Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Shipstead, Ryan, Walker, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Maggie Shipstead, Eimer Ryan, Sarai Walker, and more—that are publishing this week.
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You Have a Friend in 10A by Maggie Shipstead

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about You Have a Friend in 10A: “The 10 stories in this daring, wide-ranging debut collection from Shipstead (after the novel Great Circle) resonate as they leap across time and space. ‘The Cowboy Tango,’ set at a Montana dude ranch, cruises through several decades as the complicated relationship between the ranch’s owner and a woman who works for him remains uncomfortably static, then changes radically upon the arrival of the owner’s nephew. ‘Lambs,’ on one level a casual piece about the interactions of those at an artist’s colony in Ireland, is haunted by an eerie foreshadowing as each character is introduced with parenthetical summaries of their birth and death dates, which makes its ending both surprising and believable. The masterwork is the deeply unsettling ‘La Moretta.’ Interspersed with segments from an enigmatic inquisition, it documents a honeymoon excursion gone horribly wrong. Here and throughout, Shipstead demonstrates a remarkable ability to interlace the events of ordinary life with a mythological sense of preordained destruction. Both formally inventive and emotionally complex, this pays off with dividends.”

Holding Her Breath by Eimear Ryan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Holding Her Breath: “An Irish collegiate swimmer unearths the truth about her grandfather, a famous poet, in Ryan’s penetrating debut. Beth Crowe, 20, is just starting university away from home on a sports scholarship, and is slowly acclimating after an undisclosed crisis. She meets Justin Kelleher, an older postdoc lecturer who is curious about the archives of famed poet Benjamin Crowe, Beth’s grandfather who died by suicide at age 43 after completing his collection Roslyn, later declared his masterwork. As Beth settles into swimming and schoolwork, she begins a secret affair with Justin while trying to find out more about her grandparents. She’s close to her grandmother, Lydia, who previously barred Justin from viewing Benjamin’s archives. Eventually, she makes an allowance for Beth, and Beth discovers the unpublished biography of Benjamin by Julie Conlon-Hayes, a friend of her grandparents who was rumored to have had an affair with Benjamin. As tensions from her personal life come to a head, Beth begins to wonder if she’s inherited her grandfather’s self-destructive tendencies. Despite some underdeveloped plot points, Ryan’s strong character-building and intriguing narrative parallels keep this afloat. Readers will want to see what Ryan does next.”

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance: “A young woman addresses her older sister, who died when they were teens, in Espach’s inventive and powerful latest (after The Adults). Sally Holt, now 28, continues to find her life shaped by sister Kathy’s absence, prompting her to recount her life story, here unfolded in second-person narration. As a child, Sally is the subject of family concern because of her shyness, while Kathy, three years older, is comfortable in the spotlight and praised for her beauty. Despite the sisters’ contrasting temperaments, they are each other’s closest confidantes as they grow up in 1990s small-town Connecticut. Of particular interest to them both is high school senior Billy Barnes—a dreamy basketball player and the son of the town florist—who is in the grade above Kathy. After Billy saves 13-year-old Sally from drowning at the public pool, he begins dating Kathy, to Sally’s fascination and envy. A car accident involving all three teenagers permanently shifts the Holt family dynamic (‘To sue for reckless driving or not to sue? That was the question,’ Sally narrates, describing the tension between her parents over what to do about Billy, who was behind the wheel). In the aftermath, Billy and Sally unite in their shared grief and guilt. Espach captures the minutiae of love and loss with unflinching clarity and profound compassion, and pulls off the second-person point of view unusually well. Readers will be deeply moved.”

Family Album by Gabriela Alemán (translated by Dick Cluster and Mary Ellen Fieweger)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Family Album: “Ecuadorian writer Alemán’s sparkling collection (after the novel Poso Wells) brims with humor and adventure. In the poignant ‘Baptism,’ an unnamed bartender and expert on Alexander Selkirk, inspiration for the Robinson Crusoe character, befriends Max, an 81-year-old customer who convinces the narrator to take him on an underwater voyage in the Galápagos in search of Selkirk’s long-lost treasure. The shadowy narrator in ‘Family Outing’ finds work in Ecuador escorting young, overzealous missionaries attempting to convert the native Huao people, with whom the missionaries unexpectedly end up in a violent confrontation. A widow in ‘Marriage’ discovers her recently deceased husband isn’t the failure she always thought he was after stumbling across large bank accounts, cash, and references to children that aren’t hers, leading her on an investigation involving a nefarious notary. ‘Honeymoon’ finds an overweight, balding real-life John Wayne Bobbitt in Buenos Aires, where he goes home with a woman he meets at a film screening and weeps while listening to her Ecuadorian records, which remind him of his ex-wife, Lorena. Alemán’s sly wit and descriptive power—Max, underwater, looks to the bartender ‘like a moss-covered statue from an ancient civilization’—portray the beauty and ravages of South America. This dynamic collection has a lot to offer.”

