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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September 2021

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
It has been eight years since Ozeki’s last book, the incredibly moving, absorbing and transporting novel A Tale for the Time Being, won the Los Angeles Book Prize and landed on the shortlists for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her newest novel focuses on fourteen-year-old Benny Oh and his grief following the loss of his father. When he begins to hear the voices of inanimate objects, Benny finds solace in his public library where he finds a Book that has a special message just for him. “Ozeki celebrates the profound relationship between reader and writer. This enthralling, poignant, funny, and mysterious saga, thrumming with grief and tenderness, beauty and compassion, offers much wisdom.” (Booklist

Martita, I Remember You / Martita, Te Recuerdo by Sandra Cisneros; translated by Liliana Valenzuela
A new novella offered in both English and Spanish from the beloved author of The House on Mango Street (1991). A cache of letters prompts Corina, a Mexican American woman living in Chicago, to remember her days as a twenty-year-old living abroad in Paris. “Every heart-revving scene is sensuously and incisively rendered, cohering into a vivid, tender, funny, bittersweet, and haunting episodic tale of peril, courage, concession, selfhood, and friendship.” (Booklist)

The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine
Mina Simpson is a Lebanese American doctor living with her wife in Chicago when a friend summons her to the Greek island of Lesbos to volunteer at a Syrian refugee camp--bringing her face to face with her past and the closest she’s been to her birthplace in decades, since her family rejected her in the wake of her gender transition. “Alameddine crafts a wise, deeply moving story that can still locate humor in the pit of hell…This is a triumph.” (Publishers Weekly) Alameddine’s novels include The Angel of History (2016), An Unnecessary Woman (2014) and The Hakawati (2008) and he has won the Dos Passos Prize, Lambda Literary Awards, the Prix Femina and numerous other honors.

Grievers by adrienne maree brown 
brown is an activist and writer whose books include Emergent Strategy (2017) and the anthology Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements (as co-editor and contributor, 2015). Grievers is her first novel, and features the story of Dune, a young woman living in Detroit who loses her mother to a mysterious new pandemic. “Hits the nail on the head with its deep, moving exploration of loss, family, community, gentrification, and rapidly changing urban landscapes. It’s a strong precedent that will leave readers eager for more.” (Publishers Weekly) 

The Archer by Shruti Swamy 
In 1960s Bombay, Vidya catches a glimpse of kathak, a classical Indian dance, and is instantly hooked. She pursues her commitment to kathak as she comes of age and falls for her best friend. “Swamy’s prose is incantatory and often lovely, swirling in dancelike rhythms that sweep the story along. She builds a complex character in Vidya, whose urge toward autonomy brings results that range from ecstatic to tragic. A young woman seeks freedom through art in a mesmerizing coming-of-age story.” (Kirkus Reviews) Swamy’s recent story collection A House Is a Body (2020) was short-listed for a PEN Prize and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. 

Assembly by Natasha Brown
The unnamed narrator of this short novel is a third-generation Jamaican woman in Britain with a successful career in finance, a rich boyfriend and a fresh diagnosis of breast cancer. As she faces her devastating next steps she contends with racism, tokenism, class, wealth and gender inequalities. “This is Brown’s first novel, and it has all the jagged clarity of a shard of broken glass. A piercing meditation on identity and race in contemporary Britain.” (Kirkus Reviews)

In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lọlá Ákínmádé Åkerström
Nigerian American executive Kemi Adeyemi, Somali refugee Muna Saheed, and Jamaican American Brittany-Rae Johnson are three women living in the capitol of Sweden whose paths cross due to their connections with a white eccentric CEO and millionaire. “As entertaining as it is revealing, Åkerström's novel has readers hoping that each of these women is able to break free from toxic expectations and achieve her every dream and ambition. Along the way, Åkerström also delivers poignant commentary on Swedish culture and the price Black women pay by virtue of the color of their skin.” (Booklist)  

The Trees by Percival Everett 
Someone is killing racist white men in rural Money, Mississippi, and at every crime scene the victim's body is coupled with the mysterious corpse of a man who looks like Emmett Till. "Everett, winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, has written 20-plus darkly ingenious novels, including Telephone (2020). Here he explores the legacy of lynching in a phantasmagoric police procedural... Though at times Everett’s edgy surrealism goes a bit off the rails, this fierce satire is both deeply troubling and rewarding.” (Booklist)  

How to Wrestle a Girl by Venita Blackburn 
Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction for her collection Black Jesus and Other Superheroes (2017), Blackburn returns with another story collection listed as a hot pick for the fall by The Paris ReviewVultureOprah and Lambda Literary. “Eclectic and satisfying... adding cohesion, are the struggles of coming of age as a Black and queer girl. Written from a distinct point of view and certainly never dull, this collection will appeal to those who enjoy experimental fiction and firmly places Blackburn as a writer to watch.” (Booklist) 

L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón
When Kaila, the matriarch of the a wealthy Alvarado family, announces her intent to divorce Oscar, her husband of almost four decades, the entire family including their three successful adult children get caught up in the chaos. “A rollicking and hilarious family drama of telenovela-esque proportions that doubles as a fiery love letter to Los Angeles.” (Publishers Weekly Internationally bestselling author of books in both Spanish and English, Escandón is also the author of González and Daughter Trucking Co. (2005) and Esperanza’s Box of Saints (1999).

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in August 2021 

Afterparties by Anthony  Veasna  So  
Cambodian and queer lives in California are explored in this short story collection, the highly anticipated debut from a San Francisco author who tragically passed away in December. “The stories are great fun to read—brimming over with life and energy and comic insight and deep feeling… vigorously using fiction’s unruly means of inquiry, such as intuition, imagination, uncertainty, and a fascination with the oddness of individual personalities… who can guess where his considerable talent might have taken him.” (The New York Review of Books) 

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed 
In 2010 San Francisco, Seema is a pregnant queer woman visited by her dying mother from India and her devout Muslim sister from Texas. As the three attempt to heal longtime family rifts, their stories are told by Ishraaq, Seema’s yet-to-be-born son. “Dazzling, heartrending… Ahmed brilliantly maps the tension between the three women with emotional acuity, and as Seema’s pregnancy unfolds, Ahmed slowly builds to a showdown, culminating in a shattering and unforgettable conclusion. This is a gem.” (Publishers Weekly) 

