Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Kwan, Center, Iglesias, and More

July 14, 2020 | 5 min read

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Kevin KwanKatherine Center, Legna Rodríguez Iglesias, and more—that are publishing this week.

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sex and Vanity: “Kwan follows up his Crazy Rich Asians trilogy with an intoxicating, breezy update of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. Lucie Tang Churchill, 19, a privileged ‘hapa’ (she is half Chinese, half WASP) attends her richer friend Isabel’s wedding in Capri. After Lucie meets Isabel’s cousin George Zao, a rich, handsome, Chinese-Australian surfer, she becomes a ‘bundle of conflicting emotions,’ repulsed by her attraction to the ‘brooding weirdo [who] took himself much too seriously.’ Still, they hook up, at risk of jeopardizing Lucie’s reputation as an eligible bride. Four years later, Lucie and George’s paths cross in New York, only now Lucie is engaged to Cecil Pike. However, Lucy can’t get George out of her mind, and she is flummoxed by his kindness. When Lucy, George, and Cecil attend a film screening featuring a sex scene that reminds her of what she did with George in Capri, Lucie doubles down on suppressing her true desires. Kwan exploits the Forster frame for clever references—including Merchant and Ivory—and provides amusing footnotes. Kwan also relishes describing lavish meals and haute couture clothing, as well as Isabel’s decadent wedding and Cecil’s imaginative, over-the-top proposal. There are moments both catty and witty, but this delectable comedy of manners—the literary equivalent of white truffle and caviar pizza—is still pizza.”

coverWhat You Wish For by Katherine Center

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about What You Wish For: “Center’s quirky story (after Things You Save in a Fire) follows offbeat librarian Samantha Casey, who’s found the tight-knit family she’s always longed for and a place to call home in a small Texas beach town. The Kempner School, where she works, is a bright, cheery place, and principal Max Kempner sparks joy at every turn—until his sudden death from a pulmonary embolism. When Sam hears the news about Max’s replacement, Duncan Carpenter, she remembers Duncan as a former fellow teacher, crush, and all-around ‘human mood-enhancer.’ Sam sings Duncan’s praises as an ideal replacement until Duncan swoops in and declares the school a security ‘nightmare’ that he is determined to make a model of safety and security through a series of extreme measures. Soon, Sam schemes with the school’s cofounder Babette, Max’s widow, to stage a ‘Joy-bomb’ intervention, forcing Duncan to eat a sundae each day and perform juggling in front of the students at lunchtime in exchange for the privilege of keeping his job, in hopes of unearthing the fun Duncan and saving the school. In the process, Sam’s old crush on Duncan reignites. The cast of eccentric supporting characters adds to a fast-paced tale steeped with whimsical, yet sometimes outlandish, plot points. This is one for the beach bag.”

coverInheritors by Asako Serizawa

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Inheritors: “Serizawa follows a winding maze through a Japanese family’s history in her dynamic debut collection. A family tree beginning with Masayuki (born in 1868) and continuing through to Mai (born in 2013) creates the work’s backbone, as Serizawa constructs a nonlinear narrative filled with abrupt turns, accidental betrayals, and supposed curses and myths. The opening story, ‘Flight’ (covering 1911–1981), follows Masayuki’s daughter, Ayumi, as she loses some of her memories while others become more vivid. In the collection’s standout, ‘Train to Harbin,’ Ayumi’s doctor brother contemplates his youthful nationalism in the years just after WWII and his role in the wartime occupation of China. In ‘Luna,’ set in 1986, Ayumi’s Japanese-American grand-niece Luna learns her father, Masaaki, was adopted and is of Korean heritage (not Japanese, as he believed), leading her to recall her earliest memories of visiting Japan. In ‘Passing,’ set in 2010, Luna returns to Japan to collect Masaaki’s possessions and ruminates not on ‘where he belonged’ but ‘how he wanted to fit in.’ The final two stories, ‘The Garden’ and ‘Echolocation,’ jump into the future to investigate the fallacies of perception and what cyber warfare might look like after Mai’s brother, Erin, develops a global VR climate simulator for predicting disaster. By showing Japan as both colonizer and colonized, Serizawa delivers an elegant, stimulating web of stories.”

