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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Wink, Washburn, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Callan Wink, Kawai Strong Washburn, Alexandra Chang, Fernanda Melchior, César Aira, 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.

August by Callan Wink

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about August: “Wink’s accomplished debut novel (after the collection Dog Run Moon) explores the nuances of present-day agricultural life. August grows up on the family dairy farm in Michigan with his divorced parents, shuttling between the ‘old house’ where his mother, Bonnie, lives, and the ‘new house’ built by his father, Dar, with Bonnie’s inheritance. After Dar shacks up with a woman just out of high school, Bonnie moves with August to Bozeman, Mont., where August attends high school and has his heart broken after sleeping with an older woman. He spends summers working for his father in Michigan, and after graduating, August defers college (‘something people do to put off actually doing something’) for a position on a Montana cattle ranch. Wink takes an assured, meandering approach to narrating August’s life, as August creeps toward adulthood through a series of minor adventures, such as mending fences, drinking at the local watering hole, and learning how to dance. Wink brilliantly captures the stultifying effects of small-town life and the tension between free-spirited August and those stuck in the Montana ‘suckhole,’ concluding with a stunning, indelible image from August’s rearview mirror. Like a current Jim Harrison, Wink makes irresistible drama out of an individual’s search for identity in landscapes that are by turns romantic and limiting.”

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sharks in the Time of Saviors: “Washburn’s standout debut provides a vivid portrait of Hawaiian identity, mythology, and diaspora. This family chronicle opens in 1995 Honok’a as the seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls from a ship, only to be rescued and returned to his parents by sharks. This seminal event in the lives of the Filipino-Hawaiian Flores family marks Nainoa for life as the “miracle boy,” even as his parents struggle to turn a profit on their sugarcane plantation. As things become more desperate, Nainoa and his violent older brother, Dean, and adventuresome younger sister, Kaui, leave the island to seek their fortunes on the mainland. Dean embarks on a promising career as a basketball player in Spokane only to wind up in trouble with the law, while Kaui discovers her sexuality in San Diego, and Nainoa becomes an EMT in Portland, Ore. Poised halfway between their cultural upbringing and hopes for the future, the family is riven by a horrific tragedy that will test them to the breaking point. Though perhaps overlong, Washburn’s debut is a unique and spirited depiction of the 50th state and its children.”

Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Days of Distraction: “Chang’s incisive debut follows a 25-year-old Chinese-American woman as she balances an interracial relationship, her career as a technology reporter, and a drive toward self-discovery. After narrator Jing Jing’s white boyfriend, J, announces his plans to move across the country for graduate school, she follows him from San Francisco to Ithaca, N.Y. On the cross-country road trip with J, she discovers a heightened sense of her racial identity; while visiting high school friend Becca in Portland, Ore., Jing Jing quickly acknowledges her relative privilege as an East Asian compared to darker people of color after Becca, who is white, insists that ‘Asians have it really bad—the worst.’ Similar interactions in Ithaca make her feel out of place compared to her life in California, prompting her to remember and reexamine her close childhood friendship with white girls in the Milk Club (‘the name did not have overtly racial origins, but practical ones, since each girl got a carton of milk at lunch’) and consider how her ability to fit in among white people can erase her sense of self. As scattershot freelance assignments dry up, she occupies herself with research into discrimination of Chinese women throughout U.S. history, seeking a sense of purpose while J keeps a busy schedule. As J becomes condescending toward her efforts to improve their apartment, Jing Jing begins to feel estranged from him. When her father makes an uncharacteristic call from China and reveals that he’s been drinking heavily, she decides to visit, relieved to have a reason to leave Ithaca. Chang’s humorous, timely observations on race, technology, and relationships lend immediacy to the narrator’s chronicle of self-awareness. This introduces a formidably talented writer.”

Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Hex: “A young academic develops an unhealthy fixation on her adviser in this arresting novel of obsession from Dinerstein Knight (The Sunlit Night). Nell Barber is expelled from her PhD program in botany at Columbia University, along with the rest of her lab members, after their colleague Rachel Simons dies from exposure to poisonous plants. Nell breaks up with her medievalist boyfriend Tom, gets a job at a bar, and concentrates on completing Rachel’s dangerous work in her apartment to capture the attention of former adviser Joan Kallas, with whom she is obsessed. While Joan tries to steer Nell away from the dangerous project, Joan starts up an affair with Tom, and Nell’s best friend, the gorgeous, high-achieving Mishti, sleeps with Joan’s husband. The narrative takes the form of entries in what is supposed to be Nell’s scientific notebook (which are addressed to Joan), in which Nell discusses the main players’ love affairs and tries to reach conclusions about her would-be mentor. After the details of the affairs emerge at a small holiday party at Joan’s home, Nell loses her chance at an invitation to join Joan’s new research project. Nell’s intensity and the hypnotic, second-person prose convincingly render the protagonist’s bewitched, self-destructive state. Readers who liked I Love Dick and want something more lurid will appreciate this.”

Threshold by Rob Doyle

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Threshold: “Doyle (This Is the Ritual) follows in this poignant tale an itinerant narrator as he searches for personal enlightenment. The narrator, 30-something Rob, recounts his adventures through a series of letters to an unknown recipient, composed mainly of ruminations on spirituality and the nature of truth alongside reminiscences of stories about his adventures across the globe. Among these are his expedition foraging for psychedelic mushrooms in Ireland, his visit to the graves of famous writers in Paris, his time at Buddhist meditation retreats in Southeast Asia, and his druggy clubbing lifestyle while living in Berlin. Throughout, he carries on lively, often humorous discussions with himself about identity that hover on the edge of chaotic existential crisis: ‘I swam in the sea and had the ecstatic drunken insight that everything is transient, everything is eternal, both statements are true.’ Doyle’s musings are always intriguing and often enlightening, offering a glimpse of the anxious yet pleasing rationale of a mind struggling to live in a rational world. Fans of Will Self will enjoy this.”

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchior, translated by Sophie Hughes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Hurricane Season: “Melchor’s English-language debut is a furious vortex of voices that swirl around a murder in a provincial Mexican town. The story opens with a group of boys discovering the body of the Witch in a canal. The Witch is a local legend: she provides the women of the town with cures and spells, while for the men she hosts wild, orgiastic parties at her house. Each chapter is a single, cascading paragraph and follows a different townsperson. First is Yesenia, a young woman who despises her addict cousin, Luismi, and one day sees him carrying the Witch from her home with another boy, Brando. Next is Munra, Luismi’s stepfather, who was also present at the Witch’s house; then Norma, a girl who flees her abusive stepfather and ends up briefly settling with Luismi; and lastly Brando, who finally reveals the details of the Witch’s death. The murder mystery (complete with a mythical locked room in the Witch’s house) is simply a springboard for Melchor to burrow into her characters’ heads: their resentments, secrets, and hidden and not-so-hidden desires. Forceful, frenzied, violent, and uncompromising, Melchor’s depiction of a town ogling its own destruction is a powder keg that ignites on the first page and sustains its intense, explosive heat until its final sentence.”

Artforum by César Aira, translated by Katherine Silver 

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Artforum: “Aira’s clever, whimsical collection of autofiction (after The Musical Brain) draws on the author’s obsessive 30-year-long pursuit of collecting the international art magazine Artforum. Initially able to obtain issues in Argentina only by chance, Aira comes to believe the glossy objects are enchanted by ‘divine automatism’ after one volume shape-shifts into a form resembling a soccer ball, having absorbed the rain from an open window and keeping his other magazines dry, ‘like a magical and heroic solider.’ After exhausting a search for new issues in local bookstores, he orders a subscription, only to face an interminable wait for new issues. As they trickle in from the U.S., he begins counting down the days to each issue’s expected arrival date. He travels to a used bookstore in Buenos Aires to buy a stack of back issues that belonged to a dead gallery owner, and as his patience grows thin, he decides to make his own version of the magazine. As Aira illuminates the dead ends in his drive to collect the magazine, he offers rich insight into the appreciation of art and the desire to possess. This entertaining jaunt through the writer’s creative development satisfies with brevity and grace.”

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