisco. His memory compromised, he falls in love, has a daughter and settles into a comfortable life until 18 years later, his best friend arrives to force him back to his former life in the future. Meanwhile, his daughter’s very existence is in danger and Kin must figure out how to save her from another century. “Heartfelt and thrilling... Kin's agony is deeply moving. His choices are often selfish but entirely understandable; he is human, with good intentions and profound flaws. Quick pacing, complex characters, and a fascinating premise make this an unforgettable debut.” (Publishers Weekly)

House of Stone
by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
In 2007 Zimbabwe, the teenage son of Abednego and Agnes Mlambo goes missing after an anti-Mugabe demonstration. Their lodger Zamani, a 20-year-old orphan desperate for a family of his own, spots an opportunity and embarks on a devious campaign of manipulation and deception in an effort to take their son’s place. “Tshuma delineates a rich and complicated tale about the importance of history… the price of revolution, the pursuit of freedom, and the remaking of one's self. A multilayered, twisting, and surprising whirlwind of a novel that is as impressive as it is heartbreaking.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Far Field
by Madhuri Vijay
30-year-old Shalini is a privileged and aimless young woman grieving her mother’s death. She decides to leave her home in Bangalore, India and travel to the northern region of Kashmir to find Bashir Ahmed, a former travelling merchant who was a friend to her mother. While her journey leads her to unexpected joys she must also confront volatile political conflicts, class differences and fraught histories. “Vijay intertwines her story's threads with dazzling skill. Dense, layered, impossible to pin—or put—down, her first novel is an engrossing tale of love and grief, politics and morality. Combining up-close character studies with finely plotted drama, this is a triumphant, transporting debut.” (Booklist)

Wanderer
by Sarah Léon, translated by John Cullen
Hermin is a composer who finds wintry solitude in France’s Bourbonnais mountains. His seclusion is interrupted by the surprise visit of an old friend and former student Lenny, a musical prodigy who disappeared suddenly from his life a decade earlier. Secrets from the past and present unfold, punctuated with musical allusion in a book that was nominated for the Prix Goncourt for a first novel. “A brooding tone underlines the pair’s resentment and dependence on each other, which seethes just below the surface during their conversations in the forest and silent moments by the fire. Léon perfectly measures out past and present to reach a satisfying and intimate crescendo.” (Booklist)

Unmarriageable
by Soniah Kamal
In this modern-day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan, Alys Binat is an independent woman with a job as an English teacher, and she has no interest in marrying--especially not that proud Mr. Darsee. “The author remains faithful to the original story while giving readers insight into Pakistani culture in a modern retelling both enlightening and entertaining. The dialog sparkles with sharp humor, which will dazzle readers with counterparts of the original.” (Library Journal)

5 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in December 2018

Go figure, this month is turning out to be a slightly slow month for fiction. But if you’re like me, you're still catching up on all of your 2018 reads anyway. Here’s a shorter list of new books so you can join me in a last-ditch effort to catch up with our holds lists. Happy reading!

Milkman
by Anna Burns
The winner of the 2018 Booker Prize is finally available in the U.S. this month. Set in Ireland during the tumultuous 1970s, an 18-year-old girl is targeted and stalked by an intimidating older man, not a milkman but a local paramilitary. Chair of this year’s Booker judges, writer and philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, had the following to say about Milkman: “The language of Anna Burns’ Milkman is simply marvellous; beginning with the distinctive and consistently realised voice of the funny, resilient, astute, plain-spoken, first-person protagonist. From the opening page her words pull us into the daily violence of her world — threats of murder, people killed by state hit squads — while responding to the everyday realities of her life as a young woman, negotiating a way between the demands of family, friends and lovers in an unsettled time. The novel delineates brilliantly the power of gossip and social pressure in a tight-knit community, and shows how both rumour and political loyalties can be put in the service of a relentless campaign of individual sexual harassment. Burns draws on the experience of Northern Ireland during the Troubles to portray a world that allows individuals to abuse the power granted by a community to those who resist the state on their behalf. Yet this is never a novel about just one place or time. The local is in service to an exploration of the universal experience of societies in crisis.”

