We are already deep into the second half of 2022. So it’s time for another fifty books I am excited for this year. The book descriptions are mostly taken directly from the respecitive publishers’ websites. For monthly updates on new releases, follow me on Instagram where I share new publications in my stories (and save in a highlight over the year).
Julian Aguon: No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies
Part memoir, part manifesto, Chamorro climate activist Julian Aguon’s No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies is a coming-of-age story and a call for justice—for everyone, but in particular, for Indigenous peoples.
In bracing poetry and compelling prose, Aguon weaves together stories from his childhood in the villages of Guam with searing political commentary about matters ranging from nuclear weapons to global warming. Undertaking the work of bearing witness, wrestling with the most pressing questions of the modern day, and reckoning with the challenge of truth-telling in an era of rampant obfuscation, he culls from his own life experiences—from losing his father to pancreatic cancer to working for Mother Teresa to an edifying chance encounter with Sherman Alexie—to illuminate a collective path out of the darkness.
A powerful, bold, new voice writing at the intersection of Indigenous rights and environmental justice, Julian Aguon is entrenched in the struggles of the people of the Pacific to liberate themselves from colonial rule, defend their sacred sites, and obtain justice for generations of harm. In No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies, Aguon shares his wisdom and reflections on love, grief, joy, and triumph and extends an offer to join him in a hard-earned hope for a better world.
Travis Alabanza: None of the Above. Reflections on Life Beyond the Binary
In None of the Above, Travis Alabanza examines seven phrases people have directed at them about their gender identity. These phrases have stayed with them over the years. Some are deceptively innocuous, some deliberately loaded or offensive, some celebratory; sentences that have impacted them for better and for worse; sentences that speak to the broader issues raised by a world that insists that gender must be a binary.
Through these seven phrases, which include some of their most transformative experiences as a Black, mixed race, non binary person, Travis Alabanza turns a mirror back on society, giving us reason to question the very framework in which we live and the ways we treat each other.
Fatimah Asghar: When We Were Sisters
In this heartrending, lyrical debut work of fiction, Fatimah Asghar traces the intense bond of three orphaned siblings who, after their parents die, are left to raise one another. The youngest, Kausar, grapples with the incomprehensible loss of their parents as she also charts out her own understanding of gender; Aisha, the middle sister, spars with her “crybaby” younger sibling as she desperately tries to hold on to her sense of family in an impossible situation; and Noreen, the eldest, does her best in the role of sister-mother while also trying to create a life for herself, on her own terms.
As Kausar grows up, she must contend with the collision of her private and public worlds, and choose whether to remain in the life of love, sorrow, and codependency that she’s known or carve out a new path for herself. When We Were Sisters tenderly examines the bonds and fractures of sisterhood, names the perils of being three Muslim American girls alone against the world, and ultimately illustrates how those who’ve lost everything might still make homes in one another.
Andre Bagoo: The Dreaming
At one level, Andre Bagoo’s stories have the very real virtue of taking the everyday lives of his gay Trinidadian characters utterly for granted in their searches for sex, adventure, pleasure, self-realisation and all the enrichments of loving contact. There’s a neat balance between a highly enjoyable sharpness of perception and a relaxed and engaging personal voice, and room for humour in several of these stories. How is the poet ever going to disabuse his lover that his writing has any merit – especially when desire leads him to have a line of his lover’s dire poetry immortalised in a tattoo? Where is a style-conscious journalist going to find a barbershop that can do justice to his hair? But the stories also record moments of self-denial, self-deception and fear that point to the fact that this is still a society where gay men experience prejudice, discrimination, and homophobic violence. The narrator of several of these stories is a writer who wants to focus on the personal satisfactions and inner dramas of these lives as the truth about gay experience. But at the back of his mind are the stories of the brutal murders of gay men reported with coy innuendo in the press. If he is tempted to see his lovers as characters in a witty novel of manners, is this a novel that can only take place somewhere other than in Trinidad? But since this is Trinidad, could the conflicted, self-hating Dorian really be a serial killer? Bagoo’s stories offer a witty and acutely drawn portrait of contemporary Trinidad in all its intersections of race, class and gender politics. Not least, they share a strong sense of place – Bagoo’s gay Woodbrook offers a fine sequel to V.S. Naipaul’s Woodbrook stories in his classic Miguel Street.
Hemley Boum (transl. by Nchanji Njamnsi): Days Come and Go
Chronicling the beauty and turmoil of a rapidly changing Cameroon, Days Come and Go is the remarkable story of three generations of women both within and beyond its borders. Through the voices of Anna, a matriarch living out her final days in Paris; Abi, Anna’s thoroughly European daughter (at least in her mother’s eyes); and Tina, a teenager who comes under the sway of a militant terrorist faction, Boum’s epic is generous and all-seeing. Brilliantly considering the many issues that dominate her characters’ lives—love and politics, tradition and modernity—Days Come and Go, in Nchanji Njamnsi’s vivid translation, is a page-turner by way of Frantz Fanon and V. S. Naipaul. As passions rise, fall, and rise again, Boum’s stirring English-language debut offers a discerning portrait of a nation that never once diminishes the power of everyday human connection.
Becky Chambers: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy
After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.
They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.
Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?
Andrea Chapela (tr. Kelsi Vanada): The Visible Unseen: Essays
In powerful, formally inventive essays, The Visible Unseen disrupts the purported cultural divide between arts and science. As both a chemist and an award-winning author, Chapela zeros in on the literary metaphors buried in the facts and figures of her scientific observations. Through questioning scientific conundrums that lie beyond the limits of human perception, she winds up putting herself under the microscope as well.
While considering the technical definition of glass as a liquid or a solid, Chapela stumbles upon a framework for understanding the in-between-ness of her own life. Turning her focus toward mirrors, she finds metaphors for our cultural obsessions with self-image in the physics and chemistry of reflection. And as she compiles a history of the scientific study of light, she comes to her final conclusion: that the purpose of description—be it scientific or literary—can never be to define reality, only to confirm our perception of it. Lyrical, introspective, and methodical, The Visible Unseen constructs a startling new perspective from which to examine ourselves and the ways we create meaning.