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 
Horror and fantasy author Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow) returns with a noir thriller set against the student riots in 1970s Mexico CityMaite is searching for her missing friend Leonora, but so is Elvis, a member of a shadowy group enlisted to suppress student activism. “It's hard to describe how much fun this novel is… memorable characters, taut pacing, an intricate plot, and antiheroes you can't help but root for. A noir masterpiece.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije 
Séraphin’s family fled Rwanda when he was nine, landing in Namibia. Now he’s in his final year of law school in South Africa, juggling his studies, romance and wild parties while facing the weight of racism. “Funny and incisive a vivid catalog of sorrows, embarrassments, and barely concealed hostilities, which Ngamije conveys through Séraphin’s sly commentary.” (Publishers Weekly) 

Gordo by Jaime Cortez 
This debut collection of stories takes place in a migrant labor camp in Watsonville in the 1970s with a pudgy, queer kid named Gordo at it’s center. These stories are elemental and unfussy, their emotional hearts affecting and memorable. Stories that serve as unvarnished, even fond, testaments to a tough, queer life.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

Skinship by Yoon Choi 
The rare story collection that draws you in so completely that the pages turn themselves. That's the happy experience of reading Choi's debut book of eight luxuriously long stories that chronicle the lives of Korean American families Choi's stories are both closely observed and expansive, a feat of narrative engineering that places her next to Alice Munro. Nearly every one builds to what feels like an epiphany, or a pearl of wisdom, only to rush on for more pages as though to remind us that life does not stand still, that flux is the normal state of things, and loss always lurks on love's horizon. An exceptional debut.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

Ramadan Ramsey by Louis Edwards 
Ramadan Ramsey is raised by a single mother and his adoring grandmother. A series of tragic events prompts seventeen-year-old Ramsey to set out on an epic journey to find the father he never met, a onetime Syrian refugee working in a New Orleans convenience store who was sent back to Aleppo before he even knew he was going to be a father. A “delightful and intimate modern epic. Guggenheim fellow and Whiting Award winner Edwards harnesses the best of his storytelling powers The narrative voice is highly engaging, often combining humor and pathos in a single sentence so that even tragic events are imbued with lightness. A novel that is as exhilarating as it is moving; a fine achievement.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

Mrs. March by Virginia Feito 
Mrs. March is rich, elegant and proud, and her husband is a very successful author. But when a clerk at her favorite Manhattan pastry shop flippantly suggests that Mrs. March is the inspiration for her husband’s newest novel, she launches into a devastating psychotic spiral. “Feito locks the reader up inside the fracturing psyche of a woman of privilege who, through excruciatingly precise renderings of grotesque delusions, is revealed to be profoundly and perilously damaged... Each sharply realized and diabolical aspect of Mrs. March’s life, hallucinations, and actions are spiked with chilling insights into the dark aspects of family, marriage, and wealth. Feito's bravura gothic thriller brilliantly exposes monstrous consequences of covert neglect and cruelty.” (Booklist) 

American Estrangement by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh 
Seven thematically linked stories that explore the lonely schisms in American life. Estrangement, the act of being separate from a person or group with whom you were once close, is the definitive condition of Sayrafiezadeh's America and the binding agent of his lyrical, funny, and disquieting collection... Lyrical, funny, smart, and heartbreaking.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy 
Inti Flynn is in the Scotland with her twin sister Aggie and a team of biologists to release fourteen gray wolves, hoping their efforts will help heal the damaged Highland ecosystem. “McConaghy infuses Inti’s adventures with ravishing descriptions of the landscape and the “infinite mysteries of wolves,” portrays wolf-fearing sheep farmers, orchestrates a knotty relationship between Inti and the police chief, and presents chilling flashbacks to the traumas that left Aggie mute and agoraphobic. McConaghy's richly plotted tale of suspense and psychological insight poses provocative questions about predators and humanity's impact on Earth.” (Booklist)  McConaghy is the author of last year’s bestseller Migrations (2020) which was selected as a Best Book of the Year by TIMEThe Los Angeles Times and Library Journal. 

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July 2021

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam

The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
At the center of this epic historical novel, Ailey Pearl Garfield comes of age in Washington, D.C. in the 1980s and 90s, spending her summers in the home of her enslaved ancestors in Georgia. The daughter of a physician and a school teacher, Ailey pursues a career as a historian, uncovering generations of trauma throughout her personal and professional journey. “A staggering and ambitious saga exploring African American history... Themes of family, class, higher education, feminism, and colorism yield many rich layers. Readers will be floored.” (Publishers Weekly) This is the fiction debut of poet and scholar Jeffers, who was nominated for a National Book Award for her collection The Age of Phillis (2020).

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam
Asha is a Bangledeshi American coder who, after a two-month romance, marries her high school crush Cyrus. Asha and Cyrus then help start a new social media product that becomes a wild success, prompting Asha to abandon her PhD program at Harvard while Cyrus is elevated into an international celebrity. “A clever, often funny anti-romance novel set in the world of platforms, launches, engagements, and turmeric lattes.” (Kirkus Reviews) Anam is one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists and author of A Golden Age (2007), The Good Muslim (2011), and The Bones of Grace (2016).

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad 
The family of eight-year-old Syrian refugee Amir has recently fled to Egypt when he follows his uncle in the dead of night, secretly boarding a mysterious boat. After a harrowing sea journey, Amir ultimately lands, all alone, on the Greek island of Kos, where he must avoid capture and figure out what to do next. “Timely, captivating… A compassionate snapshot of one Syrian refugee's struggle to plot a course for home.” (Kirkus ReviewsAuthor El Akkad is an Egyptian-born, Qatar-raised Canadian war reporter and author of the unforgettable dystopian novel American War (2017) which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR and many others.

Bolla by Pajtim Statovci, translated by David Hackston
Albanian literature student Arsim discovers his wife is pregnant the same week he embarks on a life-altering affair with Miloš, a Serb who is studying medicine. Miloš and Arsim’s connection is doomed by the Bosnian War, which requires one man to fight and the other to flee. “Statovci sustains a deeply somber tone as the characters struggle to endure while looking back on a sad past of missed opportunity… It’s an eloquent story of desire and displacement, a melancholy symphony in a heartbreaking minor key. Statovci is a master.” (Publishers Weekly) International award winning novelist Statovci is the author of My Cat Yugoslavia (2017) and Crossing (2019).

