10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September 2022

I hope you have room on your holds list and time to read! There are lots of great books coming out this month--here are ten of them. 

ON THE ROOFTOP by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Oakland author Margaret Wilkerson Sexton has won armfuls of prizes and nominations for her previous novels The Revisioners (2019) and A Kind of Freedom (2017). Her newest novel is set in San Francisco’s gentrifying Fillmore of the 1950s, where Vivian has big dreams of fame and fortune for her three daughters, whose voices could be their ticket but whose hearts hold other wishes. “What happens when a mother’s well-intentioned aspirations for her offspring conflict with her daughter’s ever-changing vision of herself? In Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s showstopper of a third novel, ‘On the Rooftop,’ this theme is explored with compassion, clear-eyed perception and been-around-the-block delivery. And when placed within the context of racial segregation and prejudice in midcentury America, the results are soul-shaking.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

IF I SURVIVE YOU by Jonathan Escoffery
Interlinked stories recount the ups and downs of a Jamaican family that moves to Miami in the 1970s. At the heart of the narrative is younger son Trelawny, who interrogates why his older brother is favored, responds to demeaning jobs he finds on craigslist, and moves to the Midwest to pursue a liberal arts degree. “Sharp and inventive… he writes thoughtfully about how the exterior forces that have knocked Trelawny's family sideways—Hurricane Andrew, poverty, racism—intersect with and stoke interior fears and bouts of self-loathing. A fine debut that looks at the complexities of cultural identity with humor, savvy, and a rich sense of place.” (Kirkus Reviews)

It’s 2013, and jazz trumpeter and notorious ladies’ man Cyrus “Circus” Palmer is turning 40. He’s connected (and disconnected) to a chorus of current and former loves, including brilliant drummer Maggie Swan, who’s just discovered she’s pregnant, 14-year-old daughter Koko grappling with the chaos of teenage life, and discontented ex-wife Pia. “Though this is her first novel, Warrell displays delicately wrought characterization and a formidable command of physical and emotional detail. Her more intimate set pieces deliver sensual, erotic vibrations, and, most crucially for a novel that takes its title from Jelly Roll Morton, she knows how to write about the way it feels to deliver jazz—and receive it. A captivating modern romance evoking love, loss, recovery, and redemption.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Cara Romero worked at the lamp factory for most of her life, but when she lost that job during the Great Recession she found herself in New York’s Senior Workforce Program at age 56. Her weekly meetings with a career counselor give her the opportunity to look back on her life as she recounts her greatest affairs, friendships, feuds and disappointments. “The potency of Cara's first-person voice as she speaks to the job counselor is undeniable, including some delicious multilingual turns of phrase. Cruz intersperses the 12 sessions with documents like rent notices from Cara's building and job application materials she must complete, including a "Career Skills Matcher," all of which work together to demonstrate both the power of bureaucracy to complicate a person's life and the ability of paperwork to tell one version of a person's story while often hiding what makes a life truly rich. A poignant portrait of one fallible, wise woman and a corner of one of New York's most vibrant immigrant communities.” (Kirkus Reviews) Cruz’s novel Dominicana (2019) was a finalist for the Women’s Prize.

In mid-sixteenth century Florence, Lucrezia de’Medici’s sister dies on the cusp of her marriage to the duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, and fifteen-year-old Lucrezia’s hand is immediately offered and accepted as a substitute. Terrified by her new surroundings, Lucrezia’s only hope is to provide an heir that will cement her ferocious new husband’s political future. “O’Farrell pulls out little threads of historical detail to weave this story of a precocious girl sensitive to the contradictions of her station… O’Farrell [is] one of the most exciting novelists alive.” (The Washington Post) O’Farrell’s accolades include the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Women’s Prize for her novel Hamnet (2020) and the Costa Novel Award for The Hand That First Held Mine (2010).

In 1958, Octavio and Guadalupe established their family and business in McAllen, Tejas. Their successes are often paired with hardships, prompting Octavio to wonder if their family has been cursed by a jealous neighbor. “In this gloriously rich epic, we get to see a full picture of the family. Each interlocking chapter is told by a different character, unifying into a thoughtfully crafted history spanning decades… a surprising delight. An instant Tejano classic.” (Kirkus Reviews)

In the Little Saigon neighborhood of Orange County, California, they Duong family suffers widespread estrangement, unhappy marriages, and a dearth of sons. Many share the belief that they live under an ancestral curse, until the promising predictions of a trusted psychic makes Mai Nguyen think things might turn around. “Written with crackling humor and a shrewd, intimate understanding of Vietnamese American family life, the book is full of tart, broad comedy and farcical setups. But first-time novelist Huynh also uses her gift for humor as a tool to tell a unique story about exile and assimilation, highlighting the perils of trying to bend newer generations to ancient traditions and the difficulty of reconciling culture with the messy truths of modern American life… funny, sharp, and insightful.” (Kirkus Reviews)

THE OLD PLACE by Bobby Finger
In Billington, Texas, math teacher and neighborhood busybody Mary Alice Roth has recently been forced into retirement. Her decades long friendship with next door neighbor Ellie, once strained, is on the mend, but the revelation of a long buried secret threatens to turn everything upside down. “In his first novel, New York–based journalist and podcaster Finger delves into the intricate entanglements of a small Texas town with flinty, sharply observed affection... A surprising page-turner—homey, funny, yet with dark corners of anger and grief.” (Kirkus Reviews)

CONCERNING MY DAUGHTER by Kim Hye-Jin, translated by Jamie Chang
A widowed mother wants to support Green, her thirty-something year old daughter, and welcomes her to move home when she needs help. But she refuses to accept Green’s longtime girlfriend. “Already a prestigious best-seller in Korea, Kim’s impassioned novel about the meaning of family—by blood, by choice—marks her English-language debut, seamlessly translated by National Book Award longlister Chang…. Kim’s confessional first-person narration expresses the sense of urgency to unburden one’s most vulnerable thoughts and longings and readers willing to become intimate witnesses will be rewarded with a resonating and empathic tale.” (Booklist)

LARK ASCENDING by Silas House 
In the near future, 20-year-old Lark from rural Maine is the only member of his family who survives wildfires, fundamentalist homophobic persecution, and a harrowing transatlantic boat voyage. He hopes to find safety in Ireland, but the country rumored to be welcoming to refugees turns out to be extremely dangerous. House (Southernmost, 2018) has written a postapocalyptic epic that is quiet and lyrical without losing its sense of danger and deprivation… An emotional testament to the power of hope.” (Booklist)