North of Dawn
by Nuruddin Farah
Winner of literary prizes from across the globe, celebrated Somali author Farah returns with a novel centered on Gacalo and Mugdi, a Somali-born couple who have lived comfortably in Oslo for decades. They are devastated when their estranged son, who returned to Somalia after years of feeling alienated in Norway, kills himself in a suicide attack. They welcome their daughter-in-law and her teenage children into their home, leading to conflict and chaos. “Farah's insistence on isolating the humanity in even the most difficult characters is a beacon of hope against fear and loathing.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Revolution Sunday
by Wendy Guerra, translated by Achy Obejas
Cleo is a Cuban poet in her 30s who is mourning the sudden loss of her parents when she learns she has won a literary prize in Spain. Soon after she becomes a target of suspicion and surveillance by the government, and then she is approached by a handsome movie star who wants to make a film about her late father. But is he really who he seems? And were her parents harboring secrets? “Arresting, an explosive portrait of loneliness and isolation. Thick with the atmosphere of Cleo's Havana on the cusp of the Cuban thaw, the novel reads like the world's most poetic anxiety dream, vibrant and stifling. Demanding and unforgettable.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Day the Sun Died
by Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas
Kafka Prizewinning author Yan, often censored in his native China for his satirical works, won The Dream of the Red Chamber Award for this dark novel, his latest to be translated into English. Fourteen-year-old Li Niannian helps his parents run a funeral parlor in their small village. Trouble begins when Niannian discovers family and neighbors “dreamwalking,” somnambulantly working and carrying out daytime activities, leading to accidental deaths and ultimately spiraling into chaos. “The interweaving of politics and delusion creates a powerful resonance… This is a riveting, powerful reading experience.” (Publishers Weekly)

Radiant Shimmering Light
by Sarah Selecky
Lilian Quick is a single woman in her 40s barely scraping by as a pet portraitist. Eleven Novak is the creator of the Ascendency, a female empowerment program that is also a barely disguised pyramid scheme. When a chance online encounter leads Lilian and Eleven to realize that they are long lost cousins, Lilian is swept up in the Ascendency, with new opportunities for success and self-actualization. “Selecky's biting, tragicomic first novel is an insider look at the intersection between the sincerity of belief and the commodification of aspiration... Selecky's deadpan tone, punchy writing, and vivid characters transport readers to a specific, highly diverting world that hits close to the bone and sparks the self-reflection it's spoofing.” (Booklist)

Keep your eyes peeled for more great reasons to read: Oakland Public Library’s annual list of staff favorite books, coming very soon!

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November 2018

Evening in Paradise: More Stories
by Lucia Berlin
Berlin, a onetime Oakland & Berkeley resident who passed away in 2004, gained widespread and overdue acclaim with the posthumously published 2015 story collection A Manual for Cleaning Women. Known for tackling subjects of addiction and working class life with dark humor, Berlin has been compared to Alice Munro, Grace Paley, Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson. Evening in Paradise “features more seductive, sparkling autofiction with narrators whose names echo the author's in settings and situations that come from her roller-coaster biography…  No dead author is more alive on the page than Berlin: funny, dark, and so in love with the world.” (Kirkus Reviews) This collection is being released alongside an autobiographical work, Welcome Home: A Memoir with Selected Photographs and Letters.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? 
by N. K. Jemisin
Author N. K. Jemisin is known for award winning speculative fiction novels that deal with themes of oppression and resistance. Her debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010), won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for just about every science fiction award out there. All three books in her Broken Earth series went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel. If you’re thinking that you don’t usually read science fiction, her new collection of short stories may be your gateway book. “These stories span Jemisin's career; they demonstrate both the growth and active flourishing of one of speculative fiction's most thoughtful and exciting writers.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Insurrecto
by Gina Apostol
Chiara is an American filmmaker who comes to the Philippines in the age of Duterte to make a movie about the Philippine-American War. When Chiara hires writer and translator Magsalin to be her guide, Magsalin takes Chiara’s script and writes her own version of the story. The award winning author of Gun Dealers' Daughter (2012), Apostol “fearlessly probes the long shadow of forgotten American imperialism in the Philippines… This is a complex and aptly vertiginous novel that deconstructs how humans tell stories and decide which versions of events are remembered; names repeat between scripts, and directors suddenly interrupt what feels like historical narration. Apostol’s layers of narrative, pop culture references, and blurring of history and fiction make for a profound and unforgettable journey.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Best Bad Things
by Katrina Carrasco
Alma Rosales is a 19th century detective, trained and fired by the Pinkerton Agency. She goes undercover assuming multiple identities (and genders) trying to track an opium thief while vying for the affections of her boss and sometime lover Delphine Beaumond, leader of a drug smuggling ring. “Carrasco succeeds in coupling a feminist historical that maintains period plausibility with an exploratory queer narrative…  Breath-catching pacing, tantalizingly rough-and-tumble characters who are somehow both distasteful and deeply relatable, palpable erotic energy, and powerful storytelling make this a standout.” (Publishers Weekly)

