An Anti-Racist Reading List

There been no shortage of excellent anti-racist reading lists circulated in recent days, as the nation has been convulsed by mass demonstrations and protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
We’re going to add another—which is, of course, far from complete—to the mix. What follows are recommendations for recent nonfiction books—with quotes from Publishers Weekly reviews—about white supremacy and institutional racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, and anti-racist political activism.
And, while you’re here, check out this list of social justice resources.

Being Black in America

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 
“As a meditation on race in America, haunted by the bodies of black men, women, and children, Coates’s compelling, indeed stunning, work is rare in its power to make you want to slow down and read every word.”

Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson 
“Perceptive, specific, and powerful, Jefferson’s work balances themes of race, class, entitlement, and privilege with her own social and cultural awakening.”

No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America by Darnell L. Moore
“Moore’s well-crafted book is a stunning tribute to affirmation, forgiveness, and healing—and serves as an invigorating emotional tonic.”

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by DeRay Mckesson
“[A]ctivist and podcaster Mckesson reflects on what he’s learned from protest, family upheaval, racial inequality, homophobia, community organizing, abuse, and love.”

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young 
“Young uses pop culture references and personal stories to look at a life molded by structural racism, the joy of having a family that holds together in a crisis, and the thrill of succeeding against difficult odds.”
Civil Rights Activism
A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History by Jeanne Theoharis
“Theoharis’s lucid and insightful study …[offers] a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the civil rights movement’s legacy, and [shows] how much remains to be done.”

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
“Kendi follows his National Book Award–winning Stamped from the Beginning with a boldly articulated, historically informed explanation of what exactly racist ideas and thinking are, and what their antiracist antithesis looks like both systemically and at the level of individual action.”

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery
“Digging beneath the news headlines of police killings and protests, Lowery’s timely work gives texture and context to a new era of African-American activism.”

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
“This is an eye-opening and eloquent coming-of-age story from one of the leaders in the new generation of social activists.”
Institutional Racism and Police Brutality

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
“Horace, a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and a CNN analyst, explores the ‘implicit bias’ and overt racism that makes black people the targets of profiling, harassment, beatings, and unjustified gunfire from cops.”

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips
“This is a gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism, and Phillips tells it with rare clarity and power.”

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
“Rothstein’s comprehensive and engrossing book reveals just how the U.S. arrived at the ‘systematic racial segregation we find in metropolitan areas today,’ focusing in particular on the role of government.”

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights by Gretchen Sorin 
“Lucidly written and generously illustrated with photos and artifacts, this rigorous and entertaining history deserves a wide readership.”

Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City by Wes Moore, with Erica L. Green
“Moore provides important context in the history of Baltimore’s racial and income inequality and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Readers will be enthralled by this propulsive account.”

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
“Stevenson, a professor of law at New York University and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal firm providing services for the wrongly condemned, describes in his memoir how he got the call to represent this largely neglected clientele in our justice system.”

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
“Legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that ‘[w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.’ ”

Open Season: The Legalized Genocide of Colored People by Ben Crump
“Civil rights attorney Crump, who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, delivers a forceful debut exposé of America’s ‘legalized system of discrimination.’”
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo
“This slim book is impressive in its scope and complexity; Diangelo provides a powerful lens for examining, and practical tools for grappling with, racism today.”

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

‘Between Everything and Nothing’: Featured Nonfiction from Joe Meno

In today’s installment of featured nonfiction—curated by none other than our own Carolyn Quimby—we present an excerpt from Joe Meno’s Between Everything and Nothing: The Journey of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and the Quest for Asylum.

The book, which follows two Ghanaian refugees, 24-year-old Seidu Mohammed and 32-year-old Razak Iyal, in their quest for political asylum, received a starred review from Kirkus, which called the book and “Ambitious exposé of the troubled immigration system” and “A well-paced and engaging account, highly relevant…”

Month after month went by at the Eloy detention facility with Razak wondering when he would finally face the immigration judge and be freed. After the attempt on his life by thugs hired by a corrupt member of parliament and his half-siblings, he had fled Ghana for Brazil, had crossed border after border on foot and by bus, and survived being robbed of his birth certificate, passport, and other documents. But nothing prepared him for this endless waiting.

Finally, after eight months of detention, Razak stood at his third hearing before the same judge who, having reviewed Razak’s documents, stated he needed to see evidence of the threats against Razak’s life before he was able to make a ruling. “Please prepare any and all evidence that you have,” the judge ordered. 

Razak felt despondent and decided to speak directly to the judge in English. “I can’t make long-distance calls back home. The calling cards only give you two minutes. I can’t use the internet. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to get evidence?” 

“I understand your concerns but I need proof that what you claim in these documents actually happened. If you get me the proof, then we can figure out how to proceed. You have one month to show me some kind of evidence.” 

After the hearing, Razak tried to contact the immigration lawyer he had spoken with but got no response. He spoke with other detainees; all of them were facing the same impossibility. None of them had any answer on how to attain evidence while being held inside a detainment facility. 

Because there was no newspaper article or specific police report documenting Razak’s assault, because he could not materialize demonstrable proof of the corruption of the local police and the involvement of the member of parliament in his family’s inheritance of land, he had no way to proceed. If he had been given access to the internet, there would have been a trove of newspaper articles about Parliament Member Mustapha’s predilection for corruption, and criticism by members of his own political party.

If he had been allowed long-distance phone calls back to Africa, he could have gathered testimonies from witnesses—his mother and aunt and fiancee Cynthia or the local Islamic elders. He could have asked for their help in gathering documentation from Accra, such as his hospital records.

But without any basic privileges and lacking the support of an attorney, Razak could see no way to supply evidence for his claim.

By then he had only two weeks left before meeting with the judge again. He called his uncle Malik in New York and explained the situation.

“Would you be willing to write a letter on my behalf?”

As it turned out, Malik had gone back to Ghana in 2014 and spent three weeks there. During that time Malik learned what had occurred between Razak and his half-siblings.

His uncle agreed to write a letter explaining the complications of Razak’s case, arguing that if Razak was sent back to Ghana his life would be in danger. He then had it notarized and mailed it on to Razak in Arizona. Razak had the letter sent to the judge. In the meantime, Razak’s uncle had contacted Razak’s mother, who wrote a letter of her own, describing what happened, which was sent to the judge as well.

During his fifth and final hearing on August 1, 2014, nearly one year after arriving in the United States, Razak stood before the immigration judge and was deeply disturbed to hear his asylum had been denied. 

“You have failed to produce any necessary evidence.”

“But my uncle sent a letter explaining everything.”

“All you’d been able to show are letters from your relatives. We need actual evidence to decide your case. I’m sorry, but there’s just not enough evidence to continue. You don’t have an attorney, so we’re going to have to deny your case.”

One year after presenting himself at the border, after one year of being incarcerated, the judge formally denied Razak’s asylum plea. Razak was furious.

“How can you keep me here for one year and then deny my case? You want to send me back home? Why didn’t you send me back home from the beginning? You let me waste my life here for one year!”

The judge slowly removed his glasses and looked over at him. “Would you like to appeal my decision?”

“How long does the appeal take?”

“It’s nine months before a decision is reached. But you’d have to stay here during that time.”

Razak did not need to think about it for a single second. “No.”

“If you say no, then you will be deported back to Ghana. The deportation order will be final.”

Razak lowered his head and with a deep sense of grief and frustration, said, “I understand.”

The judge put his glasses back on and said, “We will send all the necessary documents on to your deportation officer.”

Razak was led back to his unit, where the walls themselves seem to crumble beneath the wave of anger he was feeling.

One week later, Razak’s asylum officer appeared with a number of documents for him to sign. Razak looked over the paperwork and said, “I’m not going to sign anything.”

“If you don’t sign, they’re going to keep you here a long time. You better sign it, then we can go from there.” 

“If I don’t sign it, how long will I be here?”

“I don’t know. A long time.”

Razak eventually conceded and signed the papers, accepting the ruling of the immigration judge, giving up his right for appeal. His bond was also immediately canceled.

“We’re going to send all of these documents to the Ghanaian consulate in D.C. It’ll take a few weeks. We’ll see what the consulate says.”

One month later, at the beginning of September 2014, Razak was called in by ICE officers for an interview with his consulate on the phone. On the telephone, a woman at the embassy asked Razak several questions first in English, then in Twi, an Akan dialect spoken in Ghana.

How are they treating you over there?

I’m doing okay.

Did you get an attorney?


What did you have when you came into the United States? Your birth certificate? Your passport? Your ID from Ghana?

No, all of that was stolen from me in Mexico.

What do you have to prove you’re from Ghana?

I was born in Rich hospital in Accra.

Anybody can say that.

I grew up in Ghana, I went to school at Kanda Estate.

Okay, I can check on that. You’ll hear from us. Can I please talk to the officer?

Razak handed the phone back to the ICE officer and listened carefully to the officer’s responses. The Ghanaian embassy needed to verify Razak’s identity in order to issue travel documents. Without the travel documents, the U.S. could not deport him. But Razak had no faith in either institution. From the officer’s expressions, there was no way to know how much longer he would be detained.

