Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Mina Seçkin, Mayukh Sen, and more—that are publishing this week.
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The Four Humors by Mina Seçkin
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Four Humors: “Grief is the point of entry for this perceptive debut from Seçkin, the story of a young Turkish American college student’s complicated summer in Istanbul. Sibel, the daughter of immigrants, visits Istanbul before her senior year, ostensibly to help her paternal grandmother, who has Parkinson’s. She is there with her blond American boyfriend, Cooper, a helpful, culturally sensitive type who quickly becomes of a favorite of Sibel’s large, opinionated extended family. Sibel, on the other hand, is increasingly irritated by him, particularly as he nags her to visit the grave of her father, who died unexpectedly the previous winter. But Sibel has found it difficult to grieve a man with whom her relationship was difficult, and who, as she comes to discover, was keeping some pretty hefty secrets. Seçkin moves with poise from Sibel’s modern-day, deadpan tone to the stories of her older relatives, which are related as stand-alone narratives and are often entangled with Turkey’s tempestuous political history. The grandmother is particularly well drawn, with her ‘giant beige bras drying out on the laundry rack,’ her habit of watching soap operas, and her secrets. Things unfold at a measured pace, with a fairly straightforward plot that’s low on suspense. Like many debuts, this packs a lot in, with varying degrees of success. At its heart, though, it’s a moving family story.”
Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Taste Makers: “In this dazzling debut, James Beard Award–winning food writer Sen looks at the lives of seven remarkable immigrant women whose passion for their homeland’s food transformed how Americans cook and eat. While he originally set out to write about immigration using food as his lens, Sen ended up ‘interrogating the very notion of what success looks like for immigrants under American capitalism.’ What results is a vibrant, empathetic, and dynamic exploration of culture, identity, race, and gender. The story of Iranian-born cookbook author Najmieh Batmanglij examines how America became, for her, ‘a wonderful place for the stateless,’ even as the prejudice she faced in the 1980s stifled the potential reach of her work. The late Chao Yang Buwei’s revolutionary How to Cook and Eat in Chinese (1945)—’a manual of gastronomic diplomacy’—and Elena Zelayeta’s Mexican cookbooks in the 1960s made their home cuisines palatable for an American audience, while the late acclaimed chef Norma Shirley resisted assimilation and eventually returned to Jamaica, because ‘making food for white Americans was never her chief aim.’ Thoughtfully written, Sen’s portrayals of his subjects reveal how rich and nuanced being ‘American’ can truly be. Food lovers with a big appetite for knowledge will gobble this up.”
Noor by Nnedi Okorafor
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Noor: “Convenience and comfort come at a cost in this probing, brilliant near-future odyssey from Okorafor (Remote Control). Anwuli Okwudili changed her name to Augmented Organism, or AO, as a nod to the body augmentations she’s used to compensate for her physical and mental disabilities over the years. Now she’s partially robotic, with various cybernetic limbs, organs, and implants produced by the mega company Ultimate Corp—and at times she feels more connected to Ultimate Corp’s machines than to her own people in Abuja, Nigeria. When AO is attacked while at the market, she inadvertently kills her assailants in self-defense, displaying the deadly range of her cybernetically enhanced capabilities. Branded a murderess, she goes on the run with Dangote Nuhu Adamu, or ‘DNA,’ a Fulani herdsman wrongfully accused of terrorism. Together, the fugitives battle never-ending sandstorms and evade both Ultimate Corp’s watchful eye and the Nigerian government’s retribution as they make their way across the desert. Okorafor exposes the cracks in this technology-driven, highly surveilled society as each detour in AO and DNA’s route adds layers of intrigue on the way to a jaw-dropping finale. Frequent instances of suicidal ideation may be triggering to some readers, but Okorafor handles heavy subjects well. This is a must-read.”
Chouette by Claire Oshetsky
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Chouette: “Oshetsky’s wild and phantasmagorical debut takes a Dantean journey through the violent fever dreams of a woman in the trials of pregnancy and early motherhood. Tiny, an accomplished cellist, believes she has been impregnated by her ‘owl-lover’ and that the baby inside her will most certainly be an ‘owl-baby.’ Her husband fails to understand this, and Tiny leads the reader into the lonely terror she feels as she considers abortion, followed by her overwhelming, hormone-driven desire to have and protect the child. When Chouette is born, she is indeed strange: winged, ferocious, and ugly. Tiny’s husband, who insists on calling his daughter Charlotte, goes to great lengths to try to fix her, taking her to dicey doctors offering outlandish cures. But encouraged by Tiny, Chouette is allowed to become her true self. Tiny feeds Chouette frozen pinkie mice, and she hunts gophers in the backyard. When the husband finally tries to wrest Chouette away from Tiny, it becomes a mortal battle between good and evil. Tiny’s day-to-day struggles with child-rearing, blood-soaked and feces-covered, on the one hand offer a familiar view of a young mother’s delirious tedium, with the desperation and horror made vivid and strange by Oshetsky’s parable. No reader who has cared for a tiny human being will fail to recognize the battleground this talented author has conjured.”