coverThe All-Night Sun by Diane Zinna

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The All-Night Sun: “Zinna’s intimate debut dazzles with original language, emotional sentience, and Swedish folklore as it plumbs the depths of grief, loss, and friendship. Lauren Cress, a 28-year-old woman teaching English comp at a small college outside of Washington, D.C., takes a leap out of her lonely, sedentary routine by agreeing to travel with Siri, an 18-year-old art student, to her home in Sweden. Until now, her life has been comprised of walking her dog, Annie; studying Latin to pass her insomniac nights; occasional one-night stands; and devoting much of her time to obsessively commenting on her students’ essays. These habits were formed as coping mechanisms after her parents died in a car crash 10 years earlier. Siri also lost her parents, and the women are intensely bonded by grief. Tension ensues after Lauren meets Siri’s older artist brother, Magnus, whom she was primed to dislike before the trip but can’t stop thinking about. This leads to a rift in Lauren and Siri’s friendship and a heartbreaking climax during the Midsommar celebration. The descriptions of the never-ending sunlight are inventive and luminous (‘when I think of our talks there, they can sometimes feel like sun in my eyes’). Zinna reaches an inspired emotional depth that, as the title signifies, never stops blazing.”

coverAge of Consent by Amanda Brainerd

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Age of Consent: “Brainerd’s bracing debut focuses on a group of teens at a Connecticut boarding school and an ill-spent summer in New York City. In 1983, classmates Eve Straus and Justine Rubin struggle with difficult parents, teenage crushes, and predatory older men. Eve comes from a wealthy Park Avenue home, while Justine is from New Haven, where her parents are struggling middle-class theater owners, too preoccupied with their own lives to guide her away from trouble. Justine is already growing rapidly into adulthood, while Eve is intent on losing her virginity. Eve’s English instructor trades grades for sex with her; Justine already lost her virginity at 14 to a family friend. While the goings-on at Griswold Academy are engaging, and a musical interlude at a David Bowie concert is well written, Brainerd’s tale really takes off in the second half, when the two young women navigate a gritty summer in New York City, where Eve works at a SoHo art gallery and Justine moves in with Eve’s childhood friend. Eve and Justine eventually drift apart, each envying the other’s life. On the surface, Brainerd’s tale is a nostalgic trip into the early 1980s, including an inspired evocation of the Downtown art scene, but her teenage characters make the greatest impact. The takes on parental neglect and the ways young women are taught to see sex as transactional make this more than a throwback.”

coverMy Favorite Girlfriend Was a French Bulldog by Legna Rodríguez Iglesias

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about My Favorite Girlfriend Was a French Bulldog: “This profound and delightful novel-in-stories by Cuban poet Iglesias, her English-language debut, is a breathtaking exploration of identity, country, art, and family. Iglesias’s narrator slips with ease into a different voice in each chapter, though they all retain facets of her consciousness. In ‘Politics,’ the narrator explores her relationship with Cuba through the reminiscences of her dead grandfather. ‘Monster’ is written in a heightened bureaucratic voice, a formal choice that makes concrete the narrator’s stress as she navigates the emigration process. The chapters that follow reveal different aspects of the narrator’s identity—an erudite queer woman; a U.S. émigré; a poet with a deep knowledge of literary and musical history, and an all-consuming affection for her darling French bulldog. While the narrator worries about ‘being no one’ or ‘accepting, that you are no one here and now,’ Iglesias’s voice is too sure, too fresh, and too in command of form to be overlooked. Iglesias’s distinctive style carries her narrator on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery through language.”

is a staff writer for The Millions. He lives in New York.

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