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin
Gilda, an atheist lesbian in her twenties, is in search of relief from her anxieties about death when she accidentally lands a job as a receptionist at her local Catholic church. “Runaway humor sustains an otherwise grim story in Austin’s exuberant debut… What starts out as genuinely bleak affair, with a depressed Gilda considering suicide, becomes a brisk story underpinned by a vibrant cast.” (Publishers Weekly)

Dear Miss Metropolitan by Carolyn Ferrell
Young girls Fern, Gwin and Jesenia were abducted, held captive and abused for years in a decrepit house in Queens. Mathilda Marron, a newspaper advice columnist and neighborhood busybody lived next door—how did she fail to notice what was going on? “Ferrell’s innovative and harrowing debut novel (after the collection Don’t Erase Me) draws on the Ariel Castro kidnappings in Cleveland… Composed of an assemblage of fragments, photos, articles by Mathilda, and first-person narration from the victims, this effectively unpacks both individual and collective trauma. It’s blistering from page one.” (Publishers Weekly)

Ghost Forest by Pik-shuen Fung
An unnamed young girl’s family moves from Hong Kong to Vancouver with the exception of her father, creating an “astronaut family,” the name coined by Hong Kong media to describe a family fractured by immigration. He stays behind to work, creating a rift that might be mended years later when the father is diagnosed with a serious illness. “Much more than a simple telling of one family's story of immigration and assimilation, with the multigenerational perspectives provided by the narrator's mother and grandmother enlivening the text and helping the narrator better understand her life… this fluid and deeply touching novel—sprinkled throughout with Chinese onomatopoeia and proverbs—will be appreciated by readers drawn to stories of families, relationships, and identity.” (Library Journal)

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura
An unnamed narrator has a new temporary job as an interpreter in the international court at The Hague, where she is weighed down by her work with an accused war criminal. Meanwhile she grapples with a complicated romantic relationship and her connections to the witness and the victim of a violent crime. “It's a delight to accompany the narrator's astute observational intelligence through these pages, as it was in A Separation (2017), which also unspooled completely in the mind of its speaker… The novel packs a controlled but considerable wallop, all the more pleasurable for its nuance. This psychological tone poem is a barbed and splendid meditation on peril.” (Kirkus Reviews)

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam (coming soon)
A contemplative novel of the thoughts and memories of Krishan, a young Sri Lankan man on a journey from his home in Colombo to the north of the country to attend a funeral. “An intelligent, quite often moving novel of meditation and aftermath… The result, if such a thing be possible, is a novel of philosophic suspense, one whose reader shivers in anticipation not of what will happen next but of where the next thought will lead. A luminously intelligent, psychologically intricate novel--slow in always rewarding ways." (Kirkus Reviews) Arudpragasam is the author of The Story of a Brief Marriage (2016) which was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
Winnie is a twenty-two-year-old biracial American woman who moves to Saigon to teach English and probe her Vietnamese heritage. Her sudden disappearance takes the story into unexpected times, places and lives. “A wide-ranging first novel that peels back the layers of a haunted Vietnam… The novel is epic enough in scope to require a character list and several pages of maps, but the pages fly as the reader is compelled to figure out how all the narratives will eventually collide. Drawing from genres as diverse as horror, humor, and historical fiction, Kupersmith creates a rich and dazzling spectacle.” (Kirkus Reviews) Kupersmith is also the author of the story collection The Frangipani Hotel (2014).

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2021

 

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris 
Twenty-six year old Nella Rogers has never felt welcome at Wagner Booksand she’s delighted when Hazel, another young Black woman, joins the publishing company. But it doesn’t take long for Nella to suspect that Hazel might be an enemy rather than a friend. “Slyly brilliant... a nuanced page-turner, as sharp as it is fun. A biting social satire-cum-thriller; dark, playful, and brimming with life.” (Kirkus Reviews)  

Mona at Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James 
Mona Mireles is a young and promising perfectionist, but what is a millennial to do when facing an economic crisis? It’s 2008, and despite her degree Mona is unemployed, living with her parents and the future is no longer promising. “Ten pages in and I knew Mona at Sea was going to be exactly the right comic novel for this moment in time—it is sharp, witty, strange... With Mona at Sea, James executes a magic trick, creating a novel with a fundamentally gloomy premise that is an absolute delight to read.” (The Rumpus) Oakland author James’s debut novel Mona at Sea was a finalist in the 2019 SFWP Literary Awards judged by Carmen Maria Machado. 

Confession of Copeland Cane by Keenan Norris
In East Oakland in 2030, eighteen-year-old Cope Cane is terrorized by the police, the surveillance state and “Ghetto Flu.” Once a scholarship student at a private school, he’s now a fugitive sharing his story with journalism student Jaqueline. “Cope and Jacqueline unpack the complexities of miseducation, poverty, and policing, and give a nightmarish view of media-security empire Soclear Broadcasting. Cope’s persuasive and irresistible confession to Jacqueline emerges in nonsequential strands, circling around the crime he’s suspected of having committed while outlining the economic, legal, and social disparities faced by a dark-complected person in a politically divided country ravaged by a global pandemic. In Cope, Norris has created a voice that cannot be ignored.” (Publishers Weekly) 

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett 
Motherhood is challenging for Sammie Lucas. A part-time work-at-home copy editor and full time mom, Sammie struggles to parent her son while her wife, a successful attorney, is mostly absent. “As in her first novel, Mostly Dead Things (2019), Arnett deftly examines the psychological dynamics of a family, raising complicated questions about whether mothers can ever truly understand how to raise sons and whether our children, too often, are mirrors of our own worst tendencies. A novel that is not afraid to look at the underbelly of parenting, queer relationships, and middle age.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

Seven Days In Juneby Tia Williams 
Single mom and bestselling erotica writer Eva Mercy and acclaimed literary author Shane Hall shared a brief teenage love fifteen years ago, and they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since. When they unexpectedly run into each other at a literary event, the chemistry is undeniable. Williams' novel is a tour de force, capturing Eva's experience as part of the Black literati in Brooklyn, her urge to hide generational trauma from her daughter while still celebrating their ancestors, and the ways in which fate brings people together. The structure of the novel is complex but ultimately rewarding and provides a portrait of a richly layered world. A hugely satisfying romance that is electrifying and alive.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston 
Twenty-three-year-old August Landry’s cynicism meets its match when she falls in love with Jane, a girl she meets on the subway. Unfortunately, Jane got stuck on the subway in the 1970s and became dislocated from time, and now she only exists on the Q train. “McQuiston’s follow-up to her megahit debut, Red, White & Royal Blue (2019), is the same kind of hilarious, sexy love story with a strong narrative voice. Her affection for her characters—each of whom lives on the spectrum of sexuality and gender—gleams, and no quirk is wasted as this romance morphs into an homage to found family and coming-of-age, and onto a metaphysical heist. It is a love story on all levels, one that marvels at the magic of human connection and is unabashedly romantic.” (Booklist) 