Chen Chen: Your Emergency Contact has Experienced an Emergency
In his highly anticipated second collection, Chen Chen continues his investigation of family, both blood and chosen, examining what one inherits and what one invents, as a queer Asian American living through an era of Trump, mass shootings, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Always at work in the wrecked heart of this new collection is a switchboard operator, picking up and connecting calls. Raucous 2 a.m. prank calls. Whispered-in-a-classroom emergency calls. And sometimes, its pages record the dropping of a call, a failure or refusal to pick up. With irrepressible humor and play, these anarchic poems celebrate life, despite all that would crush aliveness.
Hybrid in form and set in New England, West Texas, and a landlocked province of China, among other places, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency refuses neat categorizations and pat answers. Instead, the book offers an insatiable curiosity about how it is we keep finding ways to hold onto one another.
Franny Choi: The World Keeps Ending, And The World Goes On
Many have called our time dystopian. But The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On reminds us that apocalypse has already come in myriad ways for marginalized peoples and calls us to imagine what will persist in the aftermaths.
With lyric and tonal dexterity, these poems spin backwards and forwards in time. They look into the collective psyche of our years in the pandemic and in the throes of anti-racist uprisings, while imagining other vectors, directions, and futures. Stories of survival collide across space and time—from Korean comfort women during World War II to children wandering a museum in the future. These poems explore narrative distances and queer linearity, investigating on microscopic scales before soaring towards the universal. Throughout, Choi grapples with where the individual fits within the strange landscapes of this apocalyptic world, with its violent and many-layered histories. In the process, she imagines what togetherness—between Black and Asian and other marginalized communities, between living organisms, between children of calamity and conquest—could look like. Bringing together Choi’s signature speculative imagination with even greater musicality than her previous work, The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On ultimately charts new paths toward hope.
Nicole Chung & Matt Ortile (eds.): Body Language: Writers on Identity, Physicality, and Making Space for Ourselves
Bodies are serious, irreverent, sexy, fragile, strong, political, and inseparable from our experiences and identities as human beings. Pushing the dialogue and confronting monolithic myths, this collection of essays tackles topics like weight, disability, desire, fertility, illness, and the embodied experience of race in deep, challenging ways.
Selected from the archives of Catapult magazine, the essays in Body Language affirm and challenge the personal and political conversations around human bodies from the perspectives of thirty writers diverse in race, age, gender, size, sexuality, health, ability, geography, and class—a brilliant group probing and speaking their own truths about their bodies and identities, refusing to submit to others’ expectations about how their bodies should look, function, and behave.
Covering a wide range of experiences—from art modeling as a Black woman to nostalgia for a brutalizing high school sport, from the frightening upheaval of cancer diagnoses to the small beauties of funeral sex—this collection is intelligent, sensitive, and unflinchingly candid. Through the power of personal narratives, as told by writers at all stages of their careers, Body Language reflects the many ways in which we understand and inhabit our bodies.
Emma Donoghue: Haven
In seventh-century Ireland, a scholar and priest called Artt has a dream telling him to leave the sinful world behind. Taking two monks—young Trian and old Cormac—he rows down the river Shannon in search of an isolated spot on which to found a monastery. Drifting out into the Atlantic, the three men find an impossibly steep, bare island inhabited by tens of thousands of birds, and claim it for God. In such a place, what will survival mean?
Sheree Renèe Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Zelda Knight (eds.): Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction
A group of cabinet ministers query a supercomputer containing the minds of the country’s ancestors. A child robot on a dying planet uncovers signs of fragile new life. A descendent of a rain goddess inherits her grandmother’s ability to change her appearance—and perhaps the world.
Created in the legacy of the seminal, award-winning anthology series Dark Matter, Africa Risen celebrates the vibrancy, diversity, and reach of African and Afro-Diasporic SFF and reaffirms that Africa is not rising—it’s already here.
Safia Elhillo: Girls That Never Die
In Girls That Never Die, award-winning poet Safia Elhillo reinvents the epic to explore Muslim girlhood and shame, the dangers of being a woman, and the myriad violences enacted and imagined against women’s bodies. Drawing from her own life and family histories, as well as cultural myths and news stories about honor killings and genital mutilation, she interlaces the everyday traumas of growing up a girl under patriarchy with magical realist imaginings of rebellion, autonomy, and power.
Elhillo writes a new world: women escape their stonings by birds that carry the rocks away; slain girls grow into two, like the hydra of lore, sprouting too numerous to ever be eradicated; circles of women are deemed holy, protected. Ultimately, Girls That Never Die is about wrestling ourselves from the threats of violence that constrain our lives, and instead looking to freedom and questioning:
[what if i will not die]
[what will govern me then]
Hafizah Augustus Geter: The Black Period: On Personhood, Race, And Origin
“I say, ‘the Black Period,’ and mean ‘home’ in all its shapeshifting ways.” In The Black Period, Hafizah creates a space for the beauty of Blackness, Islam, disability, and queerness to flourish, celebrating the many layers of her existence that America has time and again sought to erase.
At nineteen, she lost her mother to a sudden stroke. Weeks later, her father became so heartsick that he needed a triple bypass. By her thirties, she was constantly in pain, pinballing between physical therapy appointments, her grief, and the grind that is the American Dream. Hafizah realized she’d spent years internalizing the narratives that white supremacy had fed her about herself. Suddenly, she says, I was standing at the cliff of my own life, remembering.
Recalling her parents’ lessons on the art of Black revision, and mixing history, political analysis, and cultural criticism, alongside stunning original artwork created by her father, renowned artist Tyrone Geter, Hafizah maps out her own narrative, weaving between a childhood populated with Southern and Nigerian relatives; her days in a small Catholic school; a loving but tragically short relationship with her mother; and the feelings of joy and community that the Black Lives Matter protests engendered in her as an adult. All throughout, she forms a new personal and collective history, addressing the systems of inequity that make life difficult for non-able-bodied persons, queer people, and communities of color while capturing a world brimming with potential, art, music, hope, and love.
