Lauren Groff and the Artist’s Response to Climate Change

Like many people, novelist Lauren Groff is filled with anxiety about the future of our planet’s environment and climate. To combat the feeling of hopelessness, she partnered with Greenpeace on a new campaign to get artists to respond creatively to climate change, a movement she discusses with Jason Katz in Ploughshares. “Everybody on the planet can write or draw or make a sculpture that responds to climate change,” Gross says. “That act alone may make them feel less frozen—it may make them begin to march and protest and boycott and fight back. And art can strike the emotional note that makes people start to move and act and change.”

Image credit: PdPhoto

Haruki Murakami on Memory Versus Reality

A new Haruki Murakami story is bound to make waves, and his latest one, “With the Beatles,” in The New Yorker is no exception. Memory is at the forefront as the author discusses the story with the magazine’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. “When I was in high school, I passed a girl in the hallway, a girl whose name I didn’t know, who was clutching a copy of ‘With the Beatles’ to her as if it were something precious,” Murakami says. “That scene was etched in my mind and became a symbol, for me, of adolescence. Sometimes scraps of memory like that can be the trigger that brings a story into being. But the reality we actually deal with is different from a symbol. And sometimes nothing can fill in the gap between the two—between symbol and reality. This story is fiction, of course, but my guess is that most people have experienced something similar.”

Bonus Links from Our Archive: — The Elusive Qualities of Dreams: On Haruki Murakami’s ‘The Strange Library’Aloof, Quiet, and Dissonant: On Haruki Murakami’s ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Image credit: in_rainbows69/flickr

Jane Austen’s Emma: The Ultimate Insider

With another film adaptation coming soon, Jane Austen’s Emma is back in the cultural conversation. For JSTOR Daily, Erin Blakemore examines the popularity of the novel’s matchmaking protagonist, questioning whether she or another character, Jane Fairfax, is the true heroine. “Well-behaved and wary in public and witty in private, Austen chafed at societal obsessions with marriage, rank, and social status,” Blakemore writes. “That makes Emma a decided aberration. Unlike her other novels, which star put-upon women trying to navigate social systems that constrain them, Emma stars the ultimate insider, the kind of woman for whom those structures of hierarchy have been designed.”

A Forgotten Classic of the Harlem Renaissance

Almost 90 years after it was written, Romance in Marseille by Claude McKay is getting a chance to reach wider audiences thanks to Penguin Classics. The book’s plot seems contemporary by today’s standards, as it delves into issues of queerness and cultural displacement. For The New York Times, Talya Zax explore’s McKay’s place in the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the book’s long path to publication. “McKay belonged both to that subculture and to the movement’s mainstream. His 1928 novel Home to Harlem was the first American best seller by a black writer. But despite being seen as one of the Renaissance’s guiding lights, McKay — Jamaican, bisexual, a Marxist who grew disenchanted with communism before the rest of his cohort — also brought an outsider’s critical gaze to the movement.”

Dorothy Parker Loses Her Day Job

Known for her biting fiction, wry poetry, and time among New York City’s sharpest literary circle, Dorothy Parker wasn’t a stranger to controversy. For the Public Domain Review, Jonathan Goldman recounts the time Parker was fired from her post as theater critic for Vanity Fair for harsh reviews that upset the magazine’s advertisers. “[Editor Frank] Crowninshield met Parker at the Plaza and fired her from the job she had held for two years. Parker promptly ordered the most expensive dessert on the menu and left,” Goldman writes. “In the days that followed, Parker’s cronies who hung out in the Rose Room of the Algonquin Hotel made the firing and its fallout at Vanity Fair into a media scandal. Parker herself would never again hold a desk job or draw a regular salary, finding success instead as a freelance critic, author of brilliant and acclaimed verse, short fiction, essays, plays, and film scripts. The incident changed her career and stature, and its response helped forge the legend of what would eventually be called the Algonquin Round Table.”

Image credit: Library of Congress

Jericho Brown and the South

For Garden and Gun, poet Jericho Brown discusses how the push and pull of the South fuel his powerful work. The Louisiana-born writer looks back on his career, focusing on the ways the South repeatedly influences his poetry. “I’m interested in—what is that word? Posterity,” Brown says. “I’m almost ashamed to say it, but when I die, I want to die in the South and I want people to think of me, if anybody ever thinks of me, to think of me in contrast to and in context of this place. That’s important to me.”