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo 
The Great Gatsby is magically retold through the eyes of competitive golfer Jordan Baker. Despite her social connections, queer, Asian and adopted Jordan is always treated like an outsider. “The plot unravels tantalizingly slowly, and Vo’s immersive prose never ceases to captivate. The Gatsby-related details and hints of magic will keep readers spellbound from start to finish.” (Publishers Weekly)   

Loop by Brenda Lozano, translated by Annie McDermott
Mexican author Brenda Lozano’s first work to be translated into English won the PEN Translates award. In Mexico City, a young woman details her life, thoughts and obsessions in her diary while she waits for her boyfriend to return from a trip to Spain following the death of his mother“The deceptively simple structure-intimate, charming, informal-allows for a great range of ideas and observations that loop and recur... With a light, playful touch, Lozano richly layers scenes and details, connecting ideas and weaving her story like Penelope at her loom. An intimate book that starts small and expands steadily outward, with a cumulative effect both moving and hopeful.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

Skye Falling by Mia Mckenzie 
In need of the cash, twenty-six-year-old Skye sold her eggs. As she approaches forty, she’s still living a free and unattached life when she gets tracked down by a girl who claims to be her biological offspringTo make things more complicated, Skye realizes that the woman she hit on the other night is this young girl’s aunt. A hilarious page-turner that examines issues of family, queerness and race from the author of The Summer We Got Free (2012). "I’m only three chapters in, and already this feels like one of the truest depictions of modern queer life I’ve read in a while." (Bookriot)

Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch by Rivka Galchen 
In 17th century Württemberg, Katharina Kepler is accused of witchcraft and sorcery, prompting her son, an illustrious Imperial Mathematician, to come to her defenseGalchen's prose can sparkle and sting with wit... There is so much in this novel to consider-the degree to which we make monsters of one another, the way that old age can make of femininity an apparently terrifying, otherworldly thing-but it is also, at every step along the way, an entirely delicious book. Dazzling in its humor, intelligence, and the richness of its created world.” (Kirkus Reviews) Galchen is a New Yorker 20 Under 40 writer and author of Atmospheric Disturbances (2008) 

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May 2021

 

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams 
Abrams is not just a powerful activist and revered politician, she’s also an author! Her latest book is a thriller featuring Avery Keene, talented law clerk for an esteemed supreme court justice. When the justice falls into a coma, Avery is thrust into a new role as the justice’s legal guardian and compelled to investigate a web of crimes and conspiracies. “Come for the dizzying array of plotlines — murders, a merger, illicit relationships — and stay for the high-octane action.” (New York Times) Abrams’s other works include the non-fiction book Our Time Is Now (2020) and romance novels written under the nom de plume Selena Montgomery. 
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.

Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd 
In present day Japan, two middle school students are relentlessly tormented by bullies. “This novel from the author of Breasts and Eggs (2020) takes on another subject seldom tapped in literary fiction and blows it open with raw and eloquent intensity. Kawakami has a unique knack for burrowing into discomfort, and she does it in a startlingly graceful way... An unexpected classic.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.
 

Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen 
Three decades in the lives of a family of refugees, mother Hương and sons Tuấn and Binh, who flee Vietnam and settle in New Orleans. While they all come to grips with American life, they suffer the loss of their husband and father, Tuấn joins a gang and Binh learns how to embrace his sexuality. “Captivating... As the characters spin away from each other, Nguyen keeps a keen eye on their struggles and triumphs, crafting an expansive portrayal of New Orleans’s Vietnamese community under the ever-present threat of flooding, and the novel builds to a haunting conclusion during Hurricane Katrina. Readers will find this gripping and illuminating.” (Publishers Weekly) 
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.

Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng 
Junie was born without legs. When she was five, her parents, deeply scarred by the Cultural Revolution, left her to live with her grandparents in their rural Chinese village so they could seek a better life in the United States. Five years later, Junie is dismayed to find out that her father is coming to get her when she turns twelve, and she doesn’t even know yet that her parents’ marriage has fallen apart. “An emotional work focused on relationships and filled with love, hope, and determination, but also heartbreak... Hard to put down.” (Library Journal) 
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.

Secret Talker by Geling Yan, translated by Jeremy Tiang  
Qiao Hongmei lives in Northern California with her husband, leading a quiet life until she begins receiving mysterious emails, starting an online flirtation to something that turns much darker. “Yan’s pacing is impeccable as she delicately but inexorably builds toward a thought-provoking finale. Readers of tense literary fiction will find much to like.” (Publishers Weekly) 
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.

Rock Eaters by Brenda Peynado 
Peynado’s genre-bending debut story collection is collecting rave reviews. “As substantial as they are superbly crafted. Melding science fiction, fantasy, fable, and legend with atmospheric prose, these stories touch on a wide range of topics: immigration, race, climate change, the inexorable millennial hustle, influencers, gun culture, and the fraught, electric urgency of friendship between adolescent girls...  A sparkling, strange, and enthralling debut from a vivid new voice in contemporary fiction.” (Kirkus Reviews) 
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon 
Vern is fifteen, pregnant, and running from the Blessed Acres of Cain, a cult she has escaped. She gives birth to twins in the forest, and they survive for years as her body goes through an amazing transformation, prompting her realization that she has been subjected to medical experimentation. “Solomon once again stretches the boundaries of speculative fiction in this distinct and visceral exploration of the trauma of Black and queer bodies in an all-too believable near future.” (Booklist) Solomon is a Lambda Award Winner and the author of An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017) and The Deep (2019).
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.

The Guncle by Steven Rowley 
When his brother checks into rehab following the death of his wife, gay bachelor and out-of-work sitcom actor Patrick O’Hara suddenly becomes the guardian of his niece and nephew. “Rowley’s (The Editor, 2019) sensitive and witty exploration of grief and healing soothes with a delectable lightness and cunning charm.” (Booklist) 
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.

The Atmospherians by Alex Mcelroy 
Sasha Marcus was a wellness and social media maven before she was cancelled and doxxed. Her best friend Dyson thinks he can save her reputation by making her the face of The Atmosphere, a rehab for men who want to rid themselves of toxic masculinity. “The author conveys Sasha’s dilemma in rich prose and haunting images, using a finely honed satirical lens. This notable debut makes hay with the miasma of contemporary culture.” (Publishers Weekly) 
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.

