While the weather gets hot, then cold, then back again, one thing we can count on: March is springing with great new fiction! Here are ten novels arriving this month.
WHEN WE WERE BIRDS by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo
As her mother passes away, Yejide learns she is to inherit the power and duty of shepherding souls to the afterlife. Darwin is a gravedigger whose work has required him to turn away from his Rastafarian upbringing. Under the weight of their respective burdens, the couple fatefully meet at a cemetery in the Trinidadian city of Port Angeles in this romantic and spiritual story laced with magical realism. “Moving and mythic… Banwo’s stunning lyricism offers a window into her characters as well as a view of the landscape… The otherworldly setting instantly pulls the reader in. This remarkable debut should not be missed.” (Publishers Weekly)
VAGABONDS! by Eloghosa Osunde
A series of linked stories set in Lagos, Nigeria reveals the lives of people who are abused, suffering, poor and oppressed, many of whom are queer and trans. Their voices are intertwined with the voices of spirits as they find means of escape, survival and joy. “If you read one debut novel in 2022, this should be it. With care, compassion and a gimlet eye for hypocrisy, Osunde builds a universe from Lagos, Nigeria’s little-seen citizens… Magical realism works to great effect in connecting these stories… readers will remain rapt to the end.” (Los Angeles Times)
SAVVY SHELDON FEELS GOOD AS HELL by Taj McCoy
Wounded by a painful breakup, exhausted by her job and dreaming of a long-overdue kitchen makeover, Savannah “Savvy” Sheldon decides she’s in need of a life makeover. “Written with plenty of spirit and sauciness, McCoy’s debut, a plus-size Black love story, is in equal measures a heartfelt, hopeful, and humorous exploration of the importance of learning to love yourself. Enriched with a wonderful cast of supporting characters, including a caring, if meddling, family and a loyal-to-the-end crew of friends, and enhanced with some lusciously described, Food Network-worthy moments in the kitchen, this is a joy to read.” (Booklist) Born and raised in Oakland, Taj McCoy will be visiting the Main Library in person on March 31, please come and meet her!
The Verifiers by Jane Pek
Mystery book lover Claudia Lin works for a firm that vets potential matches on dating apps—a job that she keeps secret from her parents. Her other big secret? She’d rather date girls than the nice Chinese boys her parents would prefer. Meanwhile, the suspicious death of one of her clients prompts Claudia to delve into an amateur murder investigation. “Cool, cerebral, and very funny… Claudia is the seductive protagonist in a tale that delves into the dark heart of contemporary technology, not to mention the foibles of the human heart. With an inquisitive, clever, and curious narrator, this adventurous mystery is both scary and hilarious.” (Kirkus Reviews)
A BALLAD OF LOVE AND GLORY by Reyna Grande
After U.S. forces murder her husband in 1946 Mexico, healer Ximena becomes an army nurse to assist the resistance. Disgusted by the U.S. forces, Irish immigrant John Riley abandons them, swims across the Rio Grande and joins the Mexican army, meeting Ximena on the battlefield. “Juxtaposed with the wartime atrocities, their passionate love affair infuses a gritty story with a dose of humanity and hope… Inspired by real characters and events, this sweeping saga brings to light a lesser-known war with complex protagonists.” (Kirkus Reviews)The award-winning author’s books include the memoir The Distance Between Us (2012) and the novel Across a Hundred Mountains (2006).
Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes
Teenaged Polo loathes his job as a gardener in a gated community, and doesn’t like Franco much either, but he drinks with him in the evenings so he doesn’t have to go home. Franco is obsessed with Marián, a married neighbor, and he proposes a violent scheme that will fulfill both boys’ fantasies. “With her second novel to be translated into English, following Hurricane Season (2020), Mexican author Melchor proves that she’s got nightmares to spare… filled with harsh profanity, violence, and disturbing sex; even the most open-minded will find it difficult to read in parts. But there’s nothing exploitative here—it’s horrifying but never gratuitous; Melchor uses shock to lay bare issues of classism, misogyny, and the ravages of child abuse. Her prose, ably translated by Hughes, is dizzying but effective; it’s as if she’s holding the reader’s head and daring them to look away from the social problems she brings to light… A fever dream that's as hard to read as it is brilliant.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Run and Hide by Mishra Pankaj
Arun attempts to resist the fate of his caste by attending a prestigious university, where he bonds with Aseem and Virendra, two other students from similar means. But while his friends launch themselves into lives of wealth and celebrity, Arun chooses a more modest path, translating literature and caring for his mother—until he meets a journalist named Alia, who forces him to reckon with his past. “A beautifully written novel that captures the complexities and challenges of growing up in India and the simultaneous struggle to find meaning and a way forward in life… In his search for a new kind of soulful enrichment, Arun risks everything, including his relationship with Alia, to do what many would consider to be unthinkable.” (Booklist) Pankaj’s award-winning works include the non-fiction book From the Ruins of Empire (2012) and the novel The Romantics (2000).
THE TOWN OF BABYLON by Alejandro Varela
During a visit to his suburban hometown to care for his ill father, Andres decides to go to a high school reunion, where he reconnects with his first love Jeremy and confronts memories and various local homophobes of his past. “A gay Latinx man reckons with his past when he returns home for his 20th high school class reunion in Varela’s dazzling debut… Throughout, he wrings a great deal of emotion from Andres’s return. It makes for an incandescent bildungsroman.” (Publishers Weekly)
THINGS PAST TELLING by Sheila Williams
Over a remarkable life lasting over 100 years, Maryam Prescilla Grace faced the cruelty of kidnapping, enslavement and the Atlantic Crossing, but she also thrived as a spy, translator, midwife and healer. Her triumphant and tenacious life is inspired by census records and stories of the author's own ancestors. "The resilience of family and the importance of memory loom large in this emotionally satisfying tale... Throughout, Williams offers vivid descriptions... a remarkable character portrait." (Publishers Weekly)
THE CARTOGRAPHERS by Peng Shepherd
Cartography-obsessed Nell Young is working with her father in the Map Division of the New York Public Library—until the day they argue over a gas station highway map, causing a baffling seven-year falling-out. Then he dies at work, and when Nell finds the same map in his desk, she’s convinced that there’s a bigger story behind it. “Extraordinary… Possessed of a questing intellect and a determined stubbornness, Nell proves smart enough to solve the various riddles she faces. Shepherd’s convincing blend of magic from old maps with the modern online world both delights and thrills.” (Publishers Weekly) Shepherd’s first novel, The Book of M (2019), won the Neukom Institute for Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction, and was selected for multiple best of the year lists.