Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Pamuk, Ng, Yoder, and More

October 4, 2022 | 11 books mentioned 7 min read

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Orhan PamukCeleste Ng, our own Anne K. Yoder, and more—that are publishing this week.

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Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk (translated by Ekin Oklap)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nights of Plague: “In the ambitious latest from Nobel Prize winner Pamuk (My Name Is Red), a plague has swept through Mingheria, a fictional island in the Ottoman Empire. The 1901 calamity was chronicled by Princess Pakize, whose letters historian Mina Mingher is preparing for publication in 2017. But struck by the princess’s ‘descriptive flair’ and weary of writing another ‘dreary’ history book, Mina decides to turn the letters into a novel. Indeed, there’s flair to Mina’s text, which forms the bulk of a narrative that includes the murder of Istanbul’s royal chemist, sent to the island to implement quarantine protocol; political upheaval that results in Mingheria declaring its independence; and romances among a slew of characters. Via Mina, a descendent of Mingherians, Pamuk ascribes importance to players from all social strata: politicians, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens alike. Though Mina’s romanticizing of her ancestors and her nation’s history can sometimes be overwrought, the story she shapes is consistently captivating. As a result, the grandiose statements—’emotions and decisions of individuals could often change the course of history’—wind up ringing true. Though it doesn’t stand with the author’s best work, the cracking narrative will keep readers in for the long haul.”

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Our Missing Hearts: “Ng’s remarkable dystopian latest (after Little Fires Everywhere) depicts draconian family separation tactics and a normalizing of violence against Asians and Asian Americans in an alternate present. In the wake of the nativist PACT act (Preserving American and Culture Traditions), a piece of legislation that opposes foreign cultural influences, the U.S. government begins reassigning custody of children whose parents are accused of being un-American. Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives with his white father, Ethan, a former Harvard language teacher who now shelves books in the university’s library. Bird’s mother, Margaret Miu, a Chinese American poet, vanished three years earlier after her work became seen as subversive. Out of the blue, Bird receives a mysterious drawing from her, reminding him of a fairy tale she used to tell him, which he’s mostly forgotten. In a world where neighbors spy on each other and people with Asian features are frequently attacked on the street, Ethan has long instructed Bird to lay low. But nothing can stop him from looking for Margaret. While searching for a book that might contain the story Margaret used to tell him, he discovers a network of librarians who secretly collect information about children seized from their families and learns how Margaret’s work inspired anti-PACT art demonstrations. Ng crafts an affecting family drama out of the chilling and charged atmosphere, and shines especially when offering testimony to the power of art and storytelling (here’s Bird remembering the fairy tale in his mother’s voice, “painting a picture with words on the blank white wall of his mind. Long buried. Crackling as it surfaced in the air once more”). Like Margaret’s story, Ng’s latest crackles and sizzles all the way to the end.”

The Enhancers by Anne K. Yoder

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Enhancers: “Yoder’s scathing speculative debut follows a group of teenagers who are pushed to their limits with mind-enhancing drugs. As Hannah finishes high school in the near-future factory town of Lumena Hills, she and her peers disregard advice from their parents and prescriptions from their school’s psychiatrist Dr. Billy, whom Hannah describes as the ‘bunco in charge of dosing and augmentation,’ and swap their various mind- and memory-altering supplements with abandon. After Hannah, who’s been on a new drug called Valedictorian, or ‘V,’ witnesses a gruesome accident, she’s given a memory-erasing therapy. Then, after her best friend Celia has a psychotic breakdown and winds up in the hospital, Celia runs away from treatment and encourages Hannah and their friend Azzie to flee Lumena Hills in the chaos following a fire at the pill factory. While the townspeople worry about access to their meds, the three teens hope to join up with radicals living off the grid. The narrative mostly follows Hannah, but Yoder also spins chapters from the perspective of Hannah’s uptight mother and adrift father, and sprinkles in advertising copy and warning labels for the various medications that carry a distinctive dystopian flair (‘It’s so EZ to EMPTY your mind with EmptEZ’). It makes for an effective satire of achievement and, well, empty pharmaceutical promises.”

Cocoon by Zhang Yueran (translated by Jeremy Tiang)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cocoon: “Zhang (The Promise Bird) dazzles with an intricately crafted web of secrets centered on two childhood friends in China. Li Jiaqi returns as an adult to the home of her grandfather, a renowned surgeon, to take care of him as he’s dying. Soon after his death, she visits her estranged friend Cheng Gong. Over the course of a snowy night, they discuss their long history and what drove them apart. The story alternates between their perspectives: Jiaqi reminisces on her father, Muyuan’s, hatred of her grandfather, as well as Muyuan’s cold relationship with her mother and eventual alcoholism; and Gong recounts his lower-class upbringing with a vegetative grandfather and abusive grandmother. They discuss how they met and became unlikely friends when Jiaqi transferred to Gong’s school, but their relationship strained as their respective family troubles overwhelmed them and Gong learned a deadly secret about his grandfather’s condition. In lyrical prose, Zhang deeply humanizes her leads as they look to the past in an effort to understand themselves. It adds up to a remarkable and tragic story of family and community.”