Echo Tree: The Collected Short Fiction of Henry Dumas by Henry Dumas 
This collection of stories by an iconic and influential writer of the 1960s Black Arts Movement has been brought back into print along with some previously uncollected works. “Dumas’s work exhibits a wide stylistic range, from realism, allegory, and folklore to trippy supernaturalism. Set largely in Arkansas and Harlem, the stories’ Black male protagonists negotiate hardscrabble and often mysterious landscapes...  This collection resounds with a piercing voice that demands to be heard.” (Publishers Weekly) 
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.

 

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April 2021

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri 
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Interpreter of Maladies (1999), The Namesake (2003) and The Lowland (2013) returns with her first novel written in her adopted language of Italian and translated by herself into English. Whereabouts traces the daily life of a single woman living in an unnamed Italian city. “The novel is told in short vignettes introducing a new scene and characters whose relationships are fertile ground for Lahiri’s impressive powers of observation... Throughout, Lahiri’s poetic flourishes and spare, conversational prose are on full display.” (Publishers Weekly)  
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive. 

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins 
The Melancons are a family of woman healers in Harlem, but despite the magical power of their caul, Josephine Melancon cannot bear a child to carry on the family legacy“Jerkins’ debut novel is a multilayered reflection of contemporary dilemmas with a touch of magic realism. With themes such as motherhood, acceptance, and a duty to be of service, the novel is well paced, with alluring anticipation... On the heels of her excellent memoir Wandering in Strange Lands (2020), Jerkins solidifies herself as one of our guiding literary lights, no matter the genre.” (Booklist)
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Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi 
To celebrate the occasion of joining their surnames, Otto and Xavier (along with their pet mongoose) embark on a “non-honeymoon honeymoon” on a bafflingly enigmatic train whose passengers are just as strange and mysterious. “Delightfully bonkers... this exciting and inventive novel brims with unusual insights.” (Publishers Weekly) Oyeyemi’s accolades include the 2010 Somerset Maugham Award (White is for Witching) and a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (Mr. Fox).
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The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade 
In Las Penas, New Mexico, the burdens are heavy for unemployed alcoholic Amadeo Padilla, his pregnant 16-year-old daughter Angel, and his mother Yolanda, the family breadwinner who is dying of cancer. “With beautifully layered relationships and an honest yet profoundly empathetic picture of a rural community... this novel is a brilliant meditation on love and redemption. Perfectly rendered characters anchor a novel built around a fierce, flawed, and loving family.” (Publishers Weekly) Quade is the author of the story collection Night at the Fiestas (2015) honored by a number of awards including the National Book Critic Circle's John Leonard Prize. 
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Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley 
In modern day London, sex workers Precious and Tabitha go head to head with their landlord, a ruthless developer and heiress. Mozley “parses the relationships between inheritance and wealth, gentrification and squalor, men and women... this is a seriously entertaining romp through one of London's most historic districts, alongside a band of resilient have-nots who are determined to win out over an entitled heiress.” (Library JournalMosley’s debut novel, Elmet, was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. 
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Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian 
In the early 2000s in Hammond Creek, Georgia, teens Neil Narayan and Anita Dayal boost their chances at achieving their Ivy League dreams with a magical elixir that is made from stolen jewelry and infused with the jewelry owners’ ambitions. “Out of this nugget of magical realism, Sathian spins pure magic... Filled with pathos, humor, slices of American history, and an adrenaline-pumping heist, Sathian's spectacular debut also highlights the steep costs of the all-American dream.” (Booklist) 
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The Man Who Lived Underground by Richard Wright 
A previously unpublished work from a literary giant. One day on his way home from work, Fred Daniels is falsely accused of murder, beaten by cops and forced into a false confession, but a brief moment of opportunity allows him to flee and go into hiding in the city’s sewers. “The power and pain of Wright’s writing are evident in this wrenching novel, which was rejected by his publisher in 1942, shortly after the release of Native Son... Wright makes the impact of racist policing palpable as the story builds to a gut-punch ending, and the inclusion of his essay “Memories of My Grandmother” illuminates his inspiration for the book. This nightmarish tale of racist terror resonates.” (Publishers Weekly) 
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Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson 
When a photographer and a dancer collaborate on an artistic venture to document Black residents of London, their partnership leads to love.  “Nelson’s impressive first novel is tender, lyrical, and all-consuming. In expertly crafted, poetic prose, this British Ghanaian writer tells the story of two young Black artists falling in love, falling out of love, and learning how to be soft and vulnerable in a society that refuses to allow them to be so... A truly exceptional debut.” (Booklist) 
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Paradise, Nevada by Dario Diofebi 
The disparate lives of four people converge in Las Vegas when a bomb detonates at the Positano Luxury Resort and Casino: there’s the math whiz turned professional poker player, a cocktail waitress and former model, an Italian tourist who’s overstayed his visa, and a Mormon journalist hunting a story. “This sprawling, delightful debut book captures the artificial worlds within worlds in the casinos, the unnavigable streets just outside the strip, the big dreams, and the bad beats. It has a labor dispute, a big explosion, and an immigration saga... This is a tremendously funny book, but it earns its laughs through human frailty. It makes fun of the powerful and the ridiculous, but even then there’s nothing easy. Everyone here is haphazardly seeking something better and different within themselves, and they look to find it in this virtual microcosm of America. An intimate epic set in a virtual but deeply human world.” (Kirkus Reviews) 
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Are You Enjoying? by Mira Sethi 
“Already an established actor and journalist, Sethi makes her fiction debut with six partially interlinked stories set in her native Pakistan, each confronting various power dynamics... Sethi both exposes and enthralls.” (Booklist) 
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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March 2021

