Sadness Is a White Bird: A Novel

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A Year in Reading: Etaf Rum

I am lucky to be part of Instagram’s book community via the account I started a few years ago, @bookandbeans, which gives me early access to many of the most anticipated books of the year. I initially joined Instagram while feeling quite isolated: As a young mother in a new place, it was often hard for me to find a sense of connection with others, especially as an Arab American in a predominantly white southern town. I’m always reading multiple books, juggling different styles and plots, seeking out connection and understanding. I often find myself surprised by how seen I feel in unlikely places. Here are 10 of my favorite books this year, along with quotes I had underlined in them—hopefully you will feel that same sense of belonging when you read them as I did.

“Perhaps it was simply that things were happening inside her, terrible things, which no one else could even guess at, and thus it was impossible for her to engage with everyday life at the same time. If so, she would naturally have no energy left, not just for curiosity or interest but indeed for any meaningful response to all the humdrum minutiae that went on on the surface.” —Han Kang, The Vegetarian

“I’m not from Israel. I’m from before Israel, from beneath the Israeli towns and cities built over my homes and orchards and fields. I am an Arab Palestinian, not an Israeli.” —Moriel Rothman-Zecher, Sadness Is a White Bird

 

“What is a life? A series of yeses and noes, photographs you shove in a drawer somewhere, loves you think will save you but that cannot. Continuing to move, enduring, not stopping even when there is pain. That’s all life is, he wants to tell her. It’s continuing.” —Hala Alyan, Salt Houses

 

“Often, still, my own life story feels fragmented, like beads unstrung. Each time I scoop up my memories, the assortment is slightly different. I worry, at times, that I’ll always be lost inside.” —Clementine Wamariya, The Girl Who Smiled Beads

 

“If you don’t know the tale of where you come from, the words of others can overwhelm and drown out your own. So, you see, you must keep careful track of the borders of your stories, where your voice ends and another’s begins.” —Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar, The Map of Salt and Stars

 

“How were they to know the moment that would define them? It will affect his personality for his whole life, someone is saying to her, and whose fault will it be then? Mine, a voice replies, and the voice is hers.” —Fatima Farheen Mirza, A Place for Us

 

“Oh, our private selves—how strange we all are, how full of feelings and essentially alone.” —Curtis Sittenfeld, You Think It, I’ll Say It

 

 

“A woman doesn’t always have a choice, not in a meaningful way. Sometimes there is a debt that must be paid, a comfort that she is obliged to provide, a safe passage that must be secured. Everyone of us has lain down for a reason that was not love.” —Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

 

“It was that kind of mindfuck: to be too visible and invisible at the same time, in the ways it mattered the most.” —Lisa Ko, The Leavers

“Being a woman is always a performance; only the very old and very young are allowed to bow out of it. Everywhere, you are observed and assessed: walking down the street, riding a bus, driving a car, eating in a café. You must smile, but not too widely. You must be pleasant, but not forward. You must accommodate and ingratiate but never offer too much of yourself, and never for your own pleasure. If you do this, it must be in secret.” —Frances de Pontes Peebles, The Air You Breathe

More from A Year in Reading 2018

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2018 5 Under 35 Authors Announced

The National Book Foundation has announced their 5 Under 35 honorees! The program recognizes 5 debut fiction writers under the age of 35 whose work “promises to leave a lasting impression on the literary landscape.” Each 5 Under 35 author is selected by a previous National Book Award or 5 Under 35 author.

We’re pleased to note that the list this year includes our editor Lydia Kiesling, whose novel, The Golden State, came out earlier this month!

Here’s a list of the honorees, with bonus links where available:

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling (Our interview with Lydia; more of her writing here)

Sadness is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher

 

2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Longlist Announced

The Center for Fiction announced their 2018 First Novel Prize longlist this morning. The award is given to the “best debut novel published between January 1 and December 31 of the award year,” and the prize-winning author receives $10,000.

The Millions has a special connection to this list: our editor Lydia Kiesling made the list with her debut novel, The Golden State (out in September)!

Here is the 2018 longlist (featuring many titles from our Great Book Preview) with bonus links when applicable:

 America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
Brass by Xhenet Aliu
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg
The Devoted by Blair Hurley
The Distance Home by Paula Saunders
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling (Read more of Lydia’s work here)
If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim
Inappropriation by Lexi Freiman
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li (Our interview with Li)
The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat


The Pisces by Melissa Broder (Our interview with Broder)
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (Featured in Garth Greenwell’s Year in Reading)
Pretend I’m Dead by Jen Beagin
Restless Souls by Dan Sheehan
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
Sadness is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon


Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik
There There by Tommy Orange
Trenton Makes by Tadzio Koelb
What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan
Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith
The Wonder That Was Ours by Alice Hatcher

Tuesday New Release Day: Emezi; Goldberg; Nathan; Macy; Vlautin; Rothman-Zecher; Dolnick

Out this week: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi; The Château by Paul Goldberg; Some Hell by Patrick Nathan; Mrs. by Caitlin Macy; Don’t Skip Out on Me by Willy Vlautin; Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher; and The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick.

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

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