By then something had shifted. Razak’s frustration at having lost his asylum case turned to a disquieting sense of disbelief. Although his plea had been denied months before, he was still unable to be released. His dream of staying in the U.S. was now superseded by the much more pressing reality of needing to escape the detention facility, of returning to some version of life, even if it meant facing a grave, mortal threat from his siblings and the unfair political system back home.

But there was no end in sight, no sign of reprieve, only more days, pacing the halls at Eloy.

One day Razak spoke with his asylum officer who—also frustrated by the lack of response from the Ghanaian embassy in Washington D.C.—asked Razak to write a letter to the Ghanian consulates in D.C., New York City, and Houston, in order to verify his identity so that he could be released. Razak wrote three letters, knowing that by doing so, he would be deported and returned to a corrupt political system and the certain danger he had already faced back home. 

In his cell, Razak came to the conclusion that he let everyone down, his fiancée, his mother, his family, that he had been removed from them for so long. He had been unable to start a new life in a new country, could not find a way to support them, or even hear their voice. It would be better to face whatever he had too face in Ghana than to go on, separated from them, detained at Eloy for another year, another month, another day.

One of his back teeth began to hurt a few weeks later. A medical staffer inspected Razak’s tooth and decided it would have to be pulled. In order to receive proper dental care, he would have to be sent out of the detention facility to a county hospital nearby.

In the morning an ICE officer called his name and brought him to a separate room, where they instructed him to put on an orange jumpsuit—the uniform convicted criminals wore in the facility.

“Why do I have to put this on?”

“We’re taking you out of the prison.”

“But I already have my green uniform.”

“Listen, I’m just doing my job. Just do what I ask you to do.”

“I’m not going to wear that.”

“If you don’t put it on, you’re not going to the hospital.”

Razak stared at the jumpsuit again and said, “Then I’m not going.” The ICE officer nodded grimly and then brought Razak back to his unit.

Later that same day, another ICE officer found Razak and told him the van had arrived to take him to the medical facility.

“The van is here. You need to put on that uniform.”

“Why are you making me wear that uniform? Why do you want people to look at me like I’m some kind of criminal?”

“No, you’re going right to the hospital. You’re not walking around the city.”

The pain in his tooth was unrelenting. He looked at the uniform and, against his better judgment, put it on. Once he was dressed, the officers bound him in chains, handcuffing his wrists to his waist and putting manacles on his ankles. It was worse than he had imagined. It took three officers to lead Razak into the modest county hospital. Two of the officers carried rifles. Razak entered the waiting room, having difficulty walking with the chains about his ankles. Everyone looked up and began to gawk—adults, children, the elderly—while some moved away, a look of pure terror crossing their face. Deeply ashamed, Razak lowered his head, afraid to make eye contact with anyone.

In the dentist’s examination room, Razak was led to a reclining seat. The officers waited uncomfortably in chairs like exhausted parents. Finally the dentist appeared, looked at Razak, and asked, “Who are you?”

“I’m from Ghana. I’m here for asylum.”

“And how are you finding our country?”

Razak frowned and the officers gave the dentist a look of discouragement. Even here, in this small, unseen place, in this most common and mundane of human moments, he would not be allowed to be treated like a person, to engage in a basic, civil conversation. The dentist began his examination and eventually concurred that Razak’s tooth would need to be removed.

The dentist turned to one of the officers and asked, “I need to remove this man’s tooth. Can you unlock his handcuffs please?”

The officer glanced at his partner and then shook his head. “I’m sorry. That’s against protocol.”

“Really?” the dentist asked.

“I’m sorry,” the officer responded. 

Razak shook his head.

The tooth would have to come out with Razak bound in the chair like a victim of some outdated torture.

Later, after the procedure, Razak asked to use the bathroom. One of the ICE officers escorted him to the lavatory.

One day at the library, Razak met another asylum seeker who asked how long he had been detained.

“For more than a year and a half.”

“You’re here for asylum?”


The other man studied him for a moment and said, “You know, there’s an organization called the Florence Project. They help refugees get released.”

“How can I talk to them?”

“I have a number and address. I can give them to you.”

The man opened his bag and gave the phone number and an address with a name. Benjamin Harville. “Write to Benjamin or call him. Here.” Reaching into his bag again, the other man produced a stamp—which at the moment seemed like a small, magical thing—and handed it to Razak.

Razak wrote furiously, explaining his case and how he had been in detention for more than a year. He sent it to the Florence Project, a not-for-profit agency that provided legal aid and social services for detained migrants throughout Arizona. After a week, he received a response saying someone from the organization was planning to come to visit him on December 15, 2014.

Benjamin Harville, a tall young man in his early thirties who was a staff attorney for the Florence Project, arrived with a legal assistant and asked to look over Razak’s documents. Benjamin went through his asylum application, looked over his other paperwork, and then asked, “Do you know that they’ve violated your rights?”


“The Department of Homeland Security has violated your rights.”

“How did they do that?”

“If you lose your asylum case, they have three months to coordinate with your embassy to deport you. If they are unable to produce the necessary documents, they have another three months to comply or they have to release you. But they’re still keeping you here.”

Razak sat at the table, stunned. He felt a jolt of shock and relief overcome him. 

“You know what, Razak? We’re going to write a letter to the District Court of Arizona. We’re going to send a copy to you. We’re going to send one to the warden, and we’re going to send a copy to your deportation officer. These people are violating your rights. Do you understand?”

Razak nodded.

“It might take a week or two, but we’re going to file these documents and send it to you.”

“No problem. I can wait.”

“Usually you have to pay to submit these documents to the court, but we’re going to pay it for you. We’ll send you the receipt that it’s been paid.”

One year and nine months after first being detained at Eloy, Razak received a receipt saying the letter had been received by the District Court of Arizona, along with a copy of the petition. The petition challenged Jon Gurule, the warden of the Eloy facility, for Razak’s immediate release based on the U.S. Supreme Court case Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001), which successfully argued that aliens with a final order of removal could not be detained beyond a 180-day period unless the alien’s removal was significantly likely to occur in the foreseeable future.

One week after that, the court replied, asking Razak’s asylum officer why he was still being detained, and giving ICE twenty days to comply with his release.

The asylum officer approached Razak in his cell, asking, “What are you trying to do? Are you trying to mess with my job?”

“Why are you keeping me here?”

“You should have talked to me before you went to them,” the officer complained.

“Why do I have to talk to you? I did everything you asked me to do. Now I’m doing everything I can to get out of here.”

The warden of Eloy invited Razak into his office. Uneasily, Razak he sat down across from the desk as the warden announced, “The court has already issued its response, so you have to be patient. They’re working to get you released.”

“I want to go back. I’d rather go back to Ghana then be here any longer.”

Days later Razak found out that Fred, who was also from Ghana and who had also lost his asylum plea, had written to the District Court of Arizona and had successfully petitioned for his release. 

A few weeks later, Razak was sitting in the common room watching the news when a correction officer named Peterson told him he had a visitor. 

“It’s someone from USCIS. Good luck.”

“Thank you.”

Razak was led to a small conference room and immediately saw a different asylum officer. A tall African American man sat across from him and smiled. “Razak. You’re going to be released.”

“Released to where? Am I being sent back home or somewhere else?”

“You’re going to New York.”

Tears welled up in Razak’s eyes and creased his cheeks.

“I’m sorry. I know you’ve been here a long time, but it was part of the process.”

Razak was too stunned to speak.

“You know where I’m from?” the officer asked. “I’m from New York. I see your uncle’s address here. He’s close to Yankee Stadium. That’s where I grew up. When you get there, there’s a lot of bad guys, troublemakers, make sure you don’t get mixed up with them.”

On the way back to the unit, a female correctional officer who worked near the visitation area stopped him to say, “I know you’re a good guy. You’ve never gotten in trouble with anybody. They kept you here a long time. I’m so sorry for that.”

Razak stopped, nodded, then kept walking.

Although he had lost his asylum plea, the Department of Homeland Security was legally obligated to release Razak while the U.S. government continued its deportation proceedings. It was a complicated victory, knowing he would be freed from Eloy but could be sent back to Ghana at any moment. 

Immigration officers contacted Razak’s uncle in New York, asking if he would provide money for a bus ticket across the country. Malik had no idea his nephew was still in the United States: he thought he had already been deported.

“Can I talk to him, please?” his uncle asked the immigration officer.

Razak took the phone and listened.

“Razak, is that really you? I thought they had deported you. I haven’t heard from you. Is it really you?”

“It’s me. They released me today. They want to know if you’d be willing to buy me a bus ticket to New York. I’m so sorry to call you like this.”

“Of course, don’t be sorry,” his uncle said. “Ask them what I need to do.”

The ICE officer helped Razak’s uncle send a wire through Western Union for the bus ticket.

Razak’s uncle also spoke with Razak’s friend from Ghana, Munil, who then contacted his fiancée Cynthia back in Accra and gave her the news.