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen 
The Committed continues the story that began in Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer (2015). It’s the 1980s, and the unnamed narrator is now a refugee in Paris where he dabbles in capitalism by selling drugs and connects with a community of left-wing intellectuals. “An exhilarating roller-coaster ride filled with violence, hidden identity, and meditations on whether the colonized can ever be free... Nguyen continues to delight.” (Publishers Weekly) 
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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel 
After many years, visa overstays and deportations, fifteen-year-old Talia’s family is split between the United States and Colombia. Now she must escape from a remote juvenile detention center and meet her father in Bogotá in time to catch the flight that will reunite their family in New Jersey. “An outstanding novel of migration and the Colombian diasporae... Engel’s sharp, unflinching narrative teems with insight and dazzles with a confident, slyly sophisticated structure.” (Publishers Weekly) Engel’s other books include The Veins of the Ocean (2016) and Vida (2010), and her accolades include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the International Latino Book Award and the Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana, Colombia’s national prize in literature. 
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Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge 
In 1860s Brooklyn, Libertie is the freeborn daughter of Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first Black female doctor in New York State. Although her mother pressures her to follow in her footsteps, Libertie must forge her own path in life, leading her far from home. “Greenidge succeeds beautifully at presenting the complexities of an intense mother-daughter bond, with its blend of unrealistic expectations, disappointments, and betrayals... Greenidge creates a richly layered tapestry of Black communal life, notably Black female life, and the inevitable contradictions and compromises of freedom.’” (BooklistGreenridge is also the author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman, a New York Times Top 10 Books of 2016 
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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton 
Magazine editor S. Sunny Curtis is documenting the lives and careers of Afro-punk progenitor Opal Jewel and her partner Nev Charles, whose 1970s avant-garde musical duo generated a cult following. “Lucidly envisioned... A cinematic, stereophonic, and boldly imagined story of race, gender, and agency in art.” (Booklist)  
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Red Island House by Andrea Lee 
When African American academic Shay Gilliam marries wealthy Italian businessman Senna, she becomes the mistress of a vacation mansion in Madagascar, a complex role that will transform her life and her marriage. Against a background of myth and magic, as well as racism, sex tourism, and exploitation, the never-perfect match between Senna and Shay continues to devolve. An utterly captivating, richly detailed, and highly critical vision of how the one percent lives in neocolonial paradise.” (Kirkus Reviews) 
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What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster 
This intergenerational saga set in North Carolina from the 1990s to the present features the parallel stories of two families that intersect when Gee and Noelle attend the same newly integrated school. “Coster is an exacting observer but also an endlessly generous one, approaching her cast with a sharp eye and deep warmth. The overlapping pieces fit together, of course, but it’s the individual moments that are exquisite, each chapter a tiny snapshot of a whole world. Tender but--miraculously--never sentimental.” (Kirkus ReviewsCoster was a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree for 2020 and her debut novel Halsey Street was a finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Fiction. 
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Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia 
Carmen, a Cuban immigrant living in Miami, worries about her daugher Jeanette, who struggles with addiction. When her El Salvadoran neighbor Gloria is detained by ICE, Jeanette takes in Gloria’s daughter Ana. “Throughout, Garcia illustrates the hard choices mothers make generation after generation to protect their children... This riveting account will please readers of sweeping multigenerational stories.” (Publishers Weekly) 
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Sarahland by Sam Cohen 
A debut collection of short stories explores themes of queerness, relationships and personal transformation, all featuring characters named Sarah. “Wonderfully bizarre... Throughout, Cohen cleverly reimagines the world through a queer lens and uses pop culture and fairy tale references to illustrate the various lives, stories, and worlds the Sarahs can inhabit. A thought-provoking work, Cohen’s collection surprises and excites.” (Publishers Weekly) 
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The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson 
When Rosalie Iron Wing’s father died, she was sent to live in a foster home, separated from her family and her Dakota roots. Decades later, she returns as a widow and a mother to the land of her ancestors. “A thoughtful, moving meditation on connections to the past and the land that humans abandon at their peril.” (Booklist) Award-winning writer Wilson is the author of Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past (2006) and Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life (2011). 
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Brother Sister Mother Explorer by Jamie Figueroa 
Following the recent death of his mother, Rafa has lost his will to live. His half sister Rufina proposes a pact: they will perform in the plaza of the touristy New Mexican town of their childhood and  raise enough money to escape their grief. “Spellbinding prose, magical elements, and wounded, full hearted characters that nearly jump off the page... This cleverly constructed and deeply moving account enthralls.” (Publishers Weekly) 
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Many Great Reasons to Read Black Fiction in February 2021

We’re always excited to promote books by Black authors, but Black History Month is an irresistible opportunity for even more. This special edition of our monthly fiction preview highlights 10 new books by Black authors. Keep scrolling for a bonus list of novels and story collections by Black authors released over the past few months. 