It Came from the Closet edited by Joe Vallese

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about It Came from the Closet: “Queer writers recall the horror films that touched their lives in this stellar anthology. Noting in the introduction a common ‘deep queer affinity’ for horror, NYU writing professor Vallese lays out the conundrum at the center of the collection: ‘How can we find such camaraderie in the very thing that so often slights us?’ There’s not a weak piece in the pack; among the standouts is ‘Both Ways,’ in which Carmen Maria Machado pushes back against accusations of queerbaiting in the 2009 flick Jennifer’s Body, detecting in them a judgment against fluid bisexuality. ‘There is such little grace given to the perfect messiness of desire,’ she writes. In ‘Three Men on a Boat,’ Jen Corrigan makes a convincing case for Jaws as a queer film (‘Is there really anything gayer than three men on a boat?’), and in ‘The Girl, the Well, the Ring,’ Zefyr Lisowski writes searingly about The Ring and Pet Sematary, both of which present the idea that ‘the disabled were to be feared’: ‘These movies hurt me and I kept watching them…. They were all I had.’ Taken together, the pieces are a brilliant display of expert criticism, wry humor, and original thinking. This is full of surprises.”

When They Tell You To Be Good by Prince Shakur

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about When They Tell You To Be Good: “In this electric debut, essayist and organizer Shakur turns an unflinching eye to the realities of growing up queer and Black amid the racialized violence and political backlash of recent decades. Coming-of-age as the son of Jamaican immigrants in Ohio in the early aughts, Shakur was haunted by his father’s absence and wounded by familial homophobia. While college brought opportunities for political action and fellowship forged by common values, Shakur details that it also stoked a more painful awareness of social injustice. ‘If America could not deliver me what I deserved as a young and curious Black person,’ writes Shakur. ‘I deserved to try to find it where I could and not be overpowered by the kind of son or citizen I needed to be.’ Recounting travels that take him from Costa Rica to the Philippines, as well as Ferguson, Mo., and Standing Rock, in the Dakotas, to protest, Shakur traces the perspective he gained while untangling the cords of trauma brought by microaggressions he weathered along the way. What emerges is a moving portrait of the artist as a young activist, powered by Shakur’s captivating prose, ‘the plywood, nails, and sails that sent me off into a world of my own making.’ The result is a searing account of self-discovery in the face of structural oppression.”

Weasels in the Attic by Hiroko Oyamada (translated by David Boyd)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Weasels in the Attic: “The sharp and surreal latest from Oyamada (The Hole) charts a 40-something unnamed narrator’s peculiar interactions with his friends and their wives. The narrator recalls a strange dinner shared with his old friend Saiki and Saiki’s friend Urabe, in which the two discussed their mutual obsession with tropical fish while the narrator spoke with Urabe’s much younger wife about her newborn and marriage. Later, the narrator learns Saiki has gotten married to a younger woman named Yoko (‘It was just like Saiki to mention her age,’ the narrator thinks). The narrator and his wife visit Saiki and Yoko and discuss the weasels that have mysteriously infested the house’s attic after they moved in. When they return to see Saiki and Yoko’s three-month-old baby, the narrator and his wife spend the night, during which they are surrounded by tropical fish and the narrator has a nightmare. Throughout, the narrator expresses anxiety about his and his wife’s struggle to have a baby (‘peak fertility nights that we’d missed because I couldn’t do my part’), which, along with the narrator’s tacit acceptance of others’ obsession with younger women, rounds out Oyamada’s sly critique of her characters’ attempts at masculinity. The simultaneously disparate yet related elements at work in the novella create an odd yet vivid dreamlike effect. It’s a unique and unsettling tale.”

The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Hero of This Book: “McCracken (The Souvenir Museum) blurs fiction and memoir with a mischievous and loving portrait of her late mother. The unnamed narrator dislikes memoirs, and her mother, Natalie, whom she revered, ‘distrusted’ them. So the narrator turns to fiction, claiming that all it takes to leap from the dreaded realm of grief memoirs is to make a few things up, such as the desk clerk at the London hotel she checks in to in 2019, a year after Natalie’s death, to sort through her thoughts and feelings. Despite her avowed opposition to memoir, she unleashes a flood of details about Natalie while wandering around London, describing how the short Jewish woman’s cerebral palsy made walking a struggle, and how she had to cultivate a stubborn nature to ignore the ‘muttering’ of those who doubted her potential. (She ended up a beloved magazine editor in Boston.) The narrator lists a few made-up details that diverge from McCracken’s own life: ‘the fictional me is unmarried, an only child, childless,’ and she notes how novelists are free to kill off characters as needed. What emerges alongside this love letter to the restive Natalie is an engaging character study of a narrator who views everything through the lens of fiction (‘Your family is the first novel that you know’). It’s a refreshing outing, and one that sees McCracken gleefully shatter genre lines.”

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

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