Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Ling Ma, Gwendoline Riley, Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi, and more—that are publishing this week.
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Bliss Montage by Ling Ma
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bliss Montage: “Ma (Severance) examines themes of otherness and disconnection in this fantastical and often brilliant collection. In ‘Tomorrow,’ an arm protrudes from a woman’s vagina during her pregnancy, which her doctor says is ‘not ideal’ but ‘relatively safe,’ his cursory advice gleaned from a website that ‘looks like WebMD.’ The mother, like many of the book’s protagonists, emigrated from China to the U.S. as a child; later in the story, she returns to visit her great-aunt, with whom she communicates primarily through a translation app. In ‘Returning,’ a woman travels with her husband to his native country, the fictional Garboza, only to be abandoned by him at the airport. The protagonist, who wrote a novel about a couple who ‘during an economic depression, decide to cryogenically freeze themselves,’ experiences ambivalence about her marriage. These stories, and the elliptical ‘Office Hours’ (about a young woman’s semi-romance with her film professor, who has a Narnia-like magical wardrobe in his office), are enchanting, full of intelligence, dry humor, and an appealing self-awareness. On the other hand, a couple of entries—such as ‘Los Angeles,’ about a woman living with 100 of her ex-boyfriends—don’t quite manifest into something more than their conceit. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy.”
My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about My Phantoms: “Riley (First Love) returns with an affecting story about the complicated relationship between a daughter and her two parents. Bridget, the 40-something narrator, cut off contact with her father when she was 26 and limits her interactions with her mother, who left her father when she was two. Still, memories of both parents—their self-involvement and staggering immaturity—come back to her vividly. The narrative begins with scenes of Bridget’s father, who, on court-ordered visitations when Bridget was 10, regales her and her older sister with dubious tales of accomplishment, such as acing job interviews by putting his feet on the desk of his potential employer. (‘It is strange when somebody [is] lying, but somehow you’re on the spot,’ Bridget reflects.) The recollections shift to a series of encounters with her mother, Hen, who, after another divorce, has settled into a kind of frenzied gadabout, keeping herself busy with volunteer work and ‘daft crushes,’ in Bridget’s view. Riley’s incisive dialogue and astute observations of family dynamics offer a sympathetic and painful perspective on both estrangement and the choices people make in order to survive parents who maybe should have never been parents at all. The result is a fine addition to Riley’s notable body of work.”
Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions: “Nigerian writer Ogunyemi debuts with a dynamic novel in stories featuring four women and their lost illusions. Schoolmates Nonso, Remi, Aisha, and Solape become close friends at a Nigerian boarding school in the 1980s, where, in the title story, the girls are consumed with ‘spite-filled delight’ while protesting the school’s contentious principal for firing several beloved teachers. Their revolt, while personally liberating and unifying, ends tragically. The stories that follow explore their professional success and interpersonal betrayal. ‘Reflections from the Hood of a Car’ picks up with Remi’s former lover, now living in the Bronx in 1991. In ‘Last Stop, Jibowu,’ set in 2005, Nonso lives in Brooklyn and works as an investment banker, while the short ‘Area Boy Rescue’ dictates the daily trials of Nonso’s housekeeper. The ambitious closer, ‘Messenger RNA,’ set in 2050, imagines a 78-year-old Aisha savoring a ‘nice, comfortable silence’ and the company of her granddaughter. Through the many leaps in time and views from supporting characters, Ogunyemi succeeds at showing how each of the four women’s lives were shaped by their fiery youth. These richly developed stories are resonant and rewarding.”
Kibogo by Scholastique Mukasonga (translated by Mark Polizzotti)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Kibogo: “Mukasonga (Igifu) draws on Rwanda’s colonial history and ancient myths for an intriguing theological satire. In the opener, ‘Ruzagayura,’ set in the aftermath of the 1943 famine, characters variously blame the disaster on Hitler, paganism, and missionaries. After a French priest, referred to only as ‘padri,’ urges villagers to pray for rain, the elders call on their own mythical martyr, Kibogo, a king’s son who sacrificed himself to bring rain. Kibogo’s last priestess, Mukamwezi, lives on the local mountain and agrees to help. But when the rains come, the padri claims the Virgin Mary brought the rain. In ‘Akayezu,’ the Rwandan title character is kicked out of a seminary for heresy after linking the story of Kibogo with that of Jesus and Elijah. In ‘Mukamwezi,’ Akayezu attempts to baptize an old pagan woman, but instead, the two join forces. In the complex and revelatory ‘Kibogo,’ a white professor arrives to record the stories of Kibogo told by two old men of the village. As the men compete in their storytelling, three young men join in, and the professor eventually hears the story he wants them to tell, Mukasonga complicates the blurry line between history and myth and critiques its relationship to colonialism. This speaks volumes to the power of storytelling.”
Bindle Punk Bruja by Desideria Mesa
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bindle Punk Bruja: “Mesa’s ambitious but messy historical fantasy debut plunges deep into the underbelly of Prohibition-era Kansas City, following half-white, half-Mexican Luna Alvarado as she crafts a new life for herself as Rose Lane, cub reporter by day, and speakeasy manager by night. Passing as white is not as difficult as passing as mortal; she’s also half bruja, or earth witch, and her powers manifest in an ability to charm men into doing her will by kissing them. She uses this charm to open a club ‘with real booze and a real orchestra’ in the ritzy Hotel Bellerive—but as soon as she does, the Klan tries to shut her down, local mobsters extort her, all the men in her life try to claim and control her, and Al Capone schemes to use her to expand his operations across the Midwest. The result is fun but shallow, with brassy one-note characters who constantly repeat themselves and often speak in goofily rendered dialects (‘Hey, latecoma’, I’m the one who’s skewa’d here!’) in between bewildering or groan-worthy descriptions of emotions (‘his eyes hardening in sable angst’). This is a lesser addition to the recent slew of 1920s-set SFF, one perhaps best left to diehard fans of Prohibition-era historical fantasy.”