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson 
During the Obama era in Chicago, Ruth, a successful engineer, and her corporate exec husband embark on a conversation about having children, prompting Ruth to reveal her big secret: when she was seventeen, she gave up a child for adoption. Now she’s back in the Indiana town of her youth, delving into the past and the present while she reunites with family and searches for the son she gave up. “As Ruth learns more about what’s happened to her town and reckons with what she left behind, powerful insights emerge on the plurality of Black American experience and the divisions between rural and urban life, and the wealthy and the working class. Johnson’s clear-eyed saga hits hard.” (Publishers Weekly) 
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Blood Grove by Walter Mosley 
Acclaimed author Mosley (whose honors include a PEN America Lifetime Achievement Award and a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award) returns to his long running Easy Rawlins detective series. It’s 1969, and Easy’s latest case gets him tangled up with the mob, sex clubs and racist cops. “As always, Easy's finely calibrated understanding of and commentary on the social and racial climate around him gives the novel its defining texture and power.” If you’ve never read this beloved and iconic series, start with Devil in a Blue Dress (1990). 
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100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell  
Purnell is an Oakland-based filmmaker, musician, dancer, writer and winner of a 2018 Whiting Writers’ Award for Fiction, and his newest book is collection of perhaps-autofictional vignettes exploring sex, dating and loneliness following his novel Since I Laid My Burden Down (2017). “Purnell brilliantly immerses the reader in Black, queer desire with humor, self-awareness, and just the right amount of vulgarity. (Publishers Weekly) 
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Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz 
A first book from the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction, the Cecelia Joyce Johnson Emerging Writer Award by the Key West Literary Seminar, and a Tin House Scholarship, this story collection revolves around the stories of Black women and girls in urban and suburban Florida. Each of the stories in this collection is anchored by Moniz’s gorgeous, precise prose... In nearly every paragraph, Moniz unfurls some new observation that nestles down in your brain and sits, steeping like tea leaves, until each story has formed a cohesive, powerful emotional experience. It’s a magical sensation that reveals astonishing talent.” (Bookpage) 
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How the One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones 
In a beachside neighborhood in Barbados called Paradise, Lala lives a hardscrabble and turbulent life not far from Mira, who lives a comfortable life as the wife of a rich man. Their starkly different lives will be unexpectedly connected by a violent crime. The storytelling is far from breathless, but it will leave you that way: The effect is of a horrific opera in which ugliness is inevitable, but no less gutting when it appears... Jones balances the novel’s graphic violence with prose that is both evocative and wistful, haunting.” (Deesha Philyaw for The New York Times) 
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This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith   
On a bridge one night, Tallie, a divorced therapist, spots a man who looks like he’s about to jump. She pulls over and invites him to have a cup of coffee--an unusual start to a romantic relationship. “Cross-Smith (So We Can Glow) explores fragility, grief, and the effects of mental illness in this wonderfully strange novel about new love between broken people... As dark and tense as it is flirty and humorous, this moving novel offers consistent surprises.” (Publishers Weekly) 
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Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins  
Legendary author Jenkins’ latest historical romance is set in Reconstruction era Wyoming, featuring an indominable woman rancher named Spring. Garrett is a formerly enslaved man turned Washington reporter who has come to interview Spring’s brother but ends up finding Spring much more interesting. “This book has all the hallmarks of Jenkins’ fiction--meticulous historical research, a frank look at social conditions for Black people of the time, masterful pacing, and complex, likable characters. Jenkins' story reminds us that true love doesn’t require sacrificing our independence. You shouldn’t miss it.” (Kirkus Reviews) 
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Of One Blood: Or, the Hidden Self by Pauline Hopkins, with an introduction by Nisi Shawl 
A reissue of a novel that was originally serialized in Colored American Magazine in 1902, featuring Reuel Briggs, a medical student who meets and falls for a singer named Dianthe, and brings her back from death after what should have been a fatal accident. Later Reuel pursues fortune and adventure in Ethiopia. “Mysticism, horror, and racial identity merge fluidly in this thrilling tale of love, obsession, and power... The suspense is tangible and the final reveal will leave readers reeling. This easily transcends the Victorian lost world genre to be relevant, thought-provoking, and entertaining today.” (Publishers Weekly) 
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Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers 
To celebrate her recently completed doctorate in astronomy, Grace Porter goes on a wild ladies’ weekend in Las Vegas and wakes up with fuzzy memories that she drunkenly met, hooked up with and married Yuki Yamamoto. Usually no-nonsense, high-achieving and totally responsible Grace decides to leave her Portland home to spend the summer in New York, getting to know Yuki while she faces career disappointments, challenging family relationships and depression“Rogers's debut is a beautiful story of learning to love in so many ways: untraditionally, through deep hurt, through mental illness, and through struggles with which readers can relate.” (Library Journal) 
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Symbiosis by Nicky Drayden 
Fans of Afrofuturism will want to check out Drayden’s Escaping Exodus (2019) and it’s new sequel Symbiosis, in which post-Earth humans have rebuilt a civilization inside the body of an enormous tentacled whale-like space creature. The latest episode features Doka, a rare male reader in this matriarchal society, facing many political enemies in this series that examines race, class, queerness and environmentalism. “A sweeping, smart, stunning story that dazzles brighter than a star system... a whimsical, complex, rich setting whose world is the literal anatomy of a beast.” (Booklist on Escaping Exodus) 
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More Recent Releases

Click on the covers to read descriptions and place holds in the Oakland Public Library catalog. 

 

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in January 2021

 

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. 
On an antebellum plantation in Mississippi, Isaiah and Samuel are enslaved men who find sustenance in their love for one another. The peace they share is threatened by the ambitions of an enslaved preacher who turns their world against them. “An often lyrical and rebellious love story embedded within a tender call-out to Black readers, reaching across time and form to shake something old, mighty in the blood… Jones proves himself an amazing lyricist, pulling poetry out of every image and shift of light.” (Danez Smith, The New York Times
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Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Darren Vender is an unambitious barista when a chance encounter leads him to an elite sales job at a promising startup. This satirical first novel traces his struggles as the only Black employee in his company and how he loses his way on the path to success. “Askaripour eviscerates corporate culture in his funny, touching debut… In an author’s note, Askaripour suggests the book is meant to serve as a manual for aspiring Black salesmen, and the device is thrillingly sustained throughout, with lacerating asides to the reader on matters of race.” (Publishers Weekly)
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Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters 
Reece and Amy’s relationship ended when Amy detransitioned and became Ames. When Ames’s new girlfriend (and boss) Katrina gets unexpectedly pregnant, Ames proposes that they start a family—and include ex-girlfriend Reese as a third parent. A wonderfully original exploration of desire and the evolving shape of family… Smart, funny, and bighearted.” (Kirkus Reviews)
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Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Tara lived a unconventional, feral life at the expense of her daughter Antara, to whom she was often neglectful and cruel. Years later, in the Indian city of Pune, Tara’s drift into dementia forces Antara into the role of parent and prompts her to examine the relationship between mother and daughter. “An elegantly written family story that sizzles with hatred and is impossible to put down… This is not a miserable book, though, but a painfully exhilarating one.” (The Guardian)
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The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams
Peter Winceworth is a lexicographer at Swansby’s New Encyclopaedic Dictionary during the Victorian Era, who acts out his frustrations by inserting fictitious entries in the S volume. 100 years later, Mallory is a Swansby’s intern responsible for complaints and hunting down errant entries, while at home her girlfriend Pip is urging her to come out of the closet. “You wouldn’t expect a comic novel about a dictionary to be a thriller too, but this one is. In fact, Eley Williams’s hilarious new book, 'The Liar’s Dictionary,' is also a mystery, love story (two of them) and cliffhanging melodrama.” (The New York Times) Williams’s short story collection Attrib. won the James Tait Black Prize in 2018 and finally will be released in a U.S. edition in 2021.
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Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel 
In 1976 Argentina, Tomás Orilla is a medical student joining the resistance movement against the military junta to impress his childhood love, Isabel. Years later, he is living a new life in New York when he is called back to Buenos Aires to face the ghosts of the past. “A complex and intimate meditation on love, guilt, and the decisions that haunt us forever.” (Kirkus Reviews)
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Bride of the Sea by Eman Quotah
Saudi immigrants living in Cleveland, Saeedah and Muneer part ways after only a few years of marriage. When Muneer returns to his homeland, Saeedah fears her young daughter will be taken from her, prompting her to disappear and assume a nomadic life. “The impact of this choice on these three lives and the way it affects the extended family dynamics is central in Quotah’s novel spanning four decades, even as she weaves in the reality of immigrant lives, offers thoughtful observations about religious identity, and provides vignettes of Saudi culture… a compelling and worthy read.” (Booklist)
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The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard 
In the early 20th century, August Sitwell and Miss Mamie Price are part of an all-Black domestic staff serving the Barclays, a white family with a dwindling fortune. Mr. Barclay seizes an opportunity to regain the family fortune by marketing a meat sauce using Miss Mamie’s recipe and a caricature of August’s likeness on the label. “Hubbard (The Talented Ribkins) delves into issues of race, vengeance, redemption, and rage… Hubbard’s prose brims with unspoken tensions and a prevailing sense of dread as she skillfully explores how the characters are impacted by trauma. Shocking and thought-provoking.” (Publishers Weekly)
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No Heaven for Good Boys by Keisha Bush 
Six-year-old Ibrahimah leaves his Senegalese village for Dakar, where he expects to become a student of the Quran with his older cousin. Instead, Ibrahimah is exploited and abused, and must learn how to survive. “Dickensian… Ibrahimah must rely on wit, luck, and the ability to weather what fate throws at him, which is a lot, to survive. Bush is a born storyteller, who knows how to speak in the language of the boys she brings to life. They are hungry and they want love—the latter being the word most often used in this devastating, drawn from real events, story.” (Literary Hub)   
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The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell
Argentine journalist and author follows her 2017 collection Things We Lost in the Fire with another book of dark, unsettling short stories. "Breathtaking, off-kilter, even deranged… While Enriquez's indelible images will sear themselves into readers' memories, it's her straightforward delivery and matter-of-fact tone that belie the wild, gasp-worthy action unfolding on the page. This makes for surprising, occasionally gut-wrenching reading.” (Booklist)
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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in December 2020

