Wondering what new novels and story collections are arriving this month? Here are 10 great ones you'll want to get your eyes on.
THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN by Janelle Monáe
Acclaimed, multi-talented and wildly successful performer Monáe is adored for her blend of Afrofuturism and pop music; now she has collaborated with authors Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado, and Sheree Renée Thomas to create a quintet of novellas set in a dystopian future where women and non-binary rebels seek their liberation in the midst of techno-capitalist surveillance and oppression. “Blistering, hopeful, and richly written... All readers will finish the book craving more of these extremely queer, bold stories that battle gatekeeping and erasure, digging into both the worst potential of a surveillance state and the gritty glimmer of the rebellion that can defeat it.” (Booklist)
FORBIDDEN CITY by Vanessa Hua
At age 15, Mei Xiang seizes the opportunity to leave her rural village and move to the capital, where she is groomed to entertain the Communist Party leadership. With determination, smarts and fervor for the Revolution, she becomes a lover, confidant and collaborator of Chairman Mao. “A brilliant new perspective on familiar material via its story of a young woman’s brush with power. It’s magnificent.” (Publishers Weekly) Vanessa Hua is a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the award winning author of A River of Stars (2018) and Deceit and Other Possibilities (2016); you can meet her at the Main Library on May 22.
PORTRAIT OF A THIEF by Grace D. Li
Will Chen is a senior studying art history at Harvard who receives a mysterious job offer from China’s youngest billionaire to steal back five Chinese artifacts from the collections of western museums. He assembles a dream team eager to repatriate the art while earning a fortune worth millions. “A tender and tenacious art-heist story wrapped around an intimate cultural history of extraction, Portrait of a Thief is a novel that names the unsutured wounds left by the violence of immigration, xenophobia, and diasporic longing in the lives of its Asian American characters, a story of the comradery of resistance and a testament to righteous grievance.” (Vulture) You can also meet Grace Li at the Main Library on May 22.
YOUNG MUNGO by Douglas Stuart
Following his Booker Prize–winning novel Shuggie Bain (2020), Stuart returns to the violence and bitter despair of 1980s Glasgow, where Mungo, the gentle 15-year-old son of an alcoholic and brother of a Protestant gangleader, falls in love with James, a Catholic. “You wouldn't think you'd be eager to return to these harsh, impoverished environs, but again this author creates characters so vivid, dilemmas so heart-rending, and dialogue so brilliant that the whole thing sucks you in like a vacuum cleaner... Romantic, terrifying, brutal, tender, and, in the end, sneakily hopeful. What a writer.” (Kirkus Reviews)
POST-TRAUMATIC by Chantal V. Johnson
30-year-old Vivian is a court appointed lawyer working for mentally ill patients, but she has her own trauma to contend with. Between a history of childhood abuse, disordered eating, and the complexities of being a Black Latinx woman in America, she’s barely holding it together. Can dating, humor, weed and friendship be enough to keep her afloat? “Brutally funny and poignant... Throughout, Vivian’s confrontational interactions feel achingly true to life. This is revelatory and powerful.” (Publishers Weekly)
THE RETURN OF FARAZ ALI by Aamina Ahmad
Faraz, the son of a sex worker and a powerful politician, was abducted from his mother as a child and raised by distant relatives, his father’s attempt to give him a respectable life. Now a young police officer in Lahore, Faraz is directed by his father to cover up the murder of a young sex worker. “This novel has everything a reader could ask for: a sizzling, noirlike plot; political intrigue juxtaposed with a rich intergenerational family saga; capacious, conflicted characters, including women who may be marginalized by society but are masters of their own narratives; and sublime sentences. A debut novelist, Ahmad manages this complexity seamlessly. A feat of storytelling not to be missed.” (Kirkus Reviews)
FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
In China in the late 1880s, 12-year-old Daiyu disguises herself as a boy after her parents disappear, but she’s discovered and trafficked to a San Francisco brothel. As part of her escape to small town Idaho, she once again reinvents herself as a young man. “Lyrical and sweeping... The author skillfully delineates the many characters and offers fascinating details on Chinese calligraphy and literature, along with an unsparing view of white supremacy. The result is fierce and moving.” (Publishers Weekly)
TAKE MY HAND by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
In 1970s Alabama, new nurse Civil Townsend is living up to her values by providing family planning services to the Black community, but it’s not long before she realizes that she’s being asked to contribute to a program of forced-sterilization. “Best-selling author of historical fiction (do yourself a favor and read Wench if you haven’t), Perkins-Valdez’s profoundly moving new novel about a Black nurse in post-segregation Alabama who blows the whistle on a terrible wrong done to her patients is inspired by true events.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
KAIKEYI by Vaishnavi Patel
Inspired by the ancient Sanskrit epic the Ramayana, Kaikeyi is a determined princess who harnesses her magic to become a warrior and powerful queen, attempting to build a legacy for her son as well as other women. “Readers familiar with the source text will be wowed by Patel’s reimagining, while those new to the story will be won over by its powerful, multilayered heroine and epic scope. This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe.” (Publishers Weekly)
NEW AND SELECTED STORIES by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Sarah Booker with additional translations by Lisa Dillman, Francisca González Arias, Alex Ross, and the author
Award winning author Rivera Garza follows The Iliac Crest (2017) and The Taiga Syndrome (2018) with her latest North American release, a collection of stories. “Tales from the most surreal of shadowlands... The stories in this collection are as varied as Rivera Garza’s remarkable career, and this book is an excellent introduction to a unique writer who deserves to be recognized not just in Mexico, but all over the world. A fine collection, chilling and frequently bizarre in all the best ways.” (Kirkus Reviews)