by Asali Solomon
Kenya is the daughter of Afrocentric radicals growing up in West Philadelphia in the late 1980’s. Due to her unconventional upbringing, Kenya feels like an outsider whether she’s in her predominately black public school or the suburban white private school she attends after her parents split up. Booklist calls it “A deft, knowing, bold, and witty debut,” saying “Solomon's cultural references resound, her dialogue stings, and the intricate and surprising relationships she choreographs are saturated with racial, sexual, and political quandaries of intimate and epochal repercussions.” In 2007 Solomon was honored as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35”, and her collection of stories Get Down (2006), won a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Read an excerpt of Disgruntled here.
Welcome to Braggsville
by T. Geronimo Johnson
Welcome to Braggsville is a satirical examination of race, politics and academia, in which a multicultural, bright-eyed foursome of Berkeley students travel to rural Georgia to stage a mock lynching during a Civil War reenactment, a misguided act that has tragic consequences. The author’s “observations about race are both piercing and witty, making this edgy novel so much more complex than a send-up of the South and liberal academe” (Library Journal). Kirkus Reviews calls it “a rambunctious, irreverent yet still serious study of the long reach of American institutional racism.” Johnson’s first novel, Hold It 'til It Hurts, was selected as one of the best books of 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle.
She Weeps Each Time You're Born
by Quan Barry
Barry’s mystical novel intertwines the tumultuous history of 20th century Vietnam with the story of a young girl named Rabbit who can communicate with the dead. As U.S. forces withdraw in the 1970s, Rabbit and her grandmother flee their destroyed home, join other boat refugees on a treacherous voyage and are sent to a re-education camp. Meanwhile Rabbit hears the voices of the dead share other tales of wartime destruction and dislocation. “Blurring boundaries between history and invention, life and death, even verse and prose, English professor (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) and multi-award-winning poet Barry's first novel is fierce, stunning, and devastating” (Library Journal).
Jam on the Vine
by Lashonda Barnett
Pioneering African American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells inspired this historical novel of life in the Jim Crow south. Ivoe Williams, born in east Texas in 1888, grows up obsessed with reading. After college, she tries to find work as a journalist in Texas and Missouri but no one will hire her. Undeterred, she and her lover Ona establish the first female African American newspaper. Publishers Weekly calls it “a wonderfully vibrant, fully realized vision of the shadowy corners of America's history.”
by David Treuer
A heartbreaking event occurs one August night in 1942 at The Pines, a small resort in Northern Minnesota near the Leech Lake Reservation. The son of the white resort owners has come to say farewell to his loved ones before he is shipped overseas, especially forbidden love Billy and father figure Felix, both Native Americans. When a German escapes from a nearby POW camp, a tragic killing occurs that has far reaching consequences. Library Journal calls Prudence a “thoughtful and engaging novel” that “reveals the different worlds inhabited by whites and Native Americans” while Kirkus calls it “a self-assured, absorbing story with a grim arc that moves from bad to worse as Treuer explores the darkness at our cores.” Pushcart Prize-winning Ojibwe writer Treuer hails from Leech Lake Reservation and is the author of Rez Life (2012). Read an excerpt of Prudence here.
A Spool of Blue Thread
by Anne Tyler
Tyler’s 20th novel focuses on the drama of family life, “still a fresh and compelling subject in the hands of this gifted veteran” (Kirkus). Red and Abby Whitshank are the septuagenarian heads of a Baltimore clan which includes four squabbling adult offspring who must come to grips with the physical and mental challenges their parents face as they age. Tyler uses “her signature gifts for brilliant dialog and for intricately framing the complex messiness of parental and spousal relationships” while she “continues to dazzle with this multigenerational saga, which glides back and forth in time with humor and heart and a pragmatic wisdom that comforts and instructs” (Library Journal). Tyler is the winner of numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons (1988).
by Nick Hornby
Bombshell Barbara Parker has no interest in being Miss Blackpool 1964—she wants to be a TV comedienne like her idol, Lucille Ball. She heads to London, changes her name to Sophie Straw and lands her own comedy TV show, gaining a circle of colleagues and friends in the process. Kirkus calls Funny Girl Hornby’s “most ambitious novel to date,” combining “his passion for pop culture and empathy for flawed characters.” “This book takes the pejorative sting out of the words "entertaining" and "heartwarming," and induces binge-reading that's the literary equivalent of polishing off an entire television series in one weekend” (NPR). Read an excerpt here.
by Kristin Hannah
If All the Light We Cannot See gave you an appetite for more stories of France during the Second World War, The Nightingale might be your next read. Two sisters, Viann and Isabelle, find themselves playing contrasting roles in the Resistance during the German Occupation. Booklist calls it an “engrossing tale” and a “moving, emotional tribute to the brave women who fought behind enemy lines during the war” while Kirkus calls it an “absorbing page-turner.”
This House is Not for Sale
by E. C. Osondu
A man named “Grandpa” is the patriarch of a large house on the outskirts of an African village. Grandpa has taken in many lodgers over time, along with their myriad troubles. Each chapter of this book by Nigerian-born Osondu (Voice of America, 2010) captures the life of one the house’s many inhabitants. “Throughout, a marvelous chorus of community voices chimes in, passionately commenting on the action and swaying from jealousy to awe to amazement, as fates rise and fall” (Publishers Weekly). “Osondu is ceaseless in his willingness to examine the human condition in all its glories and frailties” (Kirkus Reviews). Osondu is the winner of the 2009 Caine Prize for African Writing.
by Matt Sumell
Alby, the star of this debut novel in stories, is a slacker, a loser and a foul-mouthed, lecherous, often inebriated and malevolent bro—so why would you want to read a book about him? Told with a comic voice that squeezes out every drop of absurdity, Sumell manages to expose Alby’s vulnerable side. “Sumell's compulsively readable novel… is humbly macho, provoking outrage, pity, and finally tenderness” (Booklist). “The ugliness in this book is leavened with beauty; every disgusting thing the protagonist does is told with artistic insight in language that's poignant… there's plenty of truly moving storytelling about Alby's life that brings him into focus, transforming his character… into someone sympathetic” (Library Journal).
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