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies by Tsering Yangzom Lama

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies: “Lama debuts with the heartfelt and magical saga of a Tibetan family’s love, sacrifice, and heritage. Starting in 1960, Lama interweaves the lives of four characters: Lhamo and her younger sister Tenkyi, whose parents don’t survive the rigors of the Himalayas during their flight from Tibet to Nepal, where they resettle in a village for refugees; Lhamo’s daughter Dolma; and Samphel, Lhamo’s childhood love, whom she meets in Nepal. Lama also explores the influence of a ku—an ancient statue that Samphel’s uncle brings into Lhamo’s village—on each of their lives. Lhamo, despite heartache, encourages her younger sister to leave their village to study in India and improve her future prospects. Decades later, in another act of selflessness, Lhamo suggests her daughter join Tenkyi, now in Toronto, to complete her studies and have a better life. When Dolma discovers the ku of Lhamo’s childhood in the possession of a private collector in Canada, she sets in motion a series of events that illustrate the power of the ancient relic and its hold on Lhamo’s family. Lama imbues this mesmerizing tale—informed by her own family fleeing Tibet for Nepal in the early 1960s— with a rich sense of history, mysticism, and ritual. This brings great revelations and significance to a family’s courage and acts of cultural preservation.”

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cherry Robbers: “The delightfully eerie latest from Walker (Dietland) follows a woman who reinvents herself after a painful childhood. The story begins with Sylvia Wren, a famous artist in her 80s, living in present-day Abiquiu, N.Mex., while her partner, Lola, is away in Brazil. Sylvia receives a letter from a journalist with questions about her past that threaten to reveal her true identity as Iris Chapel. Walker then flashes back to 1950s Connecticut, where Iris grows up with her five older sisters and a mother who has a habit of staring off into the woods and dropping her china before declaring she feels ‘something terrible’ will happen. Their father, who isn’t around much, runs Chapel Firearms, and the women believe their house is haunted by those who were killed by the guns manufactured by the company. Walker does a great job weaving this thread of gothic mystery with revelations about the woman Iris becomes, a ‘haunted mother, haunted daughter.’ A mix of bildungsroman and ghost story, the narrative gains strength as it illuminates its characters’ power of intuition, especially when they’re not afraid to use it. This uncanny tale of dark origins shines brightly.”

Against Reason with Margo Jefferson


At Vulture, Margo Jefferson discusses her new memoir, Constructing a Nervous System, and how she worked to shake the “haute bourgeoisie” habits of her childhood. “There was a certain well-behaved manner even when I was arguing, standing firm, that I didn’t want to stay in thrall to,” she says. “I was talking about this with a student of mine the other day who was Black and was writing about race. And I said, ‘There are moments where you are very good. But you are working a little too hard to be reasonable and obliging, to make it something that your audience will be able to move toward. I don’t want you to do exactly the opposite, but look at what this is doing.’ So now transfer this back to me: ‘Margo artfully switched it to a student!’”

Jenny Tinghui Zhang on Tuning Out Publishing Noise


At Write or Die Tribe, Jenny Tinghui Zhang discusses her debut novel, Four Treasures in the Sky, and shares advice for emerging writers trying to finish their books. “Don’t get distracted by the progress of others and that’s a roundabout way of saying, you know, don’t compare yourself to the progress of others or what others are doing,” she says. “Don’t feel panicked or in distress because something good is happening for someone else. You know, they got an agent or they sold their book or whatever it is. The goals that you have and the work that you’re trying to do, remember that you’re the only one that can tell the story you want to tell. I hate to use this platitude, but it really is a marathon and not a sprint for people who want to be writers and write books. That’s a lifelong thing. That’s a lifelong journey. And hopefully, you will write many books over the course of your lifetime. I certainly hope I write more books after this one. But zoom out from all of the announcements on Twitter and all the book news on Instagram. This is our life’s work. So just remember that you have all of your life to make it happen for yourself.”

