The Queen of the Night
by Alexander Chee
In 19th Century Paris, renowned soprano Lilliet Berne is offered the role of her life. But as she learns the opera’s story, she realizes that it reveals the details of her own life, sparing no secrets or scandals. Her story is entwined with historical events and people, fashion, and of course, music. NPR says, “The Queen of the Night is sprawling, soaring, bawdy and plotted like a fine embroidery.” Library Journal calls it, “A completely engrossing work that should appeal to the widest range of readers, especially those with a taste for historical fiction.” Chee received multiple honors for his debut novel Edinburgh (2000). You can read an excerpt here.
What Lies Between Us
by Nayomi Munaweera
Sri Lanka-born Oakland author Munaweera follows her award-winning debut Island of a Thousand Mirrors with another immigration tale steeped in tragedy. A terrible event causes a young girl and her mother to flee their Sri Lankan home for the United States. As the girl matures and becomes more settled in her new surroundings, nostalgia for her homeland mingles with anxiety and despair, and she commits an unforgivable crime. Munaweera “masterfully and compassionately delves into the murky depths of survival and its particular impact after the trauma of loss and immigration” and her “prose is visceral and indelible, devastatingly beautiful” (Huffington Post). Munaweera will be at the Main Library for an author event later this year, so stay tuned.
by Han Kang
A disturbing dream prompts Yeong-hye to stop eating meat. No one in her multigenerational Seoul household can accept this decision as she gradually loses her grip on reality. “An unusual and mesmerizing novel, gracefully written and deeply disturbing” (Kirkus); “This is an ingenious, upsetting, and unforgettable novel” (Publishers Weekly). This is the first novel to be translated into English from this award-winning Korean poet and novelist.
And After Many Days
by Jowhor Ile
In 1990’s Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the beloved and dependable eldest son of the Utu family suddenly and mysteriously vanishes. As the parents and siblings grapple with their loss, their histories unfold. Meanwhile, in their ancestral village, a dispute ripens between the community and an encroaching oil company. Kirkus calls it, “A deeply rewarding novel that heralds the birth of a major new literary talent,” and Library Journal promises, “Equal parts family mystery, government critique, and meditation on love and loss, Ile's telling words will appeal to anyone who enjoys a story well told.”
Ways to Disappear
by Idra Novey
Famous Brazilian author Beatriz Yagoda has disappeared, last seen climbing into a tree with a suitcase and a cigar. Her American translator Emma leaves her fiancé in Pittsburgh behind and embarks on a quest to find her, along with Yagoda’s resentful daughter and her alluring son. Turns out Yagoda has an online poker problem and owes quite a bit of money. Publishers Weekly says, “Underlying these comic noir elements is an eloquent meditation on the art and anxiety of translation, as well as a story about literature as a means of revelation and concealment.” Kirkus calls it, “Stylish, absurd, sometimes romantic, and often very funny” and “Delightful and original.”
by Tony Tulathimutte
Four millennials pursue post-Stanford life in the Bay Area, to various degrees of success. Linda is a struggling writer and apartment crasher, Cory finds herself running a failing non-profit, Henrik has been kicked out of grad school, and Will is a techie struggling with his cultural identity while he tries to help his girlfriend land a reality TV show. From Kirkus: “Witty, unsparing, and unsettlingly precise, Tulathimutte empathizes with his subjects even as he (brilliantly) skewers them. A satirical portrait of privilege and disappointment with striking emotional depth.”
by Matthew Griffin
Wendell, a taxidermist, met veteran Frank just after World War II. They live a long life together, but their relationship remains a closely guarded secret in their small North Carolina town until ultimately they must pretend to be brothers so that Wendell can visit Frank in the hospital. Booklist calls it “a touching tale” and “a bittersweet portrait of love in the shadows.”
by Shawna Yang Ryan
During the political upheaval of World War II-era Taiwan, a family welcomes their newest daughter. Within weeks, her father is imprisoned along with thousands of others; he returns 10 years later, life shattered. As an adult, she starts a new life for herself in Berkeley, but she cannot shake the grip of the past as her political actions reverberate throughout her family. “Absorbing and affecting, this powerful tale explores the bond between a father and daughter, the compromises they are forced to make, and the prices they pay in their quest for freedom” (Booklist).
by Darryl Pinckney
Jed is a young, gay, African American Chicagoan who is in love with West Berlin in the last days of the wall. After spending a few summers there, he scores a job with a prominent architect while he tries to enjoy a permanent vacation in search of sex and love, recovery from substance abuse and personal reinvention. The New Yorker says, “The book’s tone is comic, pleasingly spry, and the prose breaks naturally into witty one-liners,” and Publishers Weekly says, “Pinckney's novel is a lively, inviting, and beautifully written story of survival by intellect.” Award-winner Pinckney is also the author of High Cotton (1992).
Piece of Mind
by Michelle Adelman
Twenty-seven-year-old Lucy lacks independence due to a childhood brain injury. She lives with her dad and is baffled by daily routines, but finds refuge in her sketchbook and a deep connection with animals. When her father suddenly dies, her younger brother invites her to live with him in his New York City apartment, opening up new worlds and challenges. Publishers Weekly calls this debut novel “a moving story of grief, resilience, and self-actualization” and “as realistic as it is uplifting.” From Library Journal: “Lucy's narrative is sensitive, witty, and illuminating.” Piece of Mind is this Bay Area author’s first novel.
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