by Lalita Tademy
Born into slavery in 1810 Alabama, ten-year-old Cow Tom has a talent for languages which leads to his sale to a Creek Indian chief. Tom survives the American Indian Wars, poverty and forced relocation, and eventually wins his freedom and becomes chief of the African Creeks. His story continues through his granddaughter Rose, who carries on the family struggle for survival and triumph. Booklist calls it a “riveting historical novel” and a “completely engrossing and historically accurate family saga.” Tademy’s 2001 novel Cane River was a bestseller and an Oprah pick.
A Map of Betrayal
by Ha Jin
In a novel that examines notions of family and patriotism, Gary Shang is an infamous Chinese spy who infiltrated the CIA for three decades. Following his death, his daughter Lilian delves into her late father’s personal and professional history when his longtime mistress hands over his journals, and travels to China to meet the other family he left behind. Kirkus Reviews promises “Subtle, masterful and bittersweet storytelling” that “satisfies like the best of John le Carré, similarly demystifying and deglamorizing the process of gathering information and the ambiguous morality that operates in shades of gray.” Ha Jin is the recipient of multiple awards, including the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for his 1999 novel Waiting. You can listen to a recent NPR interview with Ha Jin here.
All about Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color
Edited by Jina Ortiz and Rochelle Spencer
Eager to discover new works by women of color? This anthology includes stories by women who have received John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Flannery O’Connor Award, and inclusion in the Best American Short Stories and O. Henry anthologies. Junot Díaz called this collection “electrifying and absolutely necessary. Within you will find the true heart of a literature.”
Mermaids in Paradise
by Lydia Millet
Deb and Chip are on their honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands when they befriend Nancy, a marine biologist, who takes them along on a dive where they discover real live mermaids living in the reefs. The secret gets out and mayhem ensues among scientists and preservationists, the resorts who want to capitalize on the discovery, and social media. “Millet extends her run of audaciously imaginative and emotionally complex fiction propelled by ecological concerns,” says Booklist, calling her “devilishly funny, unnervingly incisive, and toughly compassionate.”
The Happiest People in the World
by Brock Clarke
A clueless Danish cartoonist must flee his country when he publishes an offensive and controversial drawing of Muhammad. He takes cover as Henry Larsen, a high school guidance counselor in upstate New York, where he and the people around him fall prey to a series of ridiculous miscalculations. Publishers Weekly loved it: “Clarke dazzles with a dizzying study in extremes, cruising at warp speed between bleak and optimistic, laugh-out-loud funny and unbearable sadness. His comedy of errors is impossible to put down.” You can read an excerpt here. Clarke is the author of Exley and An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England.
by Melania G. Mazzucco, translated by Virginia Jewiss
Limbo follows the post-Afghanistan civilian life of a female Italian Sergeant. Manuela Paris is her platoon’s sole survivor of an IED attack, and she suffers both physically and mentally as she returns to her hometown and becomes romantically involved with a mysterious stranger. Library Journal writes “Manuela Paris springs off the page of this new novel from Mazzucco... as the reader is drawn into the world of this fierce, determined young woman” and praises both “exceptional writing and a masterly grasp of storytelling.”
The Three-Body Problem
by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
The Three-Body Problem is an unusual combination of hard Science Fiction, historical primer and bestseller (in the author’s native China). The novel opens in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, as a young physicist is sentenced to forced labor after witnessing the death of her father at the hands of the Red Guard. After four decades of working in a defense facility researching extraterrestrial activity, her work becomes linked to a mysterious string of scientists’ deaths, a virtual reality role-playing video game, and alien contact. Booklist calls this novel “a collection of surreal and hauntingly beautiful scenes that will hook you deep and drag you relentlessly across every page” and promises, “this is a must-read in any language.” Kirkus calls it “strange and fascinating” with “jaw-dropping revelations” and “a stunning conclusion” and “remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.”
All My Puny Sorrows
by Miriam Toews
Elfrieda is a world-class pianist with a loving husband; her sister Yolandi struggles as a single mother of two with a stalled career. Despite her successes Elfrieda struggles with intense depression, and it is Yolandi’s job to try to prevent her suicide. Kirkus calls it a “masterful, original investigation into love, loss and survival” and Booklist says “Toews writes with a sharp and piercing eye, offering characters and descriptions which are so odd and yet so spot-on that the reader has to laugh, albeit reluctantly.”
New York 1, Tel Aviv 0: Stories
by Shelly Oria
Debut author Oria’s collection “tests her characters' definitions of nationality, gender and relationship status, their tenuous senses of belonging to a place and to others” says Kirkus Reviews, which calls the stories “crisply told, biting” and “tense and gripping.” Oria’s work has appeared in publications such as The Paris Review and McSweeney's, and you can read some examples here. Lambda Literary named it one of their “new and noteworthy LGBT books” for November.
The Heart Has Its Reasons
by Maria Dueñas
Professor Blanca Perea is stunned and devastated when her husband leaves her for his pregnant young mistress. When offered a research position in California, she jumps at the chance to get as far away from Spain as possible. Publishers Weekly says “Duenas's novel is brilliantly executed, and it moves expertly between decades as it reveals truths of history and of humanity.” Duenas’s 2011 novel The Time In Between has been a big hit at Oakland Public Library, and was turned into a dramatic TV series that has often been referred to as “the Spanish Downton Abbey.”
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