Kristen Ghodsee: Red Valkyries: The Revolutionary Women of Eastern Europe
Through a series of lively and accessible biographical essays, Red Valkyries explores the history of socialist feminism by examining the revolutionary careers of five prominent socialist women active in the 19th and 20th centuries.
•Alexandra Kollontai, the aristocratic Bolshevik
•Nadezhda Krupskaya, the radical pedagogue
•Inessa Armand, the polyamorous firebrand
•Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the deadly sniper
•Elena Lagadinova, the partisan turned scientist turned global women’s rights activist
None of these women were “perfect” leftists. Their lives were filled with inner conflicts, contradictions, and sometimes outrageous privilege, but they still managed to move forward their own political projects through perseverance and dedication to their cause.
Always walking a fine line between the need for class solidarity and the desire to force their sometimes callous male colleagues to take women’s issues seriously, these five women fought for social change with important lessons for feminist activists today.
In brief conversational chapters Ghodsee tells the story of the personal challenges faced by earlier generations of socialist and communist women and renders the big ideas of socialist feminism accessible to those newly inspired by the emancipatory politics of left feminist movements around the globe.
Erica Hannickel: Orchid Muse: A History of Obsession in Fifteen Flowers
The epitome of floral beauty, orchids have long fostered works of art, tales of adventure, and scientific discovery. Tenacious plant hunters have traversed continents to collect rare specimens; naturalists and shoguns have marveled at orchids’ seductive architecture; royalty and the smart set have adorned themselves with their allure. In Orchid Muse, historian and home grower Erica Hannickel gathers these bold tales of the orchid-smitten throughout history, while providing tips on cultivating the extraordinary flowers she features.
Consider Empress Eugenie and Queen Victoria, the two most powerful women in nineteenth-century Europe, who shared a passion for Coelogyne cristata, with its cascading, fragrant white blooms. John Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, cultivated thousands of orchids and introduced captivating hybrids. Edmond Albius, an enslaved youth on an island off the coast of Madagascar, was the first person to hand-pollinate Vanilla planifolia, leading to vanilla’s global boom. Artist Frida Kahlo was drawn to the lavender petals of Cattleya gigas and immortalized the flower’s wilting form in a harrowing self-portrait, while more recently Margaret Mee painted the orchids she discovered in the Amazon to advocate for their conservation.
The story of orchidomania is one that spans the globe, transporting readers from the glories of the palace gardens of Chinese Empress Cixi to a seedy dime museum in Gilded Age New York’s Tenderloin, from hazardous jungles to the greenhouses and bookshelves of Victorian collectors. Lush and inviting, with radiant full-color illustrations throughout, Orchid Muse is the ultimate celebration of our enduring fascination with these beguiling flowers.
Joy Harjo: Catching The Light (Why I Write)
In this lyrical meditation about the why of writing poetry, Joy Harjo reflects on significant points of illumination, experience, and questioning from her fifty years as a poet. Comprised of intimate vignettes that take us through the author’s life journey as a youth in the late 1960s, a single mother, and a champion of Native nations, this book offers a fresh understanding of how poetry functions as an expression of purpose, spirit, community, and memory.
Harjo insists the most meaningful poetry is birthed through cracks in history from what is broken and unseen. At the crossroads of this brokenness, she calls us to watch and listen for the songs of justice for all those America has denied. This is an homage to the power of words to defy erasure—to inscribe the story, again and again, of who we have been, who we are, and who we can be.
Ashley Herring Blake: Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail
For Astrid Parker, failure is unacceptable. Ever since she broke up with her fiancé a year ago, she’s been focused on her career—her friends might say she’s obsessed, but she knows she’s just driven. When Pru Everwood asks her to be the designer for the Everwood Inn’s renovation, which will be featured on a popular HGTV show, Innside America, Astrid is thrilled. Not only will the project distract her from her failed engagement and help her struggling business, but her perpetually displeased mother might finally give her a nod of approval.
However, Astrid never planned on Jordan Everwood, Pru’s granddaughter and the lead carpenter for the renovation, who despises every modern design decision Astrid makes. Jordan is determined to preserve the history of her family’s inn, particularly as the rest of her life is in shambles. When that determination turns into some light sabotage to ruffle Astrid’s perfect little feathers, the showrunners ask them to play up the tension. But somewhere along the way, their dislike for each other evolves into something quite different, and Astrid must decide what success truly means. Is she going to pursue the life that she’s expected to lead or the one that she wants?
Tricia Hersey: Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto
What would it be like to live in a well-rested world? Far too many of us have claimed productivity as the cornerstone of success. Brainwashed by capitalism, we subject our bodies and minds to work at an unrealistic, damaging, and machine‑level pace –– feeding into the same engine that enslaved millions into brutal labor for its own relentless benefit.
In Rest Is Resistance, Tricia Hersey, aka the Nap Bishop, casts an illuminating light on our troubled relationship with rest and how to imagine and dream our way to a future where rest is exalted. Our worth does not reside in how much we produce, especially not for a system that exploits and dehumanizes us. Rest, in its simplest form, becomes an act of resistance and a reclaiming of power because it asserts our most basic humanity. We are enough. The systems cannot have us.
Rest Is Resistance is rooted in spiritual energy and centered in Black liberation, womanism, somatics, and Afrofuturism. With captivating storytelling and practical advice, all delivered in Hersey’s lyrical voice and informed by her deep experience in theology, activism, and performance art, Rest Is Resistance is a call to action, a battle cry, a field guide, and a manifesto for all of us who are sleep deprived, searching for justice, and longing to be liberated from the oppressive grip of Grind Culture.
