Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Elaine Castillo, Oscar Hokeah, Dwyer Murphy, and more—that are publishing this week.
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How to Read Now by Elaine Castillo
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How to Read Now: “Novelist Castillo (America Is Not the Heart) argues in this brilliant and passionate collection that the publishing industry is designed to suit white readers and that changing the way one reads can change the way one sees the world. In ‘Reading Teaches Us Empathy, and Other Fictions,’ she warns against seeing stories by writers of color as a ‘kind of ethical protein shake’ to teach white readers how to be better people, and urges that ‘we have to push back against the idea that engaging with our art in ways that look beyond the aesthetic is a cheapening of our engagement.’ In ‘The Limits of White Fantasy,’ Castillo critiques white authors’ appropriation of narratives about oppression, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which was partly ‘inspired’ by dissidents in the Philippines during the regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Meanwhile, ‘Main Character Syndrome’ takes Joan Didion to task for her novel Democracy, in which, Castillo writes, Hawaiian and Southeast Asian settings and characters exist as a background against which the white main characters act out the central drama. Castillo’s knowledge, along with her firebrand style and generous humor, result in a dynamic and necessary look at the state of storytelling. This one packs a powerful punch.”
Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Calling for a Blanket Dance: “The Kiowa, Cherokee, and Mexican family members of a young man named Ever Geimausaddle tell stories that span from his infancy to his adulthood in this captivating debut. When Ever is six months old, he witnesses his father being nearly beaten to death by police on the way back to Oklahoma from visiting his paternal grandparents in Chihuahua, Mexico. Ever’s maternal grandmother, Lena, decides to make a quilt for him to help him heal from the incident, but Lena’s schism with her daughter, Turtle, prevents her from ever delivering the gift. Though Ever grows up under a specter of violence, he finds connection to his cultures and the people around him amid the climate of grief, fear, and anger. A chapter narrated by Ever’s paternal grandfather, Vincent, in which Vincent observes his grandsons taking part in a gourd dance, perfectly conveys the double-edged sword of the family’s heritage: ‘I was amazed at how quickly they followed in my footsteps. And then it scared me.’ Throughout, Hokeah succeeds at making each character’s voice distinct and without losing a sense of cohesion. With striking insight into human nature and beautiful prose, this heralds an exciting new voice.”
Denial by Jon Raymond
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Denial: “The engaging speculative latest from screenwriter and novelist Raymond (Freebird) imagines a future in which a slew of energy executives and lobbyists have been convicted of environmental crimes. In 2052, reporter Jack Henry is hot on the trail of Robert Cave, a former fossil fuel official who fled the U.S. during the trials in 2032, was convicted in absentia, and has never paid for his offenses. After one of Jack’s sources spots Cave in Guadalajara, Jack convinces his boss to send him to Mexico to ferret Cave out. Jack scouts Cave at a museum café, and Cave strikes up a conversation with him. The two meet again the next day, and as Jack is introduced to Cave’s new life, he grows fond of his target, who knows nothing of Jack’s planned exposure, and wrestles with the ramifications of following through with his scheme. The narrative works best when it focuses on Jack and Cave, as their interactions drive the novel into unexpected directions. Less successful is a tame romance subplot between Jack and an old friend. Still, Raymond satisfies with a clever vision of a not-too-distant future. The moral ambiguity at the center leaves readers with much to chew on.”
The Boys by Katie Hafner
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Boys: “Journalist Hafner’s marvelous fiction debut centers on a socially awkward man’s neuroses about fatherhood. While working as the chief technology officer at a startup in Philadelphia, Ethan meets Barb, a University of Pennsylvania grad student, and the two start dating. They soon marry, though Ethan suspects he’s scored out of his league. Having lost his parents at an early age, he also fears becoming a father, but Barb changes his mind, only for them to discover after a year of trying to conceive that Ethan is sterile. They decide to foster two young boys, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hits and Ethan develops an overbearing attachment to them, his relationship with Barb disintegrates. She leaves him and he takes the boys on a bike trip to Italy, where a jaw-dropping twist ensues. Starting out as a lighthearted romance before taking an unsettling turn, this upsets expectations in the best way. The heartbreaking late reveal will take a second reading to fully sink in and pushes the troubled marriage genre to dizzying extremes. It’s a remarkable outing, and readers will look forward to seeing what Hafner does next.”
An Honest Living by Dwyer Murphy
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about An Honest Living: “The New York attorney who narrates Murphy’s uneven debut—who is unnamed but hints he has a name similar to the author’s—gave up a career with a prestigious law firm to make an honest living in a solo practice doing odd jobs, contract work, and document reviews, but his earnings have been slim of late. Then a wealthy woman calling herself Anna Rennick approaches him, claiming that her much older estranged husband, a former antiquarian book dealer, is stealing rare books from her library. The narrator can’t resist her $10,000 fee as well as a potential bonus if he can catch her husband offering any of her books for sale. Something about the case bothers him, but he manages “to put it out of mind” and he winds it up with little effort. The trouble begins when the real Anna Rennick shows up, threatening to sue. Murphy, the editor-in-chief of CrimeReads, writes with authority about the New York book world and literary references abound, from Edith Wharton to Cormac McCarthy, but the novel’s digressive first half drags and the plot never picks up much speed. This is destined to amuse a niche audience at best.”