On May 6, 2015, Razak was freed from the Eloy detention facility. Before his release, he signed an Order of Supervision, agreeing to report in person to the DHS/ICE field office in New York City. He also agreed that he would assist ICE in obtaining any necessary travel documents and that he would not leave New York for more than forty-eight hours without first contacting ICE. Once he had signed his release papers, once he was finally able to remove the khaki jumpsuit, he told himself he would not allow anyone to put him through anything like that again. No imprisonment, no shackles. Never.

It would be a two-and-a-half-day bus ride from Phoenix to New York. ICE officers returned Razak’s meager belongings to him, some clothes, his diary, and his portable Koran, but he had no other documents, nothing but his asylum applications and release papers. Officers brought Razak along with a few other men who had been released to the bus station. He took his seat in the middle of the bus and waited for the sound of the door closing. He could not believe he was finally free. A cold sense of disquiet set in. Once the bus pulled away, he stared out at the passing terrain, feeling as uncertain and as lost as ever.

Published June 2020 by Counterpoint Press. Copyright © 2020 Joe Meno. All rights reserved.

June Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments!

Want to know about the books you might have missed? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: I loved The Mothers, Bennett’s bestselling first novel, so I can’t wait for her second, about identical twin sisters who run away from their small Southern town at age 16. Ten years later, one of the sisters is passing as white, and not even her white husband knows the truth. The book moves back and forth in time, from the 1950s to the 1990s, and, according to the jacket copy, “considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations.” (Edan)

Parakeet by Marie-Helene Bertino: The week of her wedding, a woman known only as The Bride is visited by the spirit of her dead grandmother, who appears in the form of a parakeet. Her grandmother tells her: Don’t get married. Seek out your brother. As the novel follows The Bride in the increasingly hectic few days between this encounter and her wedding, Bertino tells a complex story about family, responsibility and the need to become our best selves. (Thom)

A Burning by Megha Majumdar: The hotly anticipated debut novel from the editor of Catapult, A Burning takes place in contemporary India and follows three characters from different circumstances as they are thrown together after a bombing. Colum McCann says “This is a novel of now: a beautifully constructed literary thriller from a rare and powerful new voice.” (Lydia)

The Lightness by Emily Temple: The first novel from LitHub senior editor Temple, The Lightness is “psychologically wise and totally wise-assed, all while being both cynical and spiritual,” according to one Mary Karr. After Olivia runs away to a place known as the Levitation Center, she joins the camp’s summer program for troubled teens and falls into a close-knit group of girls determined to learn to levitate. Of course, it’s not that easy, could even be dangerous, but Olivia’s search for true lightness pushes her towards the edge of what’s possible in this novel that blends religious belief, fairy tales and physics. (Kaulie)

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan: The debut novel from Irish writer Dolan follows Ava, a 22-year-old millennial ex-pat, who finds herself in a love triangle with Julian, a 28-year-old English banker, and Edith, a local Hong-Kong lawyer. Exciting Times keenly explores power, class, race, gender, and sexuality with equal parts humor and initmacy—as well as a wonderful addition to the spate of novels about messy young women figuring it out. About the novel, two-time Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel writes, “Droll, shrewd and unafraid—a winning debut.” (Carolyn)

Empty by Susan Burton: This American Life editor Burton’s debut memoir chronicles—with candour, vulnerablity, and strength—the nearly thirty years she spent oscillaing between anorexia and binge-eating disorder. Author Lori Gottleib says, “Empty is a tour de force of both vulnerability and strength, a memoir so unflinching and brave that it forces us to peer into our own dark places with newfound honesty and compassion.” (Carolyn)

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Set in 1950s Mexico, Moreno-Garcia’s gothic novel follows Noemí, a red lipstick-wearing socialite, as she sets out to save her cousin Catalina from High Place, a remote mountain villa that turns out to be a house of horrors. Kirkus writes: “Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.” (Carolyn)

Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan: When Elisabeth, a successful journalist and new mother, moves with her family from Brooklyn to upstate New York, she bonds with her babysitter Sam, a senior at the local women’s college. Exploring class, domesticity, motherhood and privilege, Kirkus’s starred review says “this perceptive novel about a complex friendship between two women resonates as broadly as it does deeply.” (Carolyn)

Self Care by Leigh Stein:  In Stein’s biting, satirical novel, best friends Maren Gelb and Devin Avery are the ultimate #girlbosses. Cofounders of Richual, a women’s lifestyle and wellness startup in the vein of Goop, the young women sell a vision of the world best seen through millennial pink-colored glasses—as they and their company do things that are the exact opposite of aspirational. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly writes: “Stein’s sharp writing separates her from the pack in this exquisite, Machiavellian morality tale about the ethics of looking out for oneself.” (Carolyn)

Broken People by Sam Lansky: Following his memoir The Gilded Razor, Lansky’s debut novel follows a character named Sam—a 28-year-old Los Angeles transplant from New York—who has just published a memoir about his addiction struggles. After learning about a shaman who performs “open-soul surgery” on broken people, Sam and friend travel to Portland to be healed—and to heal themselves. Author Steven Rowley calls the novel “An epic journey of self-forgiveness that confronts us with the ways in which we’re all broken, then, with the assured hand of a most talented writer, conjures the healing magic within.”. (Carolyn)

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory: Prolific rom-com writer Guillory returns with her newest novel following Olivia Monroe, a lawyer who moved to Los Angeles to start her own firm, and Max Powell, the handsome stranger she meets and flirts with at a bar. Only Max isn’t just anybody—he’s an accomplished junior senator who lives his life under a bright and intense spotlight. Their relationship, which begins through covert courting and secret dates, becomes more complicated when they go public and face a media firestorm. (Carolyn)

An Ocean Without a Shore by Scott Spencer: In his newest novel, Spencer returns to the characters from his last novel, River Under the Road. Focusing on Kip Woods—a side character from River—and his years-old, unrequited-longing for his best friend Thaddeus Kaufman, a once-successful writer whose career and life has fallen into desrepair. Kip struggles with the ways his personal compass has always pointed in the direction of Thaddeus—sometimes, surprisingly often, at the detriment of his own happiness and well-being. Joshua Ferris calls Spencer a “fierce observer with the soul of a romantic, he knows what matters most: that our folly, put on display, should wreck, ravish, engulf us.” (Carolyn)

A More Perfect Reunion by Calvin Baker: In his newest book, novelist and Hurston-Wright Award finalist Baker argues for
integration, which he views as the single best way to to create a society no longer predecated upon and defined by race. Exploring a wide breadth of U.S. history, politics, and culture, Baker offers insight into how we came to our current moment—and what we need to do going forward to form a more perfect union. “Required reading for any American serious about dismantling systemic racism,” says Kirkus’s starred review. (Carolyn)

The House on Fripp Island by Rebecca Kauffman: Set in the 1990s, Kauffman’s latest novel follows two families—drawn together by the mothers’ friendship; torn apart by their class differences—on a life-changing, world-shattering vacation. Tensions rise. Secrets are revealed. Violence erupts. And their lives are forever cleaved into Before Fripp and After Fripp. Julie Buntin says, “Kauffman’s latest is a rare and gripping combination of gloriously observed prose and three hundred pages of pure suspense.” (Carolyn)

Between Everything and Nothing by Joe Meno: Meno’s newest book explores the true story of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal—two Ghanaian asylum seekers—as they separately navigate the  brutalities of the broken U.S. immigration system. “Though harrowing,” writes Sigrid Nunez, “the story…is also deeply inspiring, revealing how two powerless but fiercely courageous asylum seekers, battered by years of injustice and cruelty, held fast to their religious faith, their dignity, and their love and hope for humanity.” (Carolyn)

Swan Song by Lisa Alther: In the wake of the sudden deaths of her parents and Kat, her decades-long partner, Dr. Jessie Drake flees from her life and accepts a job from a former flame aboard the Amphitrite, a British liner, as the ship’s doctor. While the cruise quickly falls into chaos—including, but not limited to affairs among passengers and a hijacking by pirates—Jessie, who is mired in grief, finds herself looking for answers in Kat’s journals. (Carolyn)

Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why by Alexandra Petri: Washington Post columnist and humorist Petri’s essay collection—which includes both new and previously published pieces—explores the horrors of our current political climate with sarcasm, wit, humor, and rage. Publishers Weekly’s starred review says, “Acidic and spot-on, Petri’s work captures the surreal quality of Trump’s tenure as perhaps no other book has.” (Carolyn)

Sad Janet by Lucie Britsch: Britsch’s darkly funny debut follows Janet, a deeply sad and anxious woman who works at a dog shelter, can’t stand her boyfriend, and finds herself surrounded by people who are trying to get her to change. When a new pill designed to make Christmas more manageable hits the market, Janet must decide whether or not to take it—and if she wants to leave her “manageable melancholia” behind. About the novel, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney writes: “Lucie Britsch has crafted a biting, pitch-perfect novel about one woman’s desire to stay true to herself in a world that rewards facile happiness.” (Carolyn)

Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu: From the author of The Windfall comes the story of Tina Das, a young woman living in New York, who decides to attend her cousin’s lavish, week-long wedding in Delhi. Running from her recent breakup, a stagnant career, and an uncertain future in America, Tina hopes to unwind and relax during the wedding, only to find herself mired in more drama than she knows what to do with. Terry McMillan calls Destination Wedding “a witty and romantic novel perfect for all readers.” (Carolyn)

Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips: Winner of the 2019 C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize, Phillips’s first collection explores the rich tapestry of a small, rural town in North Carolina and the people who live there. A starred review in Publishers Weekly calls it a “blunt, life-affirming debut collection” that “stands out in the field of current Southern fiction.” (Carolyn)

And the Winners of the 2020 Best Translated Book Awards Are…

The 2020 Best Translated Book Awards—announced in a livestreaming event earlier this evening—were given to Daša Drndić’s EEG and Etel Adnan’s Time.

