World and Town (Vintage Contemporaries)

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Jen, Yuknavitch, Missaghi, Nemens, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Gish Jen, Lidia Yuknavitch, Poupeh Missaghi, Emily Nemens, and more—that are publishing this week.

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The Resisters by Gish Jen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Resisters: ” A prodigious young athlete fights the oppression and poverty of her social class in this shrewd and provocative near-future novel from Jen (World and Town). In AutoAmerica, the Netted rule over an underclass called the Surplus, who receive Basic Income but aren’t allowed to work and are denied basic human rights. Seventeen-year-old Gwen, a member of the Surplus and a star player in the Underground Baseball League, is tired of her oppressive life and wants to rise to the Netted class. She gets her chance when the Netted recruit her to help beat ChinRussia. Gwen faces a crisis of conscience as she looks back on those she would leave behind, including her friend Ondi, once banished for a month for sharing forbidden content on the internet, and her father, Grant (also the narrator), who intersperses anecdotes of brutal punishments faced by fellow members of their rank throughout. By placing the narration in Grant’s measured, ironic voice, Jen shows how the Netted accomplished their subtle, Huxleyian takeover through bigotry and technology. While some of Jen’s fans might miss the overt humor of her previous work, her intelligence and control shine through in a chilling portrait of the casual acceptance of totalitarianism.”

Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Verge: “In this brilliant collection, Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan) chronicles people outside society’s margins. In ‘Cusp,’ a teenager in rural Texas comes of age while acting as a drug mule at a prison. ‘The Organ Runner’ follows a young girl as she works to ferry kidneys for illegal backroom transplants, while ‘Second Language’ deals with sex trafficking in Portland, Ore. In ‘A Woman Refusing,’ a frustrated ex-husband refuses to aid his former spouse, who stands nude atop a high-rise, threatening to jump. The incest-tinged ‘Second Coming’ describes an at-home artificial insemination involving a sexually naive woman and her married sister. In ‘Mechanics,’ a woman flirts with a potential new lover while working under the hood of her car. The stories are consistently incisive, with sharp sentences and a barreling pace. The subject matter is pretty dark stuff, but Yuknavitch does offer an occasional ray of hope or rallying cry of resilience for her characters trapped by addiction, forced sex work, or bad marriages. This riveting collection invites readers to see women whose points of view are typically ignored.”

trans(re)lating house 1 by Poupeh Missaghi

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about trans(re)lating house 1: “Missaghi’s lyrical, meditative debut merges fiction, poetry, and critical study to explore Iran’s history and volatile present. An unnamed woman catalogues the statues of figures from the Persian Constitutional Revolution that are steadily disappearing from Tehran, reflecting on what their absence says about the enduring value of sacrifice for the greater good. After encountering a mysterious woman who slips her a note reading ‘Keep looking for the bodies,’ the protagonist begins writing annotations of the protesters who died in the aftermath of the 2009 election. As her archive grows, the narrator’s project hinges on two questions: ‘How does death define the experience of life?’ and ‘How to translate loss into language?’ Between entries, readers glimpse the public lives of women in teahouses, art galleries, and city buses, and enter into a rich dream world that ‘gains materiality’ through the protagonist’s methodical documentation. Missaghi mines a range of literary sources, quoting from Claire Lispector and Sigmund Freud, and notes formal inspiration from Roberto Bolaño’s harrowing description of missing and murdered women in 2666, though the result is less a novel than a bravura exhibition of writing as performance art. This will appeal to fans of mixed-genre experiments, such as works by Lyn Hejinian and Anne Carson.”

Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Everywhere You Don’t Belong: “Bump’s astute and touching debut follows young Claude McKay Love, a black child learning to navigate contemporary Chicago’s South Side after his parents’ acrimonious split. Raised by his strong-willed, foul-mouthed Grandma and her best friend, a gay man named Paul, the duo are honest with Claude about his absent parents and needing to make his own way in life. As a teenager, Claude is advised by his grandma to stay far away from the Redbelters, a gang, telling him the members will never get further than the corner they’re standing on. As the Redbelters gain notoriety, Grandma attempts to organize their neighbors to stand up to them, but to no avail: the neighborhood erupts in a standoff between gangs and police, forever transformed by shootings, destruction, and terror. Along with Grandma and Paul, Claude and his close friend Janice try to rebuild their lives after the violence without falling victim to despair. Hoping to leave his broken hometown behind, Claude heads to Missouri for college, where he discovers there’s no way to outrun the past. Bump balances his heavy subject matter with a healthy dose of humor, but the highlight is Claude, a complex, fully developed protagonist who anchors everything. Readers will be moved in following his path to young adulthood.”

The Cactus League by Emily Nemens

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cactus League: “In Nemens’s insightful debut, it’s 2011 and players of the L.A. Lions professional baseball team are reporting for spring training at their new facility, Salt River Fields, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Under a hot Southwestern sun, a sportswriter waits to interview the team’s golden boy, left fielder Jason Goodyear, whose handsome façade belies some unsavory secrets. Readers see Jason glancingly from eight different points of view: a put-upon batting coach whose mantra is ‘what would Joe DiMaggio do?’; a baseball groupie who sets her sights on him; a sports agent forced to cover up his client’s misdeeds to protect a Nike contract; the team owner with his own façade to maintain; a pitcher desperately trying to hide a painful elbow injury; the organist at the field where the Lions play; the seven-year-old son of a drug-addicted single mother who runs one of the concessions at the field; and Jason’s ex-wife, who finds herself reduced in the pecking order with the other players’ wives. Largely plotless, the book is a vivid collection of stories, as each character is brought to life in convincing detail, though the sportswriter’s interstitial musings can be intrusive. Still, this debut entertainingly illuminates people and problems usually overlooked in the sports pages.”

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lost Book of Adana Moreau: “In Zapata’s stirring debut, a man’s efforts to fulfill his grandfather’s last wishes leads him into the horror of post-Katrina New Orleans. On the eve of the Great Depression, Dominican expat novelist Adana Moreau finishes then destroys the sequel to her masterwork, Lost City. After her death, Adana’s 10 year-old, mixed-race son, Maxwell, is alone and adrift in New Orleans. A generation later in Chicago, Saul Drower discovers an unpublished manuscript in a box that his late grandfather requested be sent to now-renowned physicist Maxwell Moreau. Saul’s efforts to locate the elusive academic lead him to New Orleans just as Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. Joined by his childhood friend, Saul dives deep into the flooded city. Zapata expertly jumps between the story of Maxwell ’s youth and Saul’s attempt to return his manuscript. Histories collide as Saul navigates the storm-battered city in search of Maxwell and the prophetic words of Adana become realized. Zapata expertly blends the drama of the lost manuscript with the on-the-ground chaos and tumult caused by the storm. Digging into themes of regeneration and rejuvenation, Zapata’s marriage of speculative and realist styles makes for a harrowing, immersive tale that will appeal to fans of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones.”

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