Young Adult Fiction’s New Chapter

YA authors Tomi Adeyemi, Akwaeke Emezi, Elizabeth Acevedo, Angie Thomas, and Nic Stone joined forces for Elle to discuss the changing tides in young adult fiction, as well as the work that still needs to be done. The five authors also touched upon their influences and delved into their creative processes. “Once I got to the point where I began to get an understanding of myself and see that my skin was brown, and that I’m treated differently from others around me—and there wasn’t a reflection of that in the books that I read, I stopped,” Nic Stone says. “I see it as both an opportunity and a privilege to start readers. To have kids become readers because of something I’ve written is huge to me. And I do not take that for granted.”

Image credit: Stewart Butterfield

Dreaming with N.K. Jemisin

For N.K. Jemisin, dreams shape and drive the imaginary worlds that populate her works of speculative science fiction. For The New Yorker, she spoke to Raffi Khatchadourian about writing herself into the stories she wanted to read, as well as what the future holds for her as her latest book, The City We Became, hits shelves. “What seems to be happening, and I don’t know if I want to resist this, is an effort to push me into the mainstream,” Jemisin says. “I am wrestling with, Do I want to let people call me the next Atwood, or whatever? They always want you to be the next such-and-such. But I am still going to write what I am going to write.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Allende, Smith, Eisenberg, Cummins, Chayka, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Isabel Allende, Danez Smith, Emma Copley Eisenberg, Jeanine Cummins, Kyle Chayka, 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 sign up to be a member today.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Long Petal of the Sea: “Spanning from 1938 to 1994, this majestic novel from Allende (In the Midst of Winter) focuses on Victor Dalmau, a 23-year-old medical student fighting in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side when the novel opens. After Nationalist forces prevail, Victor and thousands of other Republican sympathizers flee Spain to avoid brutal reprisals. In France, he searches the packed refugee camps for Roser Bruguera, who is pregnant with his brother Guillem’s child. Once he finds Roser, he breaks the news that Guillem has died in battle and that he has won a place on the Winnipeg, a ship that the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda has organized to transport Spanish refugees from Europe, where WWII is breaking out, to safety in Chile. Allowed to bring only family with him, Victor persuades Roser to marry him in name only. Though Victor has a brief, secret affair with well-off Ofelia del Solar, he begins to fall in love with Roser; they raise Roser’s son, Marcel, together and build stable lives, he as a cardiologist and she as a widely respected musician. But when the Pinochet dictatorship unseats Chile’s Marxist president in 1973, they find themselves once more endangered by their political views. Allende’s assured prose vividly evokes her fictional characters, historical figures like Neruda, and decades of complex international history; her imagery makes the suffering of war and displacement palpable yet also does justice to human strength, hope and rebirth. Seamlessly juxtaposing exile with homecoming, otherness with belonging, and tyranny with freedom, the novel feels both timeless and perfectly timed for today.”

Homie by Danez Smith

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Homie: “Smith (Don’t Call Us Dead) presents an electrifying, unabashedly queer ode to friendship and community in their exuberant and mournful second collection. Smith alternates colloquial and lofty language, often within the same poem, and eschews most punctuation and grammatical strictures. In ‘ode to gold teeth,’ the poet writes of their grandfather, ‘gold gate of grandpa’s holler/ midas touch his blue hum/ honeymetal perfuming prayers,’ later referring to him as the ‘OG of the gin sermon & front-porch pulpit.’ These poems are a celebration of black culture and experience, and a condemnation of white supremacy and its effect; in ‘dogs!,’ Smith excoriates racist dehumanization: ‘i too been called boy & expected/ to come, heel.’ In ‘sometimes i wish i felt the side effects,’ Smith explores conflicting feelings related to an HIV diagnosis—simultaneous devastation and relief (‘it felt like i got it out the way, to finally know it’), acceptance, and shame (‘i braved the stupidest ocean. a man. i waded in his stupid waters’). The collection’s final poem, ‘acknowledgments,’ is a beautiful love poem to a best friend, one that is as heartfelt as it is quotable: ‘if luck calls your name, we split the pot/ & if you wither, surely i rot.’ Smith is a visionary polyglot with a fearless voice.”

The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Third Rainbow Girl: “In June 1980, 26-year-old Vicki Durian and 19-year-old Nancy Santomero were hitchhiking through rural West Virginia, heading to a festival called the Rainbow Gathering. They never made it. The story of their shooting murders, and the hunt for the killer, consumed the citizens of Pocahontas County for decades, as journalist Eisenberg reveals in this gripping account, her first book. She spent five years researching the crime and blends the case facts with a memoir of her time living in the area, playing bluegrass and drinking bourbon with men who were connected to the Rainbow Gathering. Part self-discovery and part crime and courtroom drama, the narrative follows two possible theories. Jacob Beard, a local farmer, was arrested 13 years after Durian and Santomero’s deaths and was convicted of their murders, though witness statements were shaky and there was no physical evidence. But as Eisenberg notes, white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin, a convicted serial killer, made a jailhouse confession before Beard’s 1993 trial that he killed the young women, but the prosecutors dismissed it. The author herself thinks it was bogus. Not until 2000 did Beard get a second trial, at which he was acquitted, yet the community may never know the truth. This is essential reading for true crime fans.”