EEG, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth and published by New Directions, won for fiction. Lebanese-American Adnan’s Time, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs and published by Nightboat, took the poetry prize.

EEG was Drndić’s last novel, and the fourth translated by Hawkesworth, who has translated nearly 40 books in an accomplished career. Drndić is the first female author to win the fiction category since Can Xue in 2015, though as translators, men and woman are equally represented throughout the years. It is the third time New Directions has taken home this award.

Of EEG, the jury says:
Dasa Drndic in her encyclopedic, panoramic novel, superbly translated by Celia Hawkesworth, calls forth the ghosts of Europe’s 20th century in a biting indictment against complacency and the comfort and convenience of forgetting. A frenzy of observations and deeply researched facts, seething with rage and urgency, it is a haunting and masterful final work. A final work that continues on like a river. It rushes, rages through time, collecting detritus and eroding the landscape, shifting and changing at every bend. It smothers and subsumes, with palpable anger as it attempts to drown the reader again and again before granting them air at the last possible moment. There may be no better descriptor for Hawkesworth’s translation of Drndić’s prose than torrential. You may struggle and try to resist, but at a certain point, you will let yourself be swept away by it. You will give in and trust that it knows which way to go. Once in that place, EEG holds and envelops like few books in memory have.
This year’s fiction jury was comprised of: Elisa Wouk Almino (writer and translator), Pierce Alquist (Transnational Literature Series, Brookline Booksmith), Hailey Dezort (marketing and events coordinator for Kaye Publicity), Louisa Ermelino (author and columnist for Publishers Weekly), Hal Hlavinka (writer and critic), Keaton Patterson (Brazos Bookstore), Christopher Phipps (bookseller), Lesley Rains (City of Asylum Bookstore), Justin Walls (bookseller)

This is the second recent major award for Sarah Riggs’s translation of Adnan’s Time, following the Griffin Poetry Prize and a nomination as a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Though this is a translation from the French, Adnan also writes in English and Arabic. A poet herself, this was Sarah Riggs’s first BTBA nomination. This marks the seventh year in a row that the poetry prize has been awarded to both a female author and translator. It is the first time Nightboat has won the BTBA.

Of Time, the jury offers:
What’s not to savor in Etal Adnan’s philosophical and precise, yet intensely moving Time, thoughtfully and beautifully translated by Sarah Riggs? Adnan does not shy away from questions of mortality…indeed, the book’s opening stanza tells us, “I say that I’m not afraid/ of dying because I haven’t/ yet had the experience/of death.” Later in the book, we learn “There are arteries,/ veins, and other channels/ that all lead to death.” Yet despite it all, we are asked to consider that “Some flowers/ wilt tombs while/ orchards begin/ to blossom.” Indeed, the poems in these six sequences bloom with the beauty the world has to offer as well as those who have created these human-made gifts through the ages: Homer, Issa, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Shostakovich. Love, death, and the greater cosmos interweave the fabric of our lives: “there are loves that grow/ like cancers. We attach ourselves/ to them like the body to its illness,/ the moon to the earth.” And even though we’re told that “time can’t be translated,” Sarah Riggs has done a masterful job rendering Adnan’s stunning truths.
This year’s poetry jury was comprised of Nancy Naomi Carlson (poet and translator), Patricia Lockwood (poet), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), Laura Marris (writer and translator), Brandon Shimoda (author)

‘A Children’s Bible’: Featured Fiction from Lydia Millet

In our latest edition of featured fiction—curated by our own Carolyn Quimby—we’re excited to present an excerpt from A Children’s Bible by Pulitzer Prize finalist Lydia Millet, out today from Norton.

Kirkus called the novel—about a group of friends and their reunion gone wrong at a summer house—”A bleak and righteously angry tale determined to challenge our rationalizations about climate change.” And The New York Times Book Review hailed the title, saying, “This superb novel begins as a generational comedy…and turns steadily darker, as climate collapse and societal breakdown encroach. But Millet’s light touch never falters; in this time of great upheaval, she implies, our foundational myths take on new meaning and hope.”

Days passed slowly. It was a season of no storms and little rain. By the calendar it wasn’t fall yet, but somehow it wasn’t summer anymore either. Summer had been another time, when we had a great house to go back to, a shining lake, and the blue ocean.

In the mornings we took care of the donkeys and goats and helped Mattie in the vegetable garden. We made lunch in rotation. As afternoon wore on, we washed dirty clothes in the cottage sink and hung them out to dry. We scrubbed ourselves down with cold water, shared toothbrushes until they fell apart, and used small dabs of toothpaste. Those of us with periods had to cut a single sponge into pieces. We boiled the pieces on the stove to sterilize them.

The angels refueled the generator with gas from the silo. They liked to patrol the woods. We took turns cooking dinner with Darla and the angel named John, who’d been a sous-​chef once. After dinner Sukey would take the baby to her mother’s grave and give her a bottle and rock her to sleep. She was building a cairn at the grave with rocks from the stream, a couple more every day.

We mostly kept the lights off in the cottage, to save power and maintain a low profile. A few nights Rafe made fires outside, but we rationed them for safety. We’d gather close around the fire while the angels tried to teach us their hippie songs.

Darla said singing was good for your health.

“It’s like smiling,” she said. “The more you do it, the more you want to!”

Juicy spat.

They taught us a famous, sad song that went “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again,” and a cheerful one called “Spirit in the Sky” that Jack liked because it talked about Jesus, his imaginary friend. The rest of us were OK with it because the angels said it was ironic. Written by a Jew from Massachusetts.

“Never been a sinner, I never sinned,” we sang, off-​key as the karaoke version played on our puck-​shaped speaker. “I got a friend in Jee-​sus.”

Sometimes we yelled it, almost defiantly: “Never been a sinner! I never sinned!”

A photo came by text, onto Rafe’s phone from David’s. A view of the library in the great house. Chairs and tables and sofas had been pushed to the sides of the room, against the tall bookshelves, and a row of mattresses had replaced them.

On the mattresses lay parents, and beside them David and Dee and Low. Zooming in, we could see thin red lines running between the arms of young and old. Graceful loops of tubing.

It reminded me of a news story I’d read, with photos, about a pharma­ceutical lab. In it were hundreds of horseshoe crabs whose blood was being harvested for medical testing. The machines siphoned off enough blood that the crabs didn’t die but lived to be harvested again and again.

The company called it blood farming.

Beside me, Jack stared at the image as I zoomed. In the back, small and blurry, was the fireplace, and above it a painting of hunters with their hounds.

He touched the tip of his finger to the screen, moved it along a red loop of tube from David to David’s mother. Tracing the swoops.

“He’s going back where he came from,” he said.

Jack and Shel were at a crucial moment in their “childhood journey,” according to Darla. The time away from school and other kids their age could be “inhibiting their social and educational development.”

She had an idea. “Our very own prairie school!” she cried, clapping her hands in delight. We cringed.

They could take classes: biology taught by Mattie, history taught by John, and poetry taught by her.

“The angels don’t have enough to do,” said Terry, when we conferred about it. “Could get antsy. Even destructive.”

“Idle hands do the devil’s work,” said Rafe.

So we said yes. They could “teach” the little boys, if they wanted. We thanked them for their interest.

Sometimes I’d sit in a parked car, motionless. I’d remember factories. I’d seen them onscreen in a hundred variations and always had the sense of them out there, churning, whirring, infinite moving pieces. Making the stuff we used.

Now I wondered if they were still busy, manufacturing. Or were shuttered and dark. Were other factories in other places doing the work they used to do? Or were certain components no longer made at all?

I let my eyes rest on a dashboard, its vinyl surfaces, the dust on the curves. I wondered what was behind the plastic and what parts of it were already obsolete.

My phone had ceased to interest me since the news started repeating, bringing a wash of grimness whenever I looked. I solved the problem by ignoring it.

The others abandoned theirs too—​days would pass between updates. Rafe and David texted a check-​in at night, just: OK? out. And OK back.

For a while that was it.

Before the storm we’d caught sight of the parents’ screens sometimes, snagged their devices when we needed a quick fix. Gotten flashes of TV through a doorway. But these days we mostly had what was in front of us, the cottage and barn and long grass in the fields. Long and short, tussocks and bare patches. Topography. We had the wood of the walls and fences, the metal of the parked cars with their near-​empty gas tanks.

We had the corners of buildings and the slope of the hills, the line of the treetops. The more time passed, the more any flat image began to seem odd and less than real. Uncanny delicate surfaces. Had we always had them?