The Opium Prince  by Jasmine  Aimaq 
In 1970 Kabul, Daniel Abdullah Sajadi, an American Diplomat with Afghan roots, is heading a foreign aid effort to eradicate Afghanistan’s poppy fields. In the wake of a tragic accident, Daniel becomes the target of blackmail from an Opium kingpin. “Searing… Offering a piercing look at the Afghan view of foreign aid and patriarchal foreigners, Aimaq, who is half-Afghan and spent part of her life in the country, is a writer to watch. Every carefully described detail here will stay with readers as they examine what they thought they knew about America’s exporting of democracy and its war on drugs.” (Booklist
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A Spy in the Struggle by Aya de Leon 
Yolanda Vance conquered poverty, Harvard, and built a prestigious law career before she became a corporate whistleblower. Now she’s working for the FBI, helping them infiltrate the youth activists of an eco/racial justice organization. Acclaimed East Bay writer and Director of the Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley, de Leon is known for her feminist, anti-racist page turners featuring steamy romance, and this one adds a mix of environmental activism, corporate corruption and government surveillance.
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How to Fail at Flirting  by Denise Williams 
We seem to be in the middle of a Rom-Com renaissance featuring characters and authors of color, and here’s a great example. Professor Naya Turner’s friends have been pushing her to get back out into the dating scene, and it’s working—a one night stand with Jake leads to steamy and sweet romance. But then she finds out Jake is a management consultant contracting with her university with some serious conflicts of interest. “Quirky, delightful… Jam-packed with laugh-out-loud banter and heart-fluttering romance, this is a knockout.” (Publishers Weekly
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Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen  
A slice of life in a Northern Irish village: In the town of Aghybogey, Majella O’Neill is a 27-year-old woman on the spectrum who looks after her alcoholic mother while mourning the murder of her grandmother but she finds refuge in her routines, a job at a chip shop, and watching DVDs of her favorite show Dallas. “Gallen’s effortless immersion into a gritty, endlessly bittersweet world packs a dizzying punch.” (Publishers Weekly
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The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller 
When Ronan, a successful Manhattan photographer in New York City, returns to his upstate hometown of Hudson to take care of his father he hardly recognizes the former whaling town that made his gay teen years so unbearable. Ronan reconnects with his first love Dom, and together with Dom’s wife Attalah they launch a series of pranks to antagonize the town’s gentrifiers—and unwittingly awaken dark sprits, sparking a series of disturbing events. “Takes on cosmic horror with chillingly realistic results... Filled with intense dread and unease; well-drawn if flawed characters; social commentary; and a satisfying resolution.” (Library Journal) Miller is the author of Blackfish City (2018), winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel and one of NPR’s Best Books of the Year.  
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.
 
Rest and Be Thankful by Emma Glass 
The stream-of-consciousness thoughts of a pediatric nurse Laura. Traumatized by her work, she finds no comfort at home between her distant partner and the nightmares she suffers when she’s able to sleep. “Elliptical and lyric with an intense interiority… Glass, a nurse herself, takes both standard nursing tropes and revelations about the work and brings them all to shimmering life… A heart-wrenching and poetic look at a profession that deserves more literary attention.” (Kirkus Reviews) Glass’s debut novel Peach (2018) was long-listed for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. 
Check out or recommend this eBook for purchase on Overdrive.
 
A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers 
Brilliant and accomplished food critic Dorothy Daniels has an insatiable appetite for food, sex, and cannibalistic murder. “One of the most uniquely fun and campily gory books in my recent memory... “A Certain Hunger” has the voice of a hard-boiled detective novel, as if metaphor-happy Raymond Chandler handed the reins over to the sexed-up femme fatale and really let her fly.” (New York Times
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The Mermaid from Jeju by Sumi Hahn 
Goh Junja is becoming a successful haenyeo, or deep freediver, on Korea's Jeju Island when the sudden death of her mother upends her family’s life, just on the eve of the departure of Japanese colonizing forces and the encroachment of the U.S. military. “Commingling multigenerational family saga, legends, wrenching love story, ghostly hauntings, and tumultuous history, Hahn creates a transporting masterpiece.” (Booklist
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Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez 
In near-future Candada, terrrible floods, homelessness and widespread hunger are causing unrest and an oppressive regime begins mass incarceration of marginalized communities.  Kay, a queer femme Jamaican Filipino man, must leave behind a life as a drag performer to lead the resistance. “Hernandez delivers beautiful and heartbreaking scenes in a story that is hard especially because of how close it feels to our present.” (Booklist)  
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Take It Back by Kia Abdullah  
Zara Kaleel, an advocate for sexual abuse victims in London, faces backlash from her own Muslim community when she represents a 16 year old white girl accusing four Muslim young men of rape. “This is a superb legal thriller that fairly crackles with tension.” (The Guardian
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Are you looking for gift ideas this holiday season? You can support the library at the same time! The Friends of the Oakland Public Library are now selling new books via Bookshop.org. When you buy books from their Bookshop.org shop, Friends of the OPL receives 100% of the profit - approximately 30% of the purchase price. To purchase, go to the Friends of the OPL shop, browse books, and buy. It's that easy! Of course, you can also continue to purchase used books virtually or in in person at The Bookmark Bookstore in Old Oakland--and they're having a two-week sale December 6 - 18.