Mai Al-Nakib and the Power of Not Belonging


At Electric Literature, Mai Al-Nakib discusses her debut novel, An Unlasting Home, a family saga that follows generations of women across Kuwait, the U.S., India, and more. “There is a degree of empowerment in not belonging; it allows you to pivot and to create possibilities for yourself that are often fruitful,” she says. “This is the case for Maria, moving herself from Goa to Pune and then to Kuwait, making a life for her children that would not have been possible without her capacity to tolerate non-belonging.”

Characters on Fire with Sandra Cisneros


At World Literature Today, Sandra Cisneros discusses her forthcoming poetry collection, Woman Without Shame, and why she is attracted to writing about characters and stories with an urgent quality. “I write about people whose lives are on fire,” she says. “If you think of people you love who are living in houses on fire, would you run in and save them? Yes, you would risk your own being. So, I think about people whose lives are on fire. Maybe you know them so well. Maybe you lived in that house once. You think nothing of running in there and saving them. And that’s what’s on your mind.”

The Banning of ‘Persepolis’ Spawns a New Legacy


Book Riot reports on the history of book banning and censorship in relation to Marjane Satrapi’s influential graphic novel, Persepolis. Its legacy continues in an upcoming graphic nonfiction work called Wake Now In the Fire, written by Jarrett Dapier and illustrated by AJ Dungo. “In 2013, library science graduate student Jarrett Dapier filed a Freedom of Information Act request that made public the Chicago Public School district’s attempt to quietly remove Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi from school libraries and classrooms. […] News of the banning caused a public outcry, especially after Dapier brought his finding to the news and the ALA. Now, Dapier is turning this story into its own graphic nonfiction work called Wake Now In The Fire. It’s illustrated by AJ Dungo and follows a group of Chicago high school students who fight back against the attempts at censorship in their own school.”

Janice Lee Explores the Worldview of a Sentence


At Catapult, Janice Lee explores story structures at the sentence level, as seen in her recent novel, Imagine a Death. “We often glean meaning from the overall structure of a story, the narrative shape revealing something about subjects like reality, transformation, life and death. But before the story, there is the sentence. Across cultures and languages, the subject/object and noun/verb relationships we see in English are neither universal nor inherent. Not all languages focus on a subject’s action upon an object (many Asian languages, for example, put the emphasis on the verb, rather than the subject coming first), and many indigenous languages have an increased focus on verbs, rather than nouns. […] The sentence itself can reveal an entire worldview through the shape it assumes, through the relationships it maps, which ideological systems it upholds, what power structures it validates simply through its grammar.”

Art Is Not a Neutral Act


At Crime Reads, Grace D. Li discusses her debut novel, Portrait of a Thief, which follows a group of Chinese Americans as they pull off a heist to reclaim priceless Chinese art. “It can be all too easy to view art as a neutral act, or museums as institutions that solely preserve history instead of shape it,” she says. “In Portrait of a Thief, I wanted to challenge the presence of looted art in museums. Why is it acceptable to keep stolen art, especially when its country of origin has already asked for it back? Why do Western institutions assume they can better preserve, display, or educate about pieces that doesn’t belong to them? The art world is awaiting long overdue change, and I hope my book can help push that forward.”

Constantly Questioning with Tanaïs


At the Creative Independent, Tanaïs discusses their expansive memoir, In Sensorium: Notes for My People, in which they examine alternate histories and universes of memories and scent. “I think that community building is really important and I think it’s also equally as important to distinguish your own voice and your own mind from that community,” they say. “I think there’s a lot of emphasis placed on literary citizenship, which is in the most simple definition, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ You give and you take and you offer help and you pick other people up; you’re just in an ecosystem. This book is questioning what it even means to be a citizen or to belong to anything. I belong to many things and I feel like what I started to become very aware of is how other minds and other writers’ opinions, and the way that I would feel my energy was being drawn from me was actually affecting my own work.”

Ocean Vuong and the Grieving World


At Time, Ocean Vuong discusses his new poetry collection, Time Is a Mother, which he wrote while mourning his mother, bearing witness to love, loss, and trauma. “I was grieving, the world was grieving, and the only thing I really had was to go back to poems […] All the things I’d written, it was all to try to take care of her,” he says. “I went to school for her, I worked for her—she was the source. When that was taken away, I didn’t have anything else to answer to. And so I finally wrote for myself.”