We’d had so many pictures. Pictures just everywhere, every hour, minute, or second.

But now they were foreign. Now we saw everything in three dimensions.

From A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet (W.W. Norton, 2020). Copyright © 2020 by Lydia Millet. Published with permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

Bonus Links from Our Archive:
A Year in Reading 2014: Lydia Millet
A Year in Reading 2012: Lydia Millet
A Year in Reading 2007: Lydia Millet

Best Translated Book Awards Names 2020 Finalists

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The Best Translated Books Awards today named its 2020 finalists for fiction and poetry. The award, founded by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, comes with $10,000 in prizes from the Amazon Literary Partnership. The prize will be split evenly between the winning authors and translators.

Be sure to check out this year’s fiction and poetry longlists, which we announced last month. And at Three Percent, guest writers contributed arguments for why each nominee deserves to win this year’s award.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Fiction Finalists

Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (France, Grove)

EEG by Daša Drndić, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth (Croatia, New Directions)

Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler (Russia, New York Review Books)

Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff (Argentina, Charco Press)

Good Will Come From the Sea by Christos Ikonomou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Greece, Archipelago Books)

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Japan, Pantheon)

77 by Guillermo Saccomanno, translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger (Argentina, Open Letter Books)

Beyond Babylon by Igiaba Scego, translated from the Italian by Aaron Robertson (Italy, Two Lines Press)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Poland, Riverhead)

Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated from the Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt (Japan, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This year’s fiction jury is comprised of Elisa Wouk Almino, Pierce Alquist, Hailey Dezort, Louisa Ermelino, Hal Hlavinka, Keaton Patterson, Christopher Phipps, Lesley Rains, and Justin Walls.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Poetry Finalists

Aviva-No by Shimon Adaf, translated from the Hebrew by Yael Segalovitz (Israel, Alice James Books)

Time by Etel Adnan, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs (Lebanon, Nightboat Books)

Materia Prima by Amanda Berenguer, translated from the Spanish by Gillian Brassil, Anna Deeny Morales, Mónica de la Torre, Urayoán Noel, Jeannine Marie Pitas, Kristin Dykstra, Kent Johnson, and Alex Verdolini (Uruguay, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Next Loves by Stéphane Bouquet, translated from the French by Lindsay Turner (France, Nightboat Books)

Camouflage by Lupe Gómez, translated from the Galician by Erín Moure (Spain, Circumference Books)

This year’s poetry jury is comprised of Nancy Naomi Carlson, Patricia Lockwood, Aditi Machado, Laura Marris, and Brandon Shimoda.

The winners for both the fiction and poetry awards will be announced on May 27.

May Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

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We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments!

Want to know about the books you might have missed? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin: Schweblin’s Little Eyes is her second novel to be translated into English (her first was the frenzied Fever Dream). In Spanish, the novel’s title is Kentukis, which is also the name for the cutesy device, described as a “creepier Furby,” that acts as a portal between lives of the owner and the person who has purchased essentially a voyeur’s right to its camera feed. Embedded within this novel of international interconnectivity are questions of the exhibitionism and voyeurism tied up in our use of technology. Expect echoes of the Wachowskis’ Sense8, except told with what has been characterized as Schweblin’s “neurotic unease.” (Anne)

Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride: A woman walks into a hotel room. Then another, and another. Hotels in Austin, Avignon, Auckland, others, and each room reflects back something of herself. Sometimes she meets a man, sometimes she fights with her memories, and sometimes she thinks about what it would mean to go home. An avid McBride fan ever since A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, I eagerly await the arrival of what’s sure to be a darkly brilliant work. (Kaulie)

Drifts by Kate Zambreno: Drifts is Zambreno’s first novel since Green Girl, and is first in a series that continues to explore and reify her obsessions with artistic ambition and the possibilities and failures of literature. Her narrator spends long days alone, corresponding with writers and taking photos of residents and strays in her neighborhood alike—with nods to the likes of Rilke, Dürer, and Chantal Ackerman, among others. “Zambreno’s books have a way of getting under your skin,” writes Paris Review staffer Rhian Sasseen, as does “her willingness to write ugly, to approach the banal and the cliché as just another tool and subvert it into works of rage and oftentimes real beauty.” (Anne)

The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian: Set in his native Detroit in the grim year of 2009, Zadoorian’s new novel, The Narcissism of Small Differences, is a comedy of the compromises Joe Keen, a failed fiction writer, and Ana Urbanek, an advertising copy writer, have made over the course of their long relationship. Their compromises come in many flavors—financial, moral, professional—and as these two creative types near their dreaded 40s, they’re forced to confront the people they have become because of those compromises. Like Zadoorian’s earlier novels—The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, The Leisure Seeker and Beautiful Music—this new novel brims with wit, passion and soul. (Bill)

The Book of V.​ by ​Anna Solomon: This novel intertwines the lives of three women across centuries: Lily, a mother in Brooklyn in 2016 who is grappling with her sexual and intellectual desires; Vivian, a political wife in Watergate-era Washington, D.C., who refuses to obey her ambitious husband; and Esther, an independent young woman in ancient Persia who is offered up as a sacrifice to please the king. Solomon, the author of Leaving Lucy Pear and The Little Bride, explores how things have both changed and stayed the same. Mary Beth Keane says it’s “searingly inventive, humane, and honest.” (Claire)

Death of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee: The capstone of Coetzee’s Jesus Trilogy, this latest novel returns to the life of the boy David, the protagonist of the first two books in the series. But this time it’s David—in perhaps the story’s sole clear analogy to the life of Christ—dying too young. And was his life, stripped of every cursory marker of identity, worth anything? Is everything, as the sages have told us, meaningless? Coetzee, via David, leaves us with better template by which to ask—if never answer—these questions. (Il’ja)

All Adults Here​ by ​Emma Straub​: I keep hearing online chatter that this is Straub’s best novel yet. When Astrid Strick witnesses an accident, a suppressed memory causes her to question the legacy of her parenting to her now-grown children. Elizabeth Strout says it’s, “totally engaging and smart book about the absolutely marvelous messiness of what makes up family.” Ann Patchett says it’s “brimming with kindness, forgiveness, humor.” Straub is a New York Times-bestselling author and co-owner of the vibrant Brooklyn bookstore Books Are Magic. (Claire)

Shiner by Amy Jo Burns: Burns’s memoir, Cinderland, powerfully evoked the post-industrial ruins, both physical and psychic, of her childhood home in Mercury, Penn. In Shiner, she returns with a book similarly rooted in geography, the story of 15-year-old Wren Bird, who lives in isolation on a West Virginia mountain with her mother and father, an itinerant preacher and snake-handler. When tragedy strikes at one of her father’s sermons, Wren is forced to discover the truth about her family and imagine a life outside of her cloistered West Virginia existence. The Millions’ own Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State, calls Shiner “a lush, gripping novel that explores love, grief, rage, and regeneration in a small Appalachian community,” and says, “I won’t forget the haunting mood, place, and characters that Burns brings to life.” (Adam P.)

Sorry for Your Trouble by Richard Ford: Pulitzer-Prize winner Ford’s latest is a short story collection that explores themes of love and loss, taking readers to his native Mississippi, as well as New Orleans and Canada. The volume includes a novella, The Run of Yourself, which depicts a New Orleans widower learning to cope without his Irish wife. (Hannah)

A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet: This new novel from the Pulitzer Prize finalist takes place at a family vacation, where 12 children break off from their parents’ revelries and find themselves in apocalyptic circumstances. Karen Russell calls Millet “A writer without limits.” (Lydia)

All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad: Critic and fiction writer Masad’s debut novel follows 27-year-old Maggie Krause, whose mother has just died in a car crash. On her return home, Maggie finds five sealed envelopes from her mother, each addressed to a man Maggie doesn’t know. Maggie sets out on a road trip to discover the truth about her mother’s hidden life, and her own difficulties with intimacy. Described by Kristen Arnett as a “queer tour de force.” (Jacqueline)

Quotients by Tracy O’Neill: National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree O’Neill’s (The Hopeful) sophomore effort follows a young couple attempting to make a seemingly conventional home together—but this story turns into a heady brew of fractured identities, aliases, big data, and what it means to live in this age of terrorism and global surveillance. Fiona Maazel (A Little More Human) describes it as “a love story rendered in galloping prose that takes you all over the map.” Looking forward to this timely and intriguing work. (Marie Myung-Ok Lee)

Index of Self-Destructive Acts by Chris Beha: Beha’s novel begins in 2009, with two prophets: a street preacher who promises an apocalyptic “Great Unveiling” and Sam Waxworth, a religious skeptic and software engineer whose “political projection system” predicted every result of the 2008 election. Now a writer, Waxworth has been assigned a piece on Frank Doyle, a legendary, infamous commentator of baseball and politics. The assignment turns out to be more than Waxworth expected, widening and revealing his own faults. Beha’s earlier work has been rightfully compared to the work of Graham Greene, and in this new novel Beha does what only Greene and a handful of other novelists have been able to accomplish: make God, belief, and doubt the stuff of serious fiction—even down to the probing dialogue of his characters. (Nick R.)

Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma: Francis-Sharma’s prose shines in this epic and propulsive historical novel that is set in Trinidad and the American West, and follows the life of Rosa Rendón, who is talented, bright, and fierce. Laila Lalami writes that the novel “recreates the hybrid history of Native and African peoples during the era of American exploration and expansion,” and Peter Ho Davies says that it “adds (or better say restores) another strand to our national narrative. We’re all the richer for Book of the Little Axe.” (Zoë)

Latitudes of Longing by Shubangi Shwarup: Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2020, this novel brings together characters as disparate as a geologist and a yeti. Nilanjana S. Roy writes, “Astonishing and completely original, Shubhangi Swarup’s magical novel will change the way you see people—and landscapes, forests, the oceans, snow deserts. She stirs your curiosity about the earth, takes you from sadness and heartbreak to rich, unexpected surprises, and finds hope in the cracks of broken lives.” (Lydia)

Stray by Stephanie Danler: In her debut memoir, Danler, the bestselling author of Sweetbitter (her debut novel), explores the trauma of growing up with (and eventually fleeing) her addiction-riddled, dysfunctional family—and the ways she faced her painful past in order to move into her future. Author Lisa Taddeo calls the memoir many things including “hot,” “dark,” “quiet,” “tender,” and, ultimately, “a compulsive, neck-breaking masterpiece.” (Carolyn)

Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollet: In his debut memoir, Jollet, frontman of the indie rock band Airborne Toxic Event, writes about his childhood growing up in the Church of Synanon, a commune turned dangerous cult; living with his broken and dysfunctional family post-escape; and the ways music saved him—from them and himself. Adrienne Brodeur says, “Jollett’s story serves as a potent reminder that while we cannot change the hand we’re dealt, our freedom lies in what we choose to do with those cards.” (Carolyn)

Officer Clemmons by François S. Clemmons: Clemmons’s debut memoir recounts his incredible life, which included growing up gay and Black in 1950s Alabama and Ohio; being the first African American actor to have a reoccurring role on children’s television (as Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood); and his creative and spiritual pursuits after leaving the show. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called the “uplifting memoir” a “thoroughly delightful, inspiring story will speak particularly to artists in marginalized communities.” (Carolyn)

The Anthill by Julianne Pachico: In a follow-up to 2017’s debut, The Lucky Ones, Pachico’s sophomore novel follows Lina, a 28-year-old academic, who returns to Medellin, Colombia, after 20 years away. Once there, she reunites with her childhood best friend, Mattías, who is now running a refuge for poor children called The Anthill. Then things begin to take a strange, sinister, and supernatural turn. Author Sharlene Teo says: “It’s a novel that laughs through a mouthful of blood, which scares and touches, dazzles and compels.” (Carolyn)

Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here by Nancy Wayson Dinan: Set in 2015 in a flood-ravaged central Texas, Dinan’s debut novel follows Boyd Montgomery, an 18-year-old woman who is searching for her missing friend. The devastating weather has not only made the well-known landscape unrecognizable, it’s also opened up the world to the surreal and mystical. Kirkus calls the novel “By turns magical, harshly realistic, poetic, aggravating, and enthralling.” (Carolyn)

Red Dress in Black and White by Elliot Ackerman: Full of political intrigue, extramarital affairs, and unfulfilled ambition, Ackerman’s latest novel takes place over the course of one day as Catherine, an American living in Istanbul, attempts to leave Turkey with her sons—and without her husband, Murat, an influential and connected Turkish real estate developer. (Carolyn)

Here We Are by Benjamin Taylor: With Phillip Roth’s blessing and the promise not to publish it until after his death, Taylor’s newest memoir offers an intimate portrait of Roth, one of our finest writers and his best friend. Lisa Halliday, whose debut novel, Asymmetry, features a fictionalized Roth, calls the memoir “A poignant and frequently poetic tribute to a friendship abundant with laughter, erudition, generosity, devotion, and grace.” (Carolyn)

‘Starling Days’: Featured Fiction from Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

In today’s edition of featured fiction—curated by our own Carolyn Quimby—we present an excerpt from Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, out today from The Overlook Press.

Publishers Weekly called the book a “bleak and eloquent novel,” adding that “Readers willing to brave the darkness will find a worthy, nuanced portrait of a woman’s struggle for self-determination amid mental illness.” And, in its starred review, Kirkus called the novel “Poetic and understated…Complex and resonant.”

Chapter 1


She wasn’t expecting the bridge to shudder. It was too big for trembling. Cars hissed from New York to New Jersey over its wide back. That August had been hot, 96° Fahrenheit hot. Heat softened the dollar bills and clung to the quarters and dimes that passed from sticky hand to sticky hand.

It was night and the air had cooled but humidity still hung in a red fog in Mina’s lungs. Wind galloped over the Hudson, pummeling the city with airy hooves. The bridge shifted, the pylons swayed, and Mina closed her eyes to better feel her bones judder. Even her teeth shook. The day’s sweat shivered between her bare shoulder blades. The tank top felt too thin, and the down on her arms rose. She took a step forward along the bridge. The tender spots between her big and index toes were sore from too many days in flip-flops. She took the sandals off. They swung from her fingers as she walked. Under her feet, the rough cement was warm. She wondered about the people driving their shadowy cars. Were they leaving over-air-conditioned offices, or bars cooled by the thwack of ceiling fans? Were they going home to empty condos, or daughters tucked under dinosaur quilts?

The bridge was decked out in blue lights, like a Christmas tree, like those monochrome ones shopping malls put up. Still, it was beautiful. Mina readied her phone to take a picture. She watched the granulated night appear onscreen. Perhaps her hands wobbled, because the photo was a blur. It was nothing she could send Oscar. But she wasn’t sure it was a good idea to send him pictures. Not tonight.

She stopped in the middle of the bridge. Hello, Manhattan. Downriver, apartment blocks spiked upwards. She couldn’t see Queens and the walk-up apartment building she’d grown up inside. Nor could she see the Park Slope apartment, in which Oscar was working late. He’d have a mug on his desk, the coffee gone cold hours ago. The photo of her would be propped up behind his computer. The sparkly stress ball she’d bought him years ago as a joke gift would rest at his wrist. Every hour or so he’d roll it between his palms. When he was working, he didn’t notice time. She was sure he wouldn’t yet be worried. She’d said she was meeting some friends after the tutoring gig. He didn’t know she’d texted the group that she was feeling unwell and would miss movie night. He wouldn’t expect her for at least two hours. No one was expecting her. She was unwitnessed. She lifted her face to the breeze.

The river was as dark as poured tarmac. They said that when a body fell onto water from this height, it was like hitting the sidewalk. The Golden Gate had nets to stop jumpers. She imagined the feeling of a rope cutting into arms and legs. Your body would flop, like a fish. How long did they have to lie there before someone scooped them out? There was nothing like that here. People said that drowning was a good death, that the tiny alveoli of the lungs filled like a thousand water balloons.

She lifted one purple flip-flop and dropped it over the water. She didn’t hear it hit. The shape simply vanished into the black shadow.

That was when the lights got brighter and the voice, male and certain, lobbed into her ears. 

“Ma’am, step away from the rail.”

The police car’s lights flashed blue and white and red. Once she’d had an ice-pop those colors and the sugary water had pooled behind her teeth.

“Ma’am, step away from the rail.”

“Good evening, Officer. Have I done something wrong?” Mina asked.

“Please get into the car,” he said. There were two of them. The other was younger and he was speaking into a radio. It was hard to make out his words over the wind and traffic. Was he talking about her?

“This is a public walkway,” Mina said. “It was open. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Ma’am, get into the car.”

“I don’t want to get into the car. Look, I was just getting some air. I was thinking. I’ll go home now.”

“Ma’am, don’t make me come over there.”

Mina had never been in a police car. She’d read once that the back doors only open from the outside. Who knew what would happen if she got into the car?

The window was rolled down and the cop stuck his head out.

There was a lump on his upper lip, a pimple perhaps. “Where are your shoes?”

“It’s hot out,” she said. “Where are your shoes?”

“I don’t want to tell you about my shoes,” she said. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m an American citizen.”

“Ma’am, where are your shoes?”

She lifted up the single flip-flop she had left. “The other one broke,” she said.

Behind him, other cars continued into the night. Did they even notice her standing in the dark, a small woman with bare legs and feet? She was aware of the bluing bruise she’d caught banging her knee on the subway door. In the shower that morning, she’d skipped shaving her legs. In the beam of his headlamps, could he see hairs standing up in splinters?

“Ma’am, I really need you to get into the car. I can’t leave you here. What if something happened to you?” In his voice, she heard the insinuation that normal women, innocent women, didn’t walk alone on bridges at night.

“I’m fine,” she said.

Mina knew her stubby ponytail was frizzy. Bleaching black to Marilyn Monroe–blonde had taken four rounds of peroxide. Now it stood up in breaking strands. If she’d conditioned it, would this cop think she was sane? If she’d blow-dried it, would he have let her go home? And, of course, there were the tattoos twining up her arms.