Sonya Huber: Voice First: A Writer’s Manifesto
Though it is foundational to the craft of writing, the concept of voice is a mystery to many authors, and teachers of writing do not have a good working definition of it for use in the classroom. Written to address the vague and problematic advice given to writers to “find their voice,” Voice First: A Writer’s Manifesto recasts the term in the plural to give writers options, movement, and a way to understand the development of voice over time.
By redefining “voice,” Sonya Huber offers writers an opportunity not only to engage their voices but to understand and experience how developing their range of voices strengthens their writing. Weaving together in-depth discussions of various concepts of voice and stories from the author’s writing life, Voice First offers a personal view of struggles with voice as influenced and shaped by gender, place of origin, privilege, race, ethnicity, and other factors, reframing and updating the conversation for the twenty-first century. Each chapter includes writing prompts and explores a different element of voice, helping writers at all levels stretch their concept of voice and develop a repertoire of voices to summon.
Monique Ilboudo (transl. by Yarri Kamara): So Distant From My Life
Jeanphi, a young man from the fictional West African city Ouabany, has one obsession that will determine the fate of his life – migration. He scrapes together money to take the illegal route across the Sahara, making it as far as Morocco before being repatriated. Increasingly desperate, Jeanphi meets an elegant French widower who for his part is despairing at the insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles for his charitable endeavour in Jeanphi’s country. A window opens to opportunity – but it will also bring tragedy.
Burkinabé author Monique Ilboudo’s novel offers a compelling and complex portrait of migration, one of the defining global concerns of the twenty-first century, and a sharp critique of both the NGO-isation of African countries and the currents of shame that divide communities and families. Yarri Kamara has rendered Ilboudo’s text in an idiom that conveys the sharp humour, lucid descriptions and urgency of the original.
N. K. Jemisin: The World We Make
Every great city has a soul. A human avatar that embodies their city’s heart and wields its magic. New York? She’s got six.
But all is not well in the city that never sleeps. Though Brooklyn, Manny, Bronca, Venezia, Padmini, and Neek have temporarily managed to stop the Woman in White from invading–and destroying the entire universe in the process–the mysterious capital “E” Enemy has more subtle powers at her disposal. A new candidate for mayor wielding the populist rhetoric of gentrification, xenophobia, and “law and order” may have what it takes to change the very nature of New York itself and take it down from the inside.
In order to defeat him, and the Enemy who holds his purse strings, the avatars will have to join together with the other Great Cities of the world in order to bring her down for good and protect their world from complete destruction.
Barbara Jenkins: The Stranger Who Was Myself
Barbara Jenkins writes about the experiences of a personal and family-centred life in Trinidad with great psychological acuteness, expanding on the personal with a deep awareness of the economic, social and cultural contexts of that experience. She writes about a childhood and youth located in the colonial era and an adult life that began at the very point of Trinidad’s independent nationhood, a life begun in considerable poverty in a colonial city going through rapid change. It involves a family network that connects to just about every Trinidadian ethnicity and their respective mixtures. It is about a life that expanded in possibility through an access to an education not usually available to girls from such an economically fragile background. This schooling gave the young Barbara Jenkins the intense experience of being an outsider to Trinidad’s hierarchies of race and class. She writes about a life that has gender conflict at its heart, a household where her mother was subject to beatings and misogynist control, but also about strong matriarchal women. As for so many Caribbean people, opportunity appeared to exist only via migration, in her case to Wales in the 1960s. But there was a catch in the arrangement that the years in Wales had put to the back of her mind: the legally enforceable promise to the Trinidadian government that in return for their scholarship, she had to return. She did, and has lived the rest of her life to date in Trinidad, an experience that gives her writing an insider/outsider sharpness of perception.
This is writing that displays wit, empathy, a questioning spirit, a vivid sense of place and an unerring capacity for finding the telling detail. The scope of the material takes the reader deep into both a personal story and one that throws so many different searchlights into the character of Trinidadian society through time. This is a book that will offer enlightenment to Trinidadians about themselves and tell a story with universal resonances for many readers.
Saeed Jones: Alive At The End Of The World
In haunted poems glinting with laughter, Saeed Jones explores the public and private betrayals of life as we know it. With verve, wit, and elegant craft, Jones strips away American artifice in order to reveal the intimate grief of a mourning son and the collective grief bearing down on all of us.
Drawing from memoir, fiction, and persona, Jones confronts the everyday perils of white supremacy with a finely tuned poetic ear, identifying moments that seem routine even as they open chasms of hurt. Viewing himself as an unreliable narrator, Jones looks outward to understand what’s within, bringing forth cultural icons like Little Richard, Paul Mooney, Aretha Franklin and Diahann Carroll to illuminate how long and how perilously we’ve been living on top of fault lines. As these poems seek ways to love and survive through America’s existential threats, Jones ushers his readers toward the realization that the end of the world is already here—and the apocalypse is a state of being.
Mariame Kaba and Andrea Ritchie: No More Police: A Case For Abolition
In this powerful call to action, New York Times bestselling author Mariame Kaba and attorney and organizer Andrea J. Ritchie detail why policing doesn’t stop violence, instead perpetuating widespread harm; outline the many failures of contemporary police reforms; and explore demands to defund police, divest from policing, and invest in community resources to create greater safety through a Black feminist lens.
Centering survivors of state, interpersonal, and community-based violence, and highlighting uprisings, campaigns, and community-based projects, No More Police makes a compelling case for a world where the tools required to prevent, interrupt, and transform violence in all its forms are abundant. Part handbook, part road map, No More Police calls on us to turn away from systems that perpetrate violence in the name of ending it toward a world where violence is the exception, and safe, well-resourced and thriving communities are the rule.
Jeanna Kadlec: Heretic
Jeanna Kadlec knew what it meant to be faithful—in her marriage to a paster’s son, in the comfortable life ahead of her, in her God—but there was no denying the truth that lived under that conviction: she was queer and, if she wanted to survive, she would need to leave behind the church and every foundational building block she knew.