My Sister, the Serial Killer
by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Ayoola isn’t just a heartbreaker—she’s a sociopath who kills her boyfriends when she’s ready to move on. Her sister, Korede, is always there to (literally) clean up her messes. “From the hospital rooms and living spaces of Lagos, Nigeria, comes a dryly funny and wickedly crafty exercise in psychological suspense...  Even your most extravagant speculations about what's really going on with these wildly contrasting yet oddly simpatico siblings will be trumped in this skillful, sardonic debut.” (Kirkus)

All the Lives We Never Lived
by Anuradha Roy
In the era of India’s fight for independence from Britain and the unfolding of WWII, Gayatri Rozario longs for freedom and art, and ultimately flees her family and her small Indian town. Years later, her adult son Myshkin tries to comprehend her betrayal as he pieces her life together with the help of a new found cache of letters. “A lush and lyrical fusion of history and storytelling... This mesmerizing exploration of the darker consequences of freedom, love, and loyalty is an astonishing display of Roy’s literary prowess.” (Publishers Weekly) Roy's previous novel, Sleeping on Jupiter, was longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. 

The Kinship of Secrets
by Eugenia Kim
In 1948, Najin and Calvin Cho decide to leave Korea in search of new opportunities in the United States. They can only bring one daughter, so they bring Miran, leaving younger Inja behind with family until they can bring her over. Only the Korean War breaks out, preventing them from reuniting their family, and forcing two sisters to grow up apart and in two very different worlds. Kim, the author of The Calligrapher's Daughter (2009), loosely based this novel on her own family’s story. “A timely and moving historical saga illuminating the repercussions experienced by families separated by war.” (Booklist)

The Lonesome Bodybuilder
by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda
The Lonesome Bodybuilder is the English-language debut from Montoya, a playwright and novelist who has won some major fiction prizes in Japan. “An unusual but ingenious collection that blends dark humor and bemused first-person narrators suddenly confronted with unhappy relationships and startling realities... Funny without collapsing into wackiness, these eccentric, beguiling stories are reminiscent of Haruki Murakami and Kafka.” (Publishers Weekly)

The New Order: Stories
by Karen E. Bender
Bender follows her last book of stories, the National Book Award finalist Refund (2015), with a new collection that examines some of the mounting threats of our world including bigotry, violence and sexual harassment. “Closed spaces—elevators, offices, an airplane, classrooms—amplify the inner dramas of Bender’s watchful, anxious, feverishly expressive narrators… With literary virtuosity, psychological authenticity, and breath-catching insight, Bender dramatizes gripping personal dilemmas compounded by a new order of social tyranny.” (Booklist)

The Houseguest: And Other Stories
by Amparo Dávila
This debut English language release from Mexican author Dávila takes magical realism into dark, macabre territory. Publishers Weekly praises her “terrifying knack for letting horror seep into the commonplace and the domestic… Dávila’s stories plunge into the nature of fear, proving its force no matter if its origin is physical or psychological, real or imagined.”

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October 2018

Unsheltered
by Kingsolver, Barbara
Award-winning author Kingsolver presents yet another compelling story braced with social commentary and tethered to the natural world. Willa Knox’s family is struggling with debt, disability and unemployment under the roof of a disintegrating inherited house. In a parallel narrative 150 years earlier, science teacher Thatcher Greenwood has been reprimanded for teaching Darwinism to the mortification of his wife and mother-in-law. “Exceptionally involving and rewarding… in this enveloping, tender, witty, and awakening novel of love and trauma, family and survival, moral dilemmas and intellectual challenges, social failings and environmental disaster, Kingsolver insightfully and valiantly celebrates life’s adaptability and resilience, which includes humankind’s capacity for learning, courage, change, and progress.” (Booklist)