“We can talk about it in the car,” he said. His shadowed friend was bent over the radio, lips to the black box.

Mina was tired. It was the heat, or perhaps the wind. So she got into the car. The seat was smooth. Someone must’ve chosen the fabric specially. This must be wipeable and disinfectable. People probably spat on this seat. They probably pissed on purpose and by mistake. Between the front and back seats was a grille. She would not be able to reach out to touch the curve of the cop’s ear or straighten his blue collar. The flip-flop lay across her knees.

The cops wanted to know her name, address, phone number and Social Security. She gave them.

“We’re taking you to Mount Sinai,” said the cop.

“I was just going for a walk, clearing my head. I don’t need to be in a hospital. I was just clearing my head.”

Damn. Repeating yourself was a habit of the guilty. Mina tried to slow her breath.

“See it from my point of view,” he said. “You’re walking alone on the bridge at night. I can’t let you out. I don’t know what would happen.”

Only then did she understand that they must do this every night, drive back and forth across the bridge looking for people like her.

“I have to go to work tomorrow,” she said. “My husband will want to know where I am. Please, please, just let me go to the subway.”

“We can’t do that, ma’am.”

The car left the bridge and fell back into Manhattan. She kept telling them she wasn’t trying to cause trouble. She said it so many times that the word “trouble” began to sound like “burble” or “bubble.” Heat rose in her eyes. She pushed the water off her face.

Finally, they agreed that she could call her husband, and they would go to the paramedics parked near the bridge. If the paramedics said she was okay, she could go home.

“Oscar,” she said. “Oscar, I need you to come get me. They won’t let me leave until you come get me.”

Published April 2020 by The Overlook Press/ABRAMS. Copyright © 2020 Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. All rights reserved.

Best Translated Book Awards Names 2020 Longlists

In its 13th year of honoring literature in translation, the Best Translated Book Awards named its 2020 longlists for fiction and poetry.

Announced exclusively here at The Millions, the BTBA longlists feature a diverse group of authors and translators from a variety of publishers, both large and small. The 35 books on this year’s longlists represent 20 different countries and feature authors writing in 18 languages.

No previous BTBA winners were nominated this year, though readers will find familiar translators on both lists, including legends like Geraldine Harcourt; experienced veterans like Erin Mouré, Natasha Wimmer, and Jonathan Wright; and newer stars like Emma Ramadan and Aaron Robertson. The authors on this year’s lists follow suit, with nominees including Daša Drndić, Marie NDiaye, Olga Tokarczuk, Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, and Vasily Grossman.

From now until the winners are announced, Three Percent will host arguments for why each nominee deserves to win this year’s award.

Thanks to financial support from the Amazon Literary Partnership, the winning authors and translators will receive a monetary prize. The shortlists for both the fiction and poetry awards will be announced by early May.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Fiction Longlist

The Wind that Lays Waste by Selva Almada, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (Argentina, Graywolf)

The Book of Collateral Damage by Sinan Antoon, translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright (Iraq, Yale University Press)

Welcome to America by Linda Boström Knausgård, translated from the Swedish by Martin Aitken (Sweden, World Editions)

Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (France, Grove)

Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (France, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy, Europa Editions)

EEG by Daša Drndić, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth (Croatia, New Directions)

Space Invaders by Nona Fernández, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (Chile Graywolf)

Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler (Russia, New York Review Books)

Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, translated from the Spanish by Sara Moses and Carolina Orloff (Argentina, Charco Press)

Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth, translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund (Norway, Verso)

Good Will Come From the Sea by Christos Ikonomou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Greece, Archipelago Books)

Tentacle by Rita Indiana, translated from the Spanish by Achy Obejas (Dominican Republic, And Other Stories)

China Dream by Ma Jian, translated from the Chinese by Flora Drew (China, Counterpoint)

Parade by Hiromi Kawakami, translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell (Japan, Soft Skull)

Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa, translated from the Arabic by Leri Price (Syria, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The Boy by Marcus Malte, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan and Tom Roberge (France, Restless Books)

The Cheffe: A Cook’s Novel by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordon Stump (France, Knopf)

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Japan, Pantheon)

A Dream Come True by Juan Carlos Onetti, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (Uruguay, Archipelago Books)

77 by Guillermo Saccomanno, translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger (Argentina, Open Letter Books)

Beyond Babylon by Igiaba Scego, translated from the Italian by Aaron Robertson (Italy, Two Lines Press)

Labyrinth by Burhan Sönmez, translated from the Turkish by Umit Hussein (Turkey, Other Press)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Poland, Riverhead)

Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated from the Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt (Japan, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This year’s fiction jury is comprised of Elisa Wouk Almino, Pierce Alquist, Hailey Dezort, Louisa Ermelino, Hal Hlavinka, Keaton Patterson, Christopher Phipps, Lesley Rains, and Justin Walls.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Poetry Longlist

Aviva-No by Shimon Adaf, translated from the Hebrew by Yael Segalovitz (Israel, Alice James Books)

Time by Etel Adnan, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs (Lebanon, Nightboat Books)

Materia Prima by Amanda Berenguer, translated from the Spanish by Gillian Brassil, Anna Deeny Morales, Mónica de la Torre, Urayoán Noel, Jeannine Marie Pitas, Kristin Dykstra, Kent Johnson, and Alex Verdolini (Uruguay, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Next Loves by Stéphane Bouquet, translated from the French by Lindsay Turner (France, Nightboat Books)

Camouflage by Lupe Gómez, translated from the Galician by Erín Moure (Spain, Circumference Books)

Book of Minutes by Gemma Gorga, translated from the Catalan by Sharon Dolin (Spain, Oberlin College Press)

The Catalan Poems by Pere Gimferrer, translated from the Catalan by Adrian Nathan West (Spain, Carcanet)

Tell Me, Kenyalang by Kulleh Grasi, translated from the Malay and Iban by Pauline Fan (Malaysia, Circumference Books)

A Drink of Red Mirror by Kim Hyesoon, translated from the Korean by Jiwon Shin, Lauren Albin, and Sue Hyon Bae (South Korea, Action Books)

The Winter Garden Photograph by Reina María Rodríguez, translate from the Spanish by Kristin Dykstra and Nancy Gates Madsen (Cuba, Ugly Duckling Presse)

This year’s poetry jury is comprised of Nancy Naomi Carlson, Patricia Lockwood, Aditi Machado, Laura Marris, and Brandon Shimoda.

For more information, visit the Best Translated Book Award site, the BTBA Facebook page, and the BTBA Twitter. And check out our coverage from 201620172018, and 2019.

March Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments!

Want to know about the books you might have missed? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich: Celebrated novelist Erdrich, author of Love Medicine, The Plague of Doves, and The Round House, returns to the Chippewa Turtle Mountain Reservation in The Night Watchman. One of the most powerful voices in contemporary Native-American literature, Erdrich provides a fictionalization of her own uncle’s story, when he journeyed from North Dakota to Washington D..C in 1953 to testify on a congressional hearing about the Termination Act, which would once again abrogate the United States’ treaties with a Native-American nation. The Night Watchmen, as with all of Erdrich’s writing, reminds us that Native-American culture is not hidden in history books and museums, but an identity that is current, or as she writes in The Plague of Doves, “History works itself out in the living.” (Ed S.)

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel: The Millions’ own Mandel is back with The Glass Hotel, the long-awaited sequel to her much-beloved first novel, Station Eleven, a National Book Award finalist. Where Station Eleven explored a post-apocalyptic landscape ravaged by a super-plague, The Glass Hotel explores what Mandel calls “the kingdom of money”— locales as disparate as a South Carolina prison and a container ship in international waters—and the messily intertwined lives of half-siblings Vincent and Paul. In a starred review of The Glass Hotel, Publishers Weekly says, “This ingenious, enthralling novel probes the tenuous yet unbreakable bonds between people and the lasting effects of momentary carelessness.” (Adam P.)

Longing for an Absent God: Faith and Doubt in Great American Fiction by Nick Ripatrazone: The Millions’ own Ripatrazone has proven himself over the past decade to be one of our most adept critics at explicating the faith of poetry and the poetics of faith. Now in Longing for an Absent God: Faith and Doubt in Great American Fiction, Ripatrazone asks in what sense Roman Catholicism informs the writings of some of our most crucial writers, from Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy to more surprising authors like Toni Morrison (who converted) and Cormac McCarthy. For Ripatrazone, there is a fruitful tension between those who joined the Church, those who left it, and those who stayed. “Writers long for God,” Ripatrazone argues, “and their longing creates a beautiful and melancholy story.” (Ed S.)