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about American Dirt: “With this devastating yet hopeful work, Cummins (The Crooked Branch) breathes life into the statistics of the thousands fleeing their homelands and seeking to cross the southern border of the United States. By mere chance, Lydia Quixano Pérez and her eight-year-old son, Luca, survive the massacre of the rest of her family at her niece’s quinceañera by sicarios of the Los Jardineros cartel in Acapulco. Compounding the horror of the violence and loss is the fact that the cartel’s leader is a man that Lydia unwittingly befriended in her bookstore. Lydia and Luca flee north to the only refuge that she can imagine: her uncle’s family in Denver. North of Mexico City, all other sources of transportation become impossible, so mother and son must risk traveling atop La Bestia, the freight trains that are the only way to reach the border without being seen. They befriend two beautiful sisters—Soledad, 15, who is ‘a living miracle of splendor,’ and Rebeca, 14—who have fled life-threatening circumstances in Honduras. As the quartet travel, they face terror on a constant basis, with danger possible from any encounter, but also compassion and occasionally even wonder. This extraordinary novel about unbreakable determination will move the reader to the core.”

Heart of Junk by Luke Geddes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Heart of Junk: “Geddes’s rambunctious, oddly touching debut homes in on the denizens of a massive Kansas antique mall. The small-scale purveyors of what the less sensitive would call junk are pinning their hopes on the arrival of the production crew for the TV show Pickin’ Fortunes. Unfortunately, the hosts of the show are leery to come to a town where a little girl, beauty pageant star Lindy Bobo, has disappeared, possibly kidnapped. So mall owner Keith, on the brink of bankruptcy, enlists the rest of the troupe to find her, unaware that one of his sellers knows more than he’s saying about Lindy’s whereabouts. Geddes assembles an irresistible cast of self-deluded characters. This includes uptight Margaret, a stickler for the rules and desperate to repress her attraction to a fellow seller; hapless Ronald, too friendly for his own good; high-strung Delores, ‘dizzied by all the voices’ of the Barbies who keep her company; and Seymour, a big-city vinyl album aficionado hauled to the sticks by his partner Lee. Geddes walks an edgy tightrope with some of the material, particularly the Lindy story, but his antic comic touch saves the novel from sinking into darkness, and he offers even his most misguided characters the opportunity to bumble towards redemption. This one’s a quirky treat for fans of flyover state humor.”

The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Majesties: “Tsao (The Oddfits) cannily pulls back the gilded surface from a wealthy Indonesian family, revealing a rotten core. The novel opens in the aftermath of an extravagant birthday party for the Sulinado family patriarch, during which a young woman, Estella, has poisoned her entire extended family. The only survivor, Estella’s sister Gwendolyn, narrates the events leading up to the mass murder from her hospital bed, where she lies in a comatose state. These include the disastrous devolution of Estella’s brief marriage, as well as the sisters’ recent attempts to reconnect in the U.S. with a fun-loving aunt whom they had believed, until recently, to be dead. The sisters share a close bond, though each successive revelation about how their morally corrupt family intervened in these personal affairs drives a wedge further between them. The plot takes a while to hit its stride, but once it does, the narrative unfolds in a manner that’s both suspenseful and creepily claustrophobic. The novel also prompts readers to consider the cultural relativism of stereotypes, contrasting outsider perceptions of those with Chinese heritage in both Indonesia and the U.S. Tsao depicts a family whose fabulous wealth and privilege not only blind them to the needs of others but also engender cruelty and self-destruction. This is a bold and dramatic portrayal of characters on the cusp of an impossible choice between complicit self-preservation and total annihilation.”

Also on shelves: Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi and The Longing for Less by Kyle Chayka.

Kiley Reid on the Babysitter’s Dilemma

In her new book, Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid used her own experience as a babysitter to explore the transactional relationship that exists when caring for someone’s child. Reid spoke to Concepción de León at The New York Times about the clashes of race and class that drive the action in her novel. “I definitely started from wanting to explore the awkwardness of transactional relationships,” Reid says, “but also bigger themes of ownership, from the small petty ones like ‘Oh, well, she’s our sitter’ or ‘I knew him, so he’s mine,’ to the awkward history of black women raising white children in this country. That just comes flooding back, no matter whether you like it or not, in certain interactions.”