Friday Black
by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
A protégé of George Saunders confronts racism, consumerism and violence in stories that are raw, haunting, surreal and satirical in this debut collection. “Edgy humor and fierce imagery coexist in these stories with shrewd characterization and humane intelligence, inspired by volatile material sliced off the front pages… Corrosive dispatches from the divided heart of America.” (Kirkus Reviews)

One Part Woman
by Perumal Murugan
Happily married couple Ponna and Kali experience good fortune in many areas of their lives—but they cannot conceive a child. After years of infertility, their desperation pushes them to take drastic measures. “This beautiful novel from Murugan, winner of the Translation Prize from India’s National Academy of Letters, plunges readers into Tamil culture through a story of love within a caste system undergoing British colonization in the early 19th century… Murugan’s touching, harrowing love story captures the toll that infertility has on a marriage in a world where having a child is the greatest measure of one’s worth.” (Publishers Weekly) One Part Woman is on the longlist for the National Book Award for literature in translation, announced earlier this month.

The Proposal
by Jasmine Guillory
Nikole (Nik) Paterson looks like a jerk in front of a stadium of people when she turns down her boyfriend’s very public proposal at a Dodgers game but fortunately Carlos Ibarra comes to her rescue. When Nik and Carlos start a rebound romance, neither of them expects it to get serious. If The Proposal is anything like its predecessor (The Wedding Date, 2018) expect a fun and sexy multicultural romance. “Delightful. A charming book for the modern romance lover.” (Kirkus) And, you can meet author Jasmine Guillory at our Litquake event on October 19!

Sugar Land
by Tammy Lynne Stoner
In 1923 rural Texas, 19-year-old Dara has fallen for her best friend Rhodie. In order to hide her forbidden love, she flees to a job as a cook at the Sugar Land Prison, where she befriends the incarcerated Blues singer Lead Belly and tries to stay in the closet by marrying the prison warden. “Dara's story is a postcard of small-town Texas life from Prohibition through civil rights, tracing the treatment and awareness of gay people through these decades. The love child of Fannie Flagg and Rita Mae Brown, Stoner is sure to win her own devoted following with this ravishing debut.” (Kirkus)

Useful Phrases for Immigrants
by May-Lee Chai
This slim volume of stories looks at the lives of people in China and the Chinese diaspora around the globe, touching on issues of class, sexuality, identity and relationships. “With her masterful short story collection, Chai proves with exquisite craftsmanship that less can be so much more… The concise tales in this literary gem linger in the mind long after the pages are turned.” (Booklist)

Training School for Negro Girls
by Camille Acker
Acker's debut collection of stories focuses on the lives of black women of varied ages, in different time periods and across the socioeconomic spectrum in Washington D.C. “The women navigate social mores, gentrification, and their own insecurities… Beautifully rendered characters struggle to find a sense of themselves in their complex lives.” (Booklist)

Family Trust
by Kathy Wang
Stanley Huang, a first-generation Taiwanese American immigrant who found success in Silicon Valley, is probably worth millions. Now he is dying from pancreatic cancer, and each of his family members has their own reasons to hope for a windfall inheritance. “While many are comparing this novel to Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians, it's much more about family relationships than about the wealth the Huang family displays. It's also about the machinations of Silicon Valley… Readers who enjoy complicated novels about family issues will find this engrossing work impossible to put down.” (Library Journal)

White Dancing Elephants 
by Chaya Bhuvaneswar
Bhuvaneswar captured the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize for these short stories examining a range of experiences and moods. “The 17 stories in this debut collection take place around the world, exploring queer and interracial love, extramarital affairs, and grief over the disappearances of loved ones. The book provocatively probes the aftermath—the aftermath of death, of grim diagnoses, of abandonment, of monumental errors in judgment. Passages jump back and forth in time to dissect how the consequences of a fraught event shape and unravel the lives of innocent casualties... An exuberant collection.” (Kirkus)

What We Owe 
by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde
50-year-old Nahid made a life in Sweden after fleeing from Iran as a young revolutionary. Now she’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and she must face her demise, her relationships and her past. “Spare and devastating… Nahid's sentences are short and thrillingly brutal, and the result is exhilarating. Hashemzadeh Bonde, unafraid of ugliness and seemingly unconcerned with likability, has produced a startling meditation on death, national identity, and motherhood. Always arresting, never sentimental; gut-wrenching, though not without hope.” (Kirkus)