Lakewood by Megan Giddings: After Lena Johnson’s grandmother dies and her family falls on hard times, she drops out of college and applies to participate in a secretive research project. The pay is good, there’s health insurance, but something’s off. Lena, a black millennial, joins a pool of subjects who are all black, Indian, or Latinx; all the researchers are white. Experimental eye drops change brown eyes blue, subjects are given mysterious medication, and it soon becomes clear that Lena’s participation may require more sacrifices than she’s willing to make. Giddings’s debut novel, Lakewood takes a long and horrified look at the costs levied on people of color in the name of science. (Kaulie)

It’s Not All Downhill from Here by Terry McMillan: As its uplifting title implies, McMillan’s new novel is about women of a certain age refusing to see the late stage of life as a dreary slide toward death. At the center of a reunited group of high school classmates is 68-year-old Loretha Curry, head of a beauty-supply empire, whose world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss. “It’s about living in the here and now,” 68-year-old McMillan tells O magazine, “even being willing to fall in love and live happily ever after in these late chapters of our lives.” Like McMillan’s earlier hits, How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale, this novel looks destined for the bestseller lists. (Bill)

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell: At 15, Vanessa Wye enters into an affair with Jacob Strane, her 42-year-old English teacher. Seventeen years later, Vanessa must reckon with their relationship when Jacob is accused of sexually abusing another student. Author Janet Fitch says: “It’s breathtakingly suspenseful, like downing a flaming drink without blowing it out.” Compulsive, complicated, and timely, Russell’s debut explores ideas of memory, trauma, abuse, and complicity. (Carolyn)

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn: The author was born and raised on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island and this is the novel that will help many of us realize we need to read more fiction from Hawai’i. In 1995, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls over the side of a cruise ship, but is rescued by a shark—a divine favor. When fortunes turn, his family is forced to confront their bonds, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival. Marlon James calls it, “a ferocious debut.” (Claire)

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby: A collection of essays on life, love, and work by the piercingly funny and trenchant writer, to follow the bestselling We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. The new collection documents bad dates with new friends, weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with “tv executives slash amateur astrologers,” while being a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person,” “with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees,” who still hides past due bills under her pillow. Read Irby’s latest piece on settling down, for The Cut. (Lydia)

August by Callan Wink: The author’s debut novel follows his 2016 short story collection, Dog, Run, Moon—a set so good that I hoped Wink could distract himself from fly-fishing long enough to range further and give us a novel. And now he has: this testament to the obstacles encountered by a Michigan boy battling his way toward manhood. Told with all the economy, clarity of character, and lively prose that mark Wink’s short stories, this is writing that would tell just as well around the campfire as it does on the page. (Il’ja)

Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang: In what Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has described as an “immaculate debut novel” and “a wholly engaging joy to read,” Chang follows a 24-year-old Asian-American woman as she leaves a prestigious tech reporting job in Silicon Valley to move with her boyfriend to upstate New York. The move, precipitated by her boyfriend’s entrance into graduate school, is more of an excuse than a reason. The narrator has been searching for a way out. But once there, she finds herself captivated by stories of Asian Americans in history, and forced to think more deeply than she ever has about her role in an interracial relationship. In this tender, funny, coming-of-adulthood story, Chang asks what it means to live in a society that does not notice or understand you. (Jacqueline)

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin: In a starred review, Kirkus called the latest novel from science fiction luminary Jemisin “fierce, poetic, uncompromising.” Set in Jemisin’s hometown of New York City, this work of speculative fiction features five New Yorkers who must come together to defend their city against the Enemy, which Jemisin described, in an interview with EW, as “a dangerous otherworldly tourist…trying to supernaturally gentrify the city to death.” Toilet stalls attack, backyard pools become portals, and FDR traffic “becomes a literal, tentacled killer.” So, your standard work of social realism. I can’t wait for this one. (Jacqueline)

Sansei and Sensibility by Karen Tei Yamashita: Yamashita blends Jane Austen’s characters with stories of Japanese Americans in this dynamic collection. In merging these characters, she reconsiders canonical works, questions cultural inheritance, and experiments with genre and form. Julie Otsuka says “whether she is riffing on Jane Austen, channeling Jorge Luis Borges, or meditating on Marie Kondo, Yamashita is a brilliant and often subversive storyteller in superb command of her craft.” (Zoë)

Writers & Lovers by Lily King: Following up on the success of her novel Euphoria, King’s latest follows a Casey Peabody, a 31-year-old waitress who is mourning the sudden loss of her mother and her most recent relationship. While she aches to live the creative life she’s always dreamed of, she spends her days writing her novel, working a dead-end job, and having not one—but two—affairs. Author Madeline Miller calls the novel “captivating, potent, incisive, and wise” and “a moving story of grief, and recovering from grief, and of a young woman finding her courage for life.” (Carolyn)

First, Catch by Thom Eagle: Winner of the Debut Food Book at the Fortnum and Mason’s Awards, Eagle’s collection is less a step-by-step cookbook than meandering musings on the emotional, philosophical, and physical journey of creating a large spring lunch. In his preface, he writes that he wanted this book “to demonstrate to my own satisfaction that there is so much more to food than just the cooking of it.” Publishers Weekly’s starred review says, “This wonderfully indulgent, pleasurable compilation of culinary meditations will thrill food lovers.” (Carolyn)

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn: After a pandemic wipes out huge portions of the population, the quarantined are kept company by Companions, which are factory-created humanoids that the dead upload their consciousness into.  When Lilac, one of the first Companions, realizes she can defy her programming, she sets off in search of the person who murdered her as a teenager—and begins to meet the richly-drawn characters of Flynn’s slightly-futuristic world. Told through eight different points of view over two decades, Flynn’s speculative debut novel poses questions about memory, identity, and humanity. (Carolyn)

Spirit Run by Noé Álvarez: Born to Mexican immigrant parents in Yakima, Álvarez finds himself working at a fruit warehouse while dreaming of escaping Washington. In his debut memoir, he chronicles his journey to freedom via the Peace and Dignity Journeys, which are epic, 6,000-mile marathons across North America organized by Native American activists. A starred review in Publishers Weekly called the “spellbinding” novel a “literary tour de force beautifully combines outdoor adventure with a sharp take on immigration.” (Carolyn)

Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe: Jarboe’s 16-story collection—which contains everything from novellas to two-page stories bordering on prose poems—mixes fabulism, sci-fi, and surrealism. Their debut is a literary bricolage exploring queerness, body horror, alienation, and belonging. “Throughout, Jarboe melds tenderness, humor, and righteous anger into insightful tales of characters navigating the margins of society,” says Publishers Weekly’s starred review. (Carolyn)

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai: Celebrated Vietnamese poet and author Quế Mai’s first novel translated into English is a multigenerational epic about the Tran family. Set in 20th-century Vietnam, the novel explores how one family navigates war, loss, and trauma, but also how they remain buoyed by hope and each other. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called the “lyrical, sweeping debut” a “brilliant, unsparing love letter to Vietnam will move readers.” (Carolyn)

The Exhibition of Persephone Q by Jessi Jezewska Stevens: In the weeks after 9/11, freelancer Percy discovers she is pregnant and also discovers she cannot tell anyone about it, including her husband. Amid the changes, internally and externally, Percy receives a package containing a catalog for a photography show. Even more strangely, the woman in the photos looks like Percy—or does she? What comes next is an exploration of self, identity, and reality in the digital age. Catherine Lacey writes, “With a voice both riveting and wisely bizarre, Jessi Jezewska Stevens tells a timeless story of the battle to stop the present from turning into the past.”(Carolyn)

Marguerite by Marina Kemp: In Kemp’s debut, young nurse Marguerite Demers moves to a small farm in the South of France to care for Jérôme Lanvier—a cruel and once-powerful man who is now on his deathbed. Swirling gossip, jealousy, and secrets threaten to destroy the small town and its inhabitants including Marguerite. The novel has received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, which raved, “Stellar…Expect Kemp to make a big splash.” (Carolyn)

The Body Politic by Brian Platzer: Platzer’s sophomore novel (following Bed-Stuy Is Burning) follows four New Yorkers dealing with infidelity, loss, chronic illness, and betrayal in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. Brought together in the unstable years after 9/11, the four friends find themselves—and their lives—in free fall again. Jenny Offill calls the novel, “A cleverly constructed and emotionally compelling novel about the common disappointments and surprising consolations of middle age.” (Carolyn)

Temporary by Hilary Leichter: Leichter’s absurdist debut follows a nameless woman with 23 temporary jobs (including working for a murderer and working on a pirate ship), 18 casual boyfriends, and a ghost who lends her life advice as she searches for “the steadiness,” or a permanent position. (And aren’t we all?) Publishers Weekly’s starred review says the “cutting, hilarious critique of the American dream will appeal to fans of Italo Calvino.” (Carolyn)

Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit: The prolific cultural critic and author of Men Explain Things to Me returns with a memoir of her development as an artist as a young woman in San Francisco in the 1980s and the violence against women that undergirds American life. In a starred review, Kirkus calls the book “Absorbing…A perceptive, radiant portrait of a writer of indelible consequence.” (Lydia)

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel: THE FINAL VOLUME IS UPON US. Mantel dazzled readers with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and now she completes her stunningly good account of the life of Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII. One of the literary events of the young millennium. (Lydia)

Bonus Links from Our Archive:
A Year in Reading: Louise Erdrich
A Year in Reading: Emily St. John Mandel
A Year in Reading: Nick Ripatrazone
A Year in Reading: Terry McMillan
Writers to Watch: Spring 2020
Character Assassin: An Interview with Hilary Mantel