Of Women and Salt

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Greenidge, Febos, Antrobus, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Kaitlyn Greenidge, Melissa Febos, Raymond Antrobus, and more—that are publishing this week.
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Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Libertie: “Greenidge (We Love You, Charlie Freeman) delivers another genius work of radical historical fiction. Libertie Sampson, a freeborn Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, is pushed by her mother, a doctor, to follow in her footsteps. But Libertie, whose day-to-day experience differs from her mother due to her darker skin, is more interested in music and wants to follow her own path. In her poetic narration, she gives testimony to the injustices of white supremacy she witnesses and reflects on colorism, ‘colorstruck’ misogyny, and the potential shackles of marriage, all the while turning over the question of what freedom is. When her mother insists on treating the same white women who recoil at Libertie’s dark skin, she believes her mother ‘gave up co-conspirators for customers.’ Desperate to secure a future for Libertie, her mother sends her off to Cunningham College in Ohio, but Libertie turns away from her studies after she meets fellow students Experience and Louisa: ‘When I sang with them, my whole history fell away. There was no past, no promised future, only the present of one sustained note.’ After Libertie is kicked out of Cunningham, she schemes to bring Experience and Louisa to Brooklyn and sing for the Black community. But her road gets rockier, and a marriage proposal from a Haitian man brings mixed blessings, leading her to continue reflecting on the limits of freedom for a Black woman. This pièce de résistance is so immaculately orchestrated that each character, each setting, and each sentence sings.”

Girlhood by Melissa Febos

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Girlhood: “Febos (Abandon Me) recounts her traumatizing adolescence in eight revealing essays. As she writes in the introduction, ‘I was a happy child. The age of ten or eleven… marked a violent turn’ in which the harsh realities of true ‘girlhood’ began. She then comments on the horrific ways in which women are bent from an early age by the male ego, citing examples from classic literature (‘I recently reread Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth and found it almost too painful to finish’), film, and behavioral research. In ‘Kettle Holes,’ she recalls how, at 11, a neighborhood boy repeatedly spat on her for reasons she still cannot comprehend. In ‘Mirror Test,’ at 12, she submitted to the groping of a friend’s brother and his friends as part of a ‘game,’ and it’s moments such as these, she writes, that ‘trained her mind’ to embrace values ‘that do not prioritize [my] safety, happiness, freedom.’ Over time, she adopted false ‘stories about [herself],’ which led to heroin abuse and a harrowing stint in sex work. She closes with ‘Les Calanques,’ in which she describes her recovery in the South of France on a monastic writing retreat. The prose is restrained but lyrical throughout. Raw and unflinching, this dark coming-of-age story impresses at every turn.”

Eat the Mouth that Feeds You by Carribean Fragoza

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Eat the Mouth that Feeds You: “Fragoza’s debut collection delivers expertly crafted tales of Latinx people trying to make sense of violent, dark realities. Magical realism and gothic horror make for effective stylistic entryways, as Fragoza seamlessly blurs the lines between the corporeal and the abstract. In ‘Lumberjack Mom,’ the narrator’s father nearly destroys the family’s beloved lime tree, and her distraught mother takes up a ruthless form of landscaping. In ‘Sabado Gigante,’ a young man competes on a variety show in hopes of leaving his family’s past behind him. Fragoza’s characters are earnest while remaining complicated and conflicted. They speak to diverse immigrant experiences, stand up to patriarchal structures, and ground themselves in hope for a better future. In one of the most effective stories, ‘Tortillas Burning,’ the protagonist describes her state of poverty with depth and clarity: ‘There’s a way to make room for hunger, to hold it, embrace it. But this was a lonely hunger, the kind that separates you from others, and that’s what hurts the most.’ With haunting prose and an aptitude for the surreal, Fragoza emerges as a distinctive voice.”

The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Perseverance: “‘All good words in sign are said with the thumb,’ a sign language teacher declares in Antrobus’s moving debut. Exploring his early experience of deafness, Antrobus invites the reader to feel the frustration and emotional complexity of navigating through the world: ‘I was a broken speaker, you were never a broken interpreter.’ Language and communication become touchstones of the collection; poems like ‘Aunt Beryl Meets Castro’ evoke Jamaican patois (‘Listen listen, you know I/ met Castro in Jamaica in/ ’77 mi work with/ government under Manley’). Equally memorable is Antro-bus’s consideration of his embattled identity: ‘There is such a thing as a key confidently cut/ that accepts the locks it doesn’t fit.’ However, it’s his evocations of his late father, a Jamaican immigrant who battled alcoholism and faced British policemen ‘who didn’t believe he belonged/ unless they heard his English,/ which was smooth as some uptown roads,’ that gives the collection its heart. What might be gimmicky or sentimental—the poem ‘Thinking of Dad’s Dick,’ for instance—becomes moving and memorable: ‘He knew he wouldn’t live/ to see me grown… He had to give,/ while he could, the length of his life to me.’ In these pages, Antrobus’s evocative, musical honesty is unforgettable.”

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Final Revival of Opal & Nev: “Walton’s spectacular debut pulls off a polyphonic oral history of a fictional proto-Afro-punk performer and her white musical partner. The novel begins with the sensational origin story of unlikely duo Opal & Nev, described by magazine editor S. Sunny Curtis in 2017 as the ‘progenitors of dissidence and dissonance.’ After Opal Jewel arrives in New York City from Detroit in 1970, where she’d been an outcast for her radical politics, fashion, and musical style, she meets ‘goofy white English boy’ Nev Charles, a songwriter from Birmingham, at an open mic. Nev is impressed by her performance, and the two team up to produce a phenomenally successful sound. Their star quickly rises, but after a photo appears in 1971 showing Opal blanketed in a Confederate flag as Nev carries her away from a gig turned riot, their career flames out in controversy. The novel’s diverse group of voices are cobbled together by Curtis as she searches for the truth behind the iconic ‘picture of chaos.’ The story is also personal for Curtis—her father, a drummer, had been having an affair with Opal, and he was killed in the melee. The novel is bookended by an equally violent reunion that confirms a shocking secret, and Opal proves herself the champion of the ‘marginalized, bullied, discriminated against.’ Walton pumps up the volume with a fresh angle on systemic racism and freedom of expression. This is a firecracker.”

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Of Women and Salt: “Garcia’s dexterous debut chronicles the travails of a Cuban immigrant family. Carmen, a Cuban immigrant living in Miami, is worried about her daughter Jeanette’s addiction to drugs and alcohol. In 2014, during a moment of sobriety, Jeanette watches as her Salvadorian neighbor, Gloria, is detained by ICE while Gloria’s daughter, Ana, is away with a babysitter. After Jeanette takes in Ana, Garcia unfolds the stories of the two families in parallel narratives, shifting between Gloria awaiting deportation in a Texas detention center while Ana stays briefly with Jeanette and episodes set during the Cuban Independence Movement of the late 19th century, when Jeanette’s great-great-grandmother worked in Cuba at a cigar factory, and Carmen’s escape from Cuba 15 years after the revolution. Eventually, Jeanette’s story reveals her addiction may be her way of coping with the trauma of having been sexually assaulted as child. Throughout, Garcia illustrates the hard choices mothers make generation after generation to protect their children: ‘Motherhood: question mark, a constant calculation of what-if,’ muses Gloria. The jumps across time and place can occasionally dampen the various threads’ emotional impact, but by the end they form an impressive, tightly braided whole. This riveting account will please readers of sweeping multigenerational stories.”

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