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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Nunez, Rankine, Bhatt, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Sigrid Nunez, Claudia Rankine, Jenny Bhatt, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about What Are You Going Through: “Nunez’s deceptively casual and ultimately fierce work (after the National Book Award-winning The Friend) ambles through a range of digressions toward a plot involving euthanasia. At the beginning, the unnamed narrator has traveled to visit her unnamed old friend in a hospital, where the friend is being treated for cancer. But before the narrator describes the visit, she details her experience at a depressing lecture by a pretentious journalist—who turns out to be her ex. This side trip involved an Airbnb, where ‘a cat had been promised,’ but after she checked out, having never seen the cat, she learned it had died. Eventually, she reaches the hospital, and the tension picks up. Her friend is planning to kill herself before she’s too debilitated, and two other friends have refused to help. Will the narrator? As the two women make and implement their plan, Nunez studies the intersection of friendship and morality. Much of the novel’s action is internal, as the attention of its judgmental, withholding narrator flicks from books to movies to sharp-edged thoughts about the people she encounters, offering plenty of surprises. Those willing to jump along with her should be tantalized by the provocative questions she raises.”

Bonus Link: A Year in Reading: Sigrid Nunez

Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Just Us: “MacArthur Fellowship recipient Rankine (Citizen: An American Lyric) combines poetry, prose, and imagery in this unique and powerful meditation on the challenges of communicating across the racial divide in America. Drawing on her own experience as a Black woman married to a white man, Rankine highlights the necessity of having uncomfortable conversations in order to understand both the experiences of other people and one’s own needs and beliefs. In the essay ‘liminal spaces i,’ she recounts asking a white stranger about his understanding of white male privilege after he complained that his son couldn’t use ‘the diversity card’ to gain early admission to Yale, where Rankine teaches. In another essay, she contemplates asking her mixed-race daughter’s white teachers about their ‘unconscious inevitable racism and implicit bias’ at a parent-teacher conference. ‘JosĂ© martĂ­’ features Rankine grappling with the limits of her own knowledge as she talks with a new friend about anti-Latinx racism. The discussion hits several snags, yet Rankine persists: ‘I still have questions, and the way to get answers is to bear her corrections.’ Other pieces incorporate commentary from Rankine’s conversational partners and ‘fact checks’ of her own assertions. The result is an incisive, anguished, and very frank call for Americans of all races to cultivate their ’empathetic imagination’ in order to build a better future.”

Bonus Link: An Imagined Possibility: The Millions Interviews Claudia Rankine

Each of Us Killers by Jenny Bhatt

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Each of Us Killers: “The stories in Bhatt’s rich debut collection mine the complicated experiences of Indians and immigrants. As one character notes in ‘Journey to a Stepwell,’ destiny ‘is simply a dagger thrown at you, which you must catch either by the blade or the handle. If you can figure out which end is which.’ In ‘Return to India,’ Bhatt gives voice to a group of employees at a U.S. engineering firm who piece together the details of an Indian American coworker’s murder while revealing their history of microagressions and racial bias. ‘Life Spring’ explores a divorced baker’s life in Mumbai and the inspiration she takes from a one-night stand (‘I think, sometimes, of what happened that night with Charlie as a kind of oven spring for my life’). In ‘Neeru’s New World,’ a live-in maid in Ahmedabad is propositioned and blackmailed by another servant, causing her to feel trapped not only by the class divide but by her limited power as a woman. Bhatt is skilled at locating her characters’ suffering and desires, and her blunt prose captures their matter-of-fact worldviews. These stories are memorable on their own, and they add up to a powerful expression of the hunger for success on ones own terms.”

Bonus Link: But Let Us Cultivate Our Garden

Be Holding by Ross Gay

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Be Holding: “The brilliant fourth book from Gay, his first since winning the National Book Critics Circle Award with 2015’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, continues his now-signature inquiry into feeling. Shaped as a single poem in a long sentence of center-justified couplets, the drama of this unfolding sentence is impeccable, a suspension that mirrors its subject: basketball Hall-of-Famer Julius Erving’s midair ‘baseline scoop’ in the 1980 NBA finals. An invocation of a video of Erving opens the poem’s investigation into flight, falling, and Black genius: ‘[H]ave you ever decided anything/ in the air?’ Gay asks in an interjection. In the space of that air, he crafts a book of associative digression, exploring photography, his own upbringing, and the afterlife of slavery in the U.S. ‘[T]he cotton, the unshared crop,/ let’s hereon call it what it is,’ he writes, ‘loot, plain and simple,/ which, too,// my great grandfather’s body was,/ loot, and his life, loot.’ When, in interjections and asides to the reader, a period does appear, it is not as a halt or a command but a gesture of care: ‘But let’s breathe first./ We’re always holding our breath.// Let’s stop and breathe, you and me.’ This extraordinary book offers an unforgettable flight from the conventional boundaries of the sentence.”

Three Rings by Daniel Mendelsohn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Three Rings: “Bringing together memoir, history, and literary analysis, critic Mendelsohn (An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic) delivers a fine study of digression, exile, and circularity. Mendelsohn approaches his themes primarily through the lens of Homer’s The Odyssey, in terms of its story line of a long-delayed arrival home, and of Homer’s narrative technique of ‘ring composition,’ in which flashbacks and digressions are layered ‘in the manner of Chinese boxes or Russian dolls.’ He explains how this technique led him to a breakthrough with his previous book, and illustrates the technique here with digressions into the lives and work of other authors. These include German scholar Erich Auerbach, who wrote his masterpiece of literary analysis, Mimesis, which includes a chapter on ring composition, while fleeing Nazism; and 17th-century author François FĂ©nelon, whose Odyssey adaptation The Adventures of Telemachus won him fame but also, thanks to its veiled criticisms of King Louis XIV, the loss of his post as royal tutor at Versailles. Mendelsohn’s talent with descriptive detail brings his work alive, such as repeated descriptions of Auerbach, while exiled in Istanbul, gazing through a palace window over the turquoise Sea of Marmara. Mendelsohn never fails to entertain as he takes the reader across thousands of years’ worth of literature and lives.”

Bonus Link: The Story Is Never the Whole Story: The Millions Interviews Daniel Mendelsohn

Also on shelves this week: Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land by Toni Jensen, Arrow by Sumita Chakraborty, and Red Stilts by Ted Kooser.

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