Heretic is a memoir of heretical rebirth. From the story of Lilith to celebrity purity rings, a newly married Kadlec interrogates how her indoctrination and years of piety intersects with her Midwest working-class upbringing as she navigates graduate school in Boston, revealing another insidious truth—that conservative Christianity has both built and undermined our political power structures, poisoned our pop culture, and infected the way we interact with one another.
Weaving the personal with powerful critique, Heretic explores how we can radically abandon these painful systems by taking a sledgehammer to the comfortable. Whether searching for community in the face of millennial loneliness or wanting to reclaim a secular form of fellowship in everyday life, Kadlec envisions the brilliant possibilities that come with not only daring to want a different way but actually striking out and claiming it for ourselves.
Kim Hye-Jin (transl. by Jamie Chang): Concerning My Daughter
When a mother allows her thirty-something daughter to move into her apartment, she wants for her what many mothers might say they want for their child: a steady income, and, even better, a good husband with a good job with whom to start a family.
But when Green turns up with her girlfriend, Lane, in tow, her mother is unprepared and unwilling to welcome Lane into her home. In fact, she can barely bring herself to be civil. Having centred her life on her husband and child, her daughter’s definition of family is not one she can accept. Her daughter’s involvement in a case of unfair dismissal involving gay colleagues from the university where she works is similarly strange to her.
And yet when the care home where she works insists that she lower her standard of care for an elderly dementia patient who has no family, who travelled the world as a successful diplomat, who chose not to have children, Green’s mother cannot accept it. Why should not having chosen a traditional life mean that your life is worth nothing at all?
Zain Khalid: Brother Alive
In 1990, three boys are born, unrelated but intertwined by circumstance: Dayo, Iseul, and Youssef. They are adopted as infants and share a bedroom perched atop a mosque in one of Staten Island’s most diverse and underserved neighborhoods. The three boys are an inseparable trio, but conspicuous: Dayo is of Nigerian origin, Iseul is Korean, and Youssef indeterminately Middle Eastern. Youssef shares everything with his brothers, except for one secret: he sees a hallucinatory double, an imaginary friend who seems absolutely real, a shapeshifting familiar he calls Brother. Brother persists as a companion into Youssef’s adult life, supporting him but also stealing his memories and shaking his grip on the world.
The boys’ adoptive father, Imam Salim, is known in the community for his stirring and radical sermons, but at home he often keeps himself to himself, spending his evenings in his study with whiskey-laced coffee, reading poetry or writing letters to his former compatriots back in Saudi Arabia. Like Youssef, he too has secrets, including the cause of his failing health and the truth about what happened to the boys’ parents. When, years later, Imam Salim’s path takes him back to Saudi Arabia, the boys, now adults, will be forced to follow. There they will be captivated by an opulent, almost futuristic world, a linear city that seems to offer a more sustainable modernity than that of the West. But this conversion has come at a great cost, and Youssef and Brother too will have to decide if they should change to survive, or try to mount a defense of their deeply-held beliefs.
Stylistically brilliant, intellectually acute, and deft in its treatment of complex themes, Brother Alive is a remarkable debut by a hugely talented writer that questions the nature of belief and explores the possibility of reunion for those who are broken.
Talia Lakshmi Kolluri: What We Fed to the Manticore
Through nine emotionally vivid stories, all narrated from animal perspectives, Talia Lakshmi Kolluri’s debut collection explores themes of environmentalism, conservation, identity, belonging, loss, and family with resounding heart and deep tenderness. In Kolluri’s pages, a faithful hound mourns the loss of the endangered rhino he swore to protect. Vultures seek meaning as they attend to the antelope that perished in Central Asia. A beloved donkey’s loyalty to a zookeeper in Gaza is put to the ultimate test. And a wounded pigeon in Delhi finds an unlikely friend.
In striking, immersive detail against the backdrop of an ever-changing international landscape, What We Fed to the Manticore speaks to the fears and joys of the creatures we share our world with, and ultimately places the reader under the rich canopy of the tree of life.
Malinda Lo: A Scatter of Light
Aria Tang West was looking forward to a summer on Martha’s Vineyard with her best friends—one last round of sand and sun before college. But after a graduation party goes wrong, Aria’s parents exile her to California to stay with her grandmother, artist Joan West. Aria expects boredom, but what she finds is Steph Nichols, her grandmother’s gardener. Soon, Aria is second-guessing who she is and what she wants to be, and a summer that once seemed lost becomes unforgettable—for Aria, her family, and the working-class queer community Steph introduces her to. It’s the kind of summer that changes a life forever.
Fatos Lubonja (transl. by John Hodgson): Like a Prisoner
The book contains eleven dramatic and often horrifying stories, each describing the life of a different prisoner in the camps and prisons of communist Albania. The prisoners adapt, endure, and generally survive, all in different ways. They may conform, rebel, construct alternative realities of the imagination, cultivate hope, cling to memories of lost love, or devise increasingly strange and surreal strategies of resistance. The characters in different stories are linked to one another, and in their human relationships create a total picture of a secret and terrifying world. In the prisoners’ back stories, the anecdotes they tell, and their political discussions, the book also reaches out beyond the walls and barbed wire to give the reader a panoramic picture of life in totalitarian Albania.
Chelsea Manning: Readme.txt: A Memoir
While working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq for the United States Army in 2010, Chelsea Manning disclosed more than seven hundred thousand classified military and diplomatic records that she had smuggled out of the country on the memory card of her digital camera. In 2011 she was charged with twenty-two counts related to the unauthorized possession and distribution of classified military records, and in 2013 she was sentenced to thirty-five years in military prison.
The day after her conviction, Manning declared her gender identity as a woman and began to transition, seeking hormones through the federal court system. In 2017, President Barack Obama commuted her sentence and she was released from prison.
In README.txt, Manning recounts how her pleas for increased institutional transparency and government accountability took place alongside a fight to defend her rights as a trans woman. Manning details the challenges of her childhood and adolescence as a naive, computer-savvy kid, what drew her to the military, and the fierce pride she has about the work she does. This powerful, observant memoir will stand as one of the definitive testaments of our digital, information-driven age.
