10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2019

There are so many great books arriving in June! Here are just ten of them.

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)

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.


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