Sarah Thankam Mathews: All This Could be Different
Graduating into the long maw of an American recession, Sneha is one of the fortunate ones. She’s moved to Milwaukee for an entry-level corporate job that, grueling as it may be, is the key that unlocks every door: she can pick up the tab at dinner with her new friend Tig, get her college buddy Thom hired alongside her, and send money to her parents back in India. She begins dating women—soon developing a burning crush on Marina, a beguiling and beautiful dancer who always seems just out of reach.
But before long, trouble arrives. Painful secrets rear their heads; jobs go off the rails; evictions loom. Sneha struggles to be truly close and open with anybody, even as her friendships deepen, even as she throws herself headlong into a dizzying romance with Marina. It’s then that Tig begins to draw up a radical solution to their problems, hoping to save them all.
A beautiful and capacious novel rendered in singular, unforgettable prose, All This Could Be Different is a wise, tender, and riveting group portrait of young people forging love and community amidst struggle, and a moving story of one immigrant’s journey to make her home in the world.
Kettly Mars (transl. by Nathan H Dize): I Am Alive
I Am Alive (Je suis vivant) is celebrated Haitian author Kettly Mars’s latest novel, telling the story of a bourgeois Caribbean family as it wrestles with issues of mental illness, unconventional sexuality, and the difficulty of returning home and rediscovery following the devastating 2010 earthquake. Mars, herself a survivor of the disaster, has crafted a complex, at times disorienting, but ultimately enthralling and powerfully evocative work of literature that adds to her reputation as one of the leading voices of the francophone world.
When the mental health facility where he has been living for decades is severely damaged, Alexandre Bernier must return home to Fleur-de-Chêne. His sister Marylène has also come home, leaving behind a flourishing career as a painter in Brussels, and begins to explore her sexuality with her artist’s model Norah, who poses for her in secret. These homecomings are both a lift and a burden to the family matriarch, Éliane, a steadfast and resourceful widow. Over the course of the novel, past and present blend together as each character has an opportunity to narrate the story from their own perspective. In the end, it is the resilience of the Haitian people that allows them to navigate the seismic shifts in their family and in the land.
Eileen Myles (ed.): Pathetic Literature
“Literature is pathetic.” So claims Eileen Myles in their bold and bracing introduction to Pathetic Literature, an exuberant collection of pieces ranging from poetry to drama to prose to something in between, all of which explore those so-called “pathetic” or sensitive feelings around which lives are built and revolutions are incited.
Myles first reclaimed the word for a seminar they taught at the University of California San Diego, rescuing it from the derision into which it had slipped and restoring its original meaning of inspiring emotion or feeling, from the Ancient Greek rhetorical method pathos. Their reinvention of “pathetic” formed the bedrock for this anthology, which includes a breathtaking 105 contributors, encompassing titans of global literature like Robert Walser, Jorge Luis Borges, Rumi, and Gwendolyn Brooks, queer icons and revolutionaries like Dodie Bellamy, Samuel Delany, and Bob Flanagan, as well as the invigorating newness and excitement of writers on the rise, including Nicole Wallace, Precious Okoyomon, and Will Farris. Creative nonfiction by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Jack Halberstam, and Porochista Khakpour rubs shoulders with poetry by Natalie Diaz, Victoria Chang, Lucille Clifton, and Ariana Reines, all joined by prose from Chester Himes, Djuna Barnes, Chris Kraus, and Qiu Miaojin, among so many others. The result is a matchless anthology that is as much an ongoing dialogue as an essential compendium of queer, revolutionary, joyful, and always moving literature.
From confrontations with suffering, embarrassment, and disquiet, to the comforts and consolations of finding one’s familiar double in a poem, Pathetic Literature is a swarming taxonomy of ways to think differently and live pathetically on a polarized and fearful planet.
Dorthe Nors (r. Caroline Waight): A Line In The World: A Year On The North Sea Coast
Dorthe Nors’s first nonfiction book chronicles a year she spent traveling along the North Sea coast—from Skagen at the northern tip of Denmark to the Frisian Islands in the Wadden Sea. In fourteen expansive essays, Nors traces the history, geography, and culture of the places she visits while reflecting on her childhood and her family and ancestors’ ties to the region as well as her decision to move there from Copenhagen. She writes about the ritual burning of witch effigies on Midsummer’s Eve; the environmental activist who opposed a chemical factory in the 1950s; the quiet fishing villages that surfers transformed into an area known as Cold Hawaii starting in the 1970s. She connects wind turbines to Viking ships, thirteenth-century church frescoes to her mother’s unrealized dreams. She describes strong waves, sand drifts, storm surges, shipwrecks, and other instances of nature asserting its power over human attempts to ignore or control it.
Through a deep, personal engagement with this singular landscape, A Line in the World accesses the universal. Its ultimate subjects are civilization, belonging, and change: changes within one person’s life, changes occurring in various communities today, and change as the only constant of life on Earth.
Onyi Nwabineli: Someday, Maybe: A Novel
Eve is left heartbroken by her husband’s unexpected death, but everyone around her – her friends, her boisterous British-Nigerian family, her toxic mother-in-law – seems to be pushing her to move on. Unable to face the future, Eve begins looking back, delving through the history of her marriage in an attempt to understand where it went wrong. So begins an unconventional love story about loss, resilience, and a heroine bursting with rage and unexpected joy.
Chinelo Okparanta: Harry Sylvester Bird
Harry Sylvester Bird grows up in Edward, Pennsylvania, with his parents, Wayne and Chevy, whom he greatly dislikes. They’re racist, xenophobic, financially incompetent, and they have quite a few secrets of their own. To Harry, they represent everything wrong with this country. And his small town isn’t any better. He witnesses racial profiling, graffitied swastikas, and White Power signs on his walk home from school. He can’t wait until he’s old enough to leave. When he finally is, he moves straight to New York City, where he feels he can finally live out his true inner self.
In the city, he meets and falls in love with Maryam, a young Nigerian woman. But when Maryam begins to pull away, Harry is forced to confront his identity as he never has before—if he can.
Brilliant, funny, original, and unflinching, Harry Sylvester Bird is a satire that speaks to all the most pressing tensions and anxieties of our time—and of the history that has shaped us and might continue to do so.
Sharon Dodua Otoo, Jeannette Oholi (eds.): Resonanzen – Schwarzes Literaturfestival: Eine Dokumentation
Schwarze deutschsprachige Belletristik hat eine lange, beachtliche Tradition, die in vielen Strömungen lebendig wurde. So zum Beispiel in Dualla Misipos Roman „Der Junge aus Dualla“, (geschrieben Ende der 1920er), und in aktuellen Titeln Schwarzer Autor*innen, die eine immer größere Wirkung erzielen. Um die Traditionen, Einflüsse und Bezüge von Autor*innen der afrikanischen Diaspora in der deutschsprachigen Literatur zu veranschaulichen, wurde „Resonanzen – Schwarzes Literaturfestival“ ins Leben gerufen. Im Rahmen des dreitägigen Festivals haben sechs Schwarze Nachwuchs-Schriftsteller*innen Texte vorgetragen, die eigens für die Veranstaltung rund um das Impulswort „Erbe“ geschrieben wurden. Neben den Kurzgeschichten versammelt der Band die Jurydiskussionen, die einführenden und abschließenden Vorträge, als auch die Eröffnungsrede von Friedenspreisträgerin Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Casey Parks: Diary of a Misfit
When Casey Parks came out as a lesbian in college back in 2002, she assumed her life in the South was over. Her mother shunned her, and her pastor asked God to kill her. But then Parks’s grandmother, a stern conservative who grew up picking cotton, pulled her aside and revealed a startling secret. “I grew up across the street from a woman who lived as a man,” and then implored Casey to find out what happened to him. Diary of a Misfit is the story of Parks’s life-changing journey to unravel the mystery of Roy Hudgins, the small-town country singer from grandmother’s youth, all the while confronting ghosts of her own.
For ten years, Parks traveled back to rural Louisiana and knocked on strangers’ doors, dug through nursing home records, and doggedly searched for Roy’s own diaries, trying to uncover what Roy was like as a person—what he felt; what he thought; and how he grappled with his sense of otherness. With an enormous heart and an unstinting sense of vulnerability, Parks writes about finding oneself through someone else’s story, and about forging connections across the gulfs that divide us.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha: The Future Is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes and Mourning Songs
In The Future Is Disabled, Leah Laksmi Piepzna-Samarasinha asks some provocative questions: What if, in the near future, the majority of people will be disabled – and what if that’s not a bad thing? And what if disability justice and disabled wisdom are crucial to creating a future in which it’s possible to survive fascism, climate change, and pandemics and to bring about liberation?
Building on the work of their game-changing book Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, Piepzna-Samarasinha writes about disability justice at the end of the world, documenting the many ways disabled people kept and are keeping each other – and the rest of the world – alive during Trump, fascism and the COVID-19 pandemic. Other subjects include crip interdependence, care and mutual aid in real life, disabled community building, and disabled art practice as survival and joy.
Written over the course of two years of disabled isolation during the pandemic, this is a book of love letters to other disabled QTBIPOC (and those concerned about disability justice, the care crisis, and surviving the apocalypse); honour songs for kin who are gone; recipes for survival; questions and real talk about care, organizing, disabled families, and kin networks and communities; and wild brown disabled femme joy in the face of death. With passion and power, The Future Is Disabled remembers our dead and insists on our future.
Annie Proulx: Fen, Bog And Swamp : A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role In The Climate Crisis
A lifelong environmentalist, Annie Proulx brings her wide-ranging research and scholarship to the subject of wetlands and the vitally important yet little understood role they play in preserving the environment—by storing the carbon emissions that greatly contribute to climate change. Fens, bogs, swamps, and marine estuaries are the earth’s most desirable and dependable resources, and in four stunning parts, Proulx documents the long-misunderstood role of these wetlands in saving the planet.
Taking us on a fascinating journey through history, Proulx shows us the fens of 16th-century England to Canada’s Hudson Bay lowlands, Russia’s Great Vasyugan Mire, America’s Okeefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and the 19th-century explorers who began the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Along the way, she writes of the diseases spawned in the wetlands—the Ague, malaria, Marsh Fever—and the surprisingly significant role of peat in industrialization.
A sobering look at the degradation of wetlands over centuries and the serious ecological consequences, this is a stunningly important work and a rousing call to action by a writer whose passionate devotion to understanding and preserving the environment is on full and glorious display.
Revathi (transl. by Nandini Murali): Revathi: A Life in Trans Activism
After moving from her family home in south India to a house of hijras in Delhi, Revathi returned to Bangalore to work for an NGO helping trans people like her. There, she progressed from office assistant to director, before eventually deciding to quit and continue her work as an independent activist—including collaborating with a theatre group performing a play based on her life. Throughout, she has been keen to interrogate discrimination within her own community, and opens up her story to include Indian trans men discussing their lived experience in their own words.
Against mainstream publishing’s preference for trauma-focused memoir, this book sets individual autobiography within the much larger context of the potential and pitfalls of institutional activism, the role of communal art forms, and marginalisation within the queer and trans community. Particularly relevant for an international audience is the specificity of the Indian context – caste, hijra culture, marginalisation of trans men – and how this intersects with the more western-centric discourse on trans people and trans rights.
Sofia Samatar: The White Mosque. A Memoir
Over a century later, Sofia Samatar joins a tour following their path, fascinated not by the hardships of their journey, but by its aftermath: the establishment of a small Christian village in the Muslim Khanate of Khiva. Named Ak Metchet, “The White Mosque,” after the Mennonites’ whitewashed church, the village lasted for fifty years.
In pursuit of this curious history, Samatar discovers a variety of characters whose lives intersect around the ancient Silk Road, from a fifteenth-century astronomer-king, to an intrepid Swiss woman traveler of the 1930s, to the first Uzbek photographer, and explores such topics as Central Asian cinema, Mennonite martyrs, and Samatar’s own complex upbringing as the daughter of a Swiss-Mennonite and a Somali-Muslim, raised as a Mennonite of color in America.
A secular pilgrimage to a lost village and a near-forgotten history, The White Mosque traces the porous and ever-expanding borders of identity, asking: How do we enter the stories of others? And how, out of the tissue of life, with its weird incidents, buried archives, and startling connections, does a person construct a self?
Namwali Serpell: The Furrows
Cassandra Williams is twelve; her little brother, Wayne, is seven. One day, when they’re alone together, there is an accident and Wayne is lost forever. His body is never recovered. The missing boy cleaves the family with doubt. Their father leaves, starts another family elsewhere. But their mother can’t give up hope and launches an organization dedicated to missing children.
As C grows older, she sees her brother everywhere: in bistros, airplane aisles, subway cars. Here is her brother’s face, the light in his eyes, the way he seems to recognize her, too. But it can’t be, of course. Or can it? Then one day, in another accident, C meets a man both mysterious and familiar, a man who is also searching for someone and for his own place in the world. His name is Wayne.
Namwali Serpell’s remarkable new novel captures the uncanny experience of grief, the way the past breaks over the present like waves in the sea. The Furrows is a bold exploration of memory and mourning that twists unexpectedly into a story of mistaken identity, double consciousness, and the wishful—and sometimes willful—longing for reunion with those we’ve lost.
Joshua Whitehead: Making Love With The Land
In the last few years, following the publication of his debut novel Jonny Appleseed, Joshua Whitehead has emerged as one of the most exciting and important new voices on Turtle Island. Now, in this first non-fiction work, Whitehead brilliantly explores Indigeneity, queerness, and the relationships between body, language and land through a variety of genres (essay, memoir, notes, confession). Making Love with the Land is a startling, heartwrenching look at what it means to live as a queer Indigenous person “in the rupture” between identities. In sharp, surprising, unique pieces—a number of which have already won awards—Whitehead illuminates this particular moment, in which both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples are navigating new (and old) ideas about “the land.” He asks: What is our relationship and responsibility towards it? And how has the land shaped our ideas, our histories, our very bodies?
Here is an intellectually thrilling, emotionally captivating love song—a powerful revelation about the library of stories land and body hold together, waiting to be unearthed and summoned into word.
Elvia Wilk: Death by Landscape: Essays
In this constellation of essays, Elvia Wilk asks what kinds of narratives will help us rethink our human perspective toward Earth. The book begins as an exploration of the role of fiction today and becomes a deep interrogation of the writing process and the self.
Wilk examines creative works across time and genre in order to break down binaries between dystopia and utopia, real and imagined, self and world. She makes connections between works by such wide-ranging writers as Mark Fisher, Karen Russell, Han Kang, Doris Lessing, Anne Carson, Octavia E. Butler, Michelle Tea, Helen Phillips, Kathe Koja, Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, and Hildegard von Bingen.
What happens when research becomes personal, when the observer breaks through the glass? Through the eye of the fan, this collection delves into literal and literary world-building projects—medieval monasteries, solarpunk futures, vampire role plays, environments devoid of humans—bridging the micro and the macro and revealing how our relationship to narrative shapes our relationships to the natural world and to one another.
Meryl Wilsner: Mistakes Were Made
When Cassie Klein goes to an off-campus bar to escape her school’s Family Weekend, she isn’t looking for a hookup—it just happens. Buying a drink for a stranger turns into what should be an uncomplicated, amazing one-night stand. But then the next morning rolls around and her friend drags her along to meet her mom—the hot, older woman Cassie slept with.
Erin Bennett came to Family Weekend to get closer to her daughter, not have a one-night stand with a college senior. In her defense, she hadn’t known Cassie was a student when they’d met. To make things worse, Erin’s daughter brings Cassie to breakfast the next morning. And despite Erin’s better judgement—how could sleeping with your daughter’s friend be anything but bad?—she and Cassie get along in the day just as well as they did last night.
What should have been a one-time fling quickly proves impossible to ignore, and soon Cassie and Erin are sneaking around. Worst of all, they start to realize they have something real. But is being honest about the love between them worth the cost?
Alice Wong: Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life
In Chinese culture, the tiger is deeply revered for its confidence, passion, ambition, and ferocity. That same fighting spirit resides in Alice Wong.
Drawing on a collection of original essays, previously published work, conversations, graphics, photos, commissioned art by disabled and Asian American artists, and more, Alice uses her unique talent to share an impressionistic scrapbook of her life as an Asian American disabled activist, community organizer, media maker, and dreamer. From her love of food and pop culture to her unwavering commitment to dismantling systemic ableism, Alice shares her thoughts on creativity, access, power, care, the pandemic, mortality, and the future. As a self-described disabled oracle, Alice traces her origins, tells her story, and creates a space for disabled people to be in conversation with one another and the world. Filled with incisive wit, joy, and rage, Wong’s Year of the Tiger will galvanize readers with big cat energy.
Ryan Lee Wong: Which Side Are You On
Twenty-one-year-old Reed is fed up. Angry about the killing of a Black man by an Asian American NYPD officer, he wants to drop out of college and devote himself to the Black Lives Matter movement. But would that truly bring him closer to the moral life he seeks?
In a series of intimate, charged conversations, his mother—once the leader of a Korean-Black coalition—demands that he rethink his outrage, and along with it, what it means to be an organizer, a student, an ally, an American, and a son. As Reed zips around his hometown of Los Angeles with his mother, searching and questioning, he faces a revelation that will change everything.
Inspired by his family’s roots in activism, Ryan Lee Wong offers an extraordinary debut novel for readers of Anthony Veasna So, Rachel Kushner, and Michelle Zauner: a book that is as humorous as it is profound, a celebration of seeking a life that is both virtuous and fun, an ode to mothering and being mothered.