It’s true that 2017 was a terrible year in so very many ways, but it was a remarkable year for reading. (We shared our favorite books from the first half the year here, and from the second half of the year here.)
While we can’t promise that 2018 won’t find us facing more political upheaval, fighting endless uphill battles for equality and freedom, and screaming into our pillows at night—it’ll most likely have us doing all those things—we can assure you that there will be great literature to bring you solace, to inspire and enlighten you, and to offer moments of escape.
If a title is marked as a Rumpus Book Club or Poetry Book Club selection, you can receive this book before its release date and participate in an exclusive conversation with its author! Just head to our store and become a member today!
Below are just some of the books Rumpus editors are eagerly anticipating that release between January and August. Here’s to a happy New Year!
Indictus by Natalie Eilbert (Noemi Press, January 1, 2018)
Indictus re-imagines various creation myths to bear the invisible and unsaid assaults of women. In doing so, it subverts notions of patriarchal power into a genre that can be demolished and set again. Combining the mythological and autobiographical, this collection attempts to indict us, so that the wounded might one day be free.
Mouths Don’t Speak by Katia D. Ulysse (Akashic Books, January 2, 2018)
No one was prepared for the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, taking over a quarter-million lives, and leaving millions more homeless. Three thousand miles away, Jacqueline Florestant mourns the presumed death of her parents, while her husband, a former US Marine and combat veteran, cares for their daughter as he fights his own battles with acute PTSD. Horrified and guilt-ridden, Jacqueline returns to Haiti in search of the proverbial “closure.” Her quest turns into a tornado of deception, desperation, and more death. So, Jacqueline holds tightly to her daughter—the only one who must not die.
The Job of the Wasp by Colin Winnette (Soft Skull Press, January 9, 2018)
A new arrival at an isolated school for orphaned boys quickly comes to realize there is something wrong with his new home. He hears chilling whispers in the night, his troubled classmates are violent and hostile, and the Headmaster sends cryptic messages, begging his new charge to confess. As the new boy learns to survive on the edges of this impolite society, he starts to unravel a mystery at the school’s dark heart. And that’s when the corpses start turning up.
From the Inside Quietly by Eloisa Amezcua (Shelterbelt Press, January 2018)
Ada Limón writes: “A complex examination of how we come to love and how we come to be, the poems in From the Inside Quietly create an intricate and urgent music of the border and the feminine body. With a voice that’s barbed at times but also full of empathy and grace, this is a powerful debut that will continue to rattle and quake in the mind.” A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Neon in Daylight by Hermoine Hoby (Catapult, January 9, 2018)
New York City in 2012, the sweltering summer before Hurricane Sandy hits. Kate, a young woman newly arrived from England, is staying in a Manhattan apartment while she tries to figure out her future. She has two unfortunate responsibilities during her time in America: to make regular Skype calls to her miserable boyfriend back home, and to cat-sit an indifferent feline named Joni Mitchell. The city has other plans for her. In New York’s parks and bodegas, its galleries and performance spaces, its bars and clubs crowded with bodies, Kate encounters two strangers who will transform her stay.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (Seal Press, January 16, 2018)
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.
A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise by Sandra Allen (Scribner, January 23, 2018)
In 2009, Sandra Allen’s “crazy” uncle Bob mailed her his autobiography. Typewritten in all caps, a stream of error-riddled sentences over sixty, single-spaced pages, the often-incomprehensible manuscript proclaimed to be a “true story” about being “labeled a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic,” and arrived with a plea to help him get his story out to the world. Allen translates her uncle’s autobiography, artfully creating a gripping coming-of-age story while sticking faithfully to the facts as he shared them. Lacing Bob’s narrative with chapters providing greater contextualization, Allen also shares background information about her family, the culturally explosive time and place of her uncle’s formative years, and the vitally important questions surrounding schizophrenia and mental healthcare in America more broadly.
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins (Harper Perennial, January 30, 2018)
Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalized with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle, that are rarely acknowledged in our country’s larger discussion about inequality. In This Will Be My Undoing, Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (Berkley, January 30, 2018)
Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist. After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew must fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long-distance dating disaster of the century—or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want.
Virgin by Analicia Sotelo (Milkweed Editions, February 6, 2018)
Sotelo walks the line between autobiography and mythmaking, offering up identities like dishes at a feast. These poems devour and complicate tropes of femininity―of naiveté, of careless abandon―before sharply exploring the intelligence and fortitude of women, how “far & wide, / how dark & deep / this frigid female mind can go.” Three poems from Analicia’s forthcoming debut collection will publish on The Rumpus January 25!
Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot (Counterpoint, February 6, 2018)
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of PTSD and Bipolar II; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father—an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist—who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press, February 6, 2018)
Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, “Joy,” and, “Find Your Beach,” Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith’s own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive–and never any less than perfect company. This is literary journalism at its zenith.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Algonquin Books, February 6, 2018)
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future. Get ready for a special Rumpus Letter in the Mail and signed book giveaway from Tayari Jones in February!
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (Riverhead Books, February 6, 2018)
When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building. While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog’s care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them.
Empty Set by Verónica Gerber Bicecci, translated by Christina MacSweeney (Coffee House Press, February 6, 2018)
How do you draw an affair? A family? Can a Venn diagram show the ways overlaps turn into absences, tree rings tell us what happens when mothers leave? Can we fall in love according to the hop skip of an acrostic? Empty Set is a novel of patterns, its young narrator’s attempt at making sense of inevitable loss, tracing her way forward in loops, triangles, and broken lines. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove Press, February 13, 2018)
An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heart-wrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.
Winter Kept Us Warm by Anne Raeff (Counterpoint, February 13, 2018)
Ulli is a young woman, half-English and half-German, squatting in a dismal, empty Berlin apartment, one year after the war has ended. One night, Ulli meets two American soldiers: Leo and Isaac. Winter Kept Us Warm follows Ulli, Leo, and Isaac through six decades of their lives—from Berlin to post-war Manhattan, 1960s Los Angeles, and Morocco. A marriage. Two children. And yet, only one parent. At the core of this novel is the mystery of how this came to be; not a chronological narrative, we explore the dark corners and lantern slides of these characters’ lives, revealing in pieces and fragments what became of their long-ago love triangle set against the brutality of post-war living.
Sunburn by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, February 20, 2018)
A superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder.
What are We Doing Here?: Essays by Marilyn Robinson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, February 20, 2018)
In this new essay collection, Robinson trains her incisive mind on our modern political climate and the mysteries of faith. Whether she is investigating how the work of great thinkers about America like Emerson and Tocqueville inform our political consciousness or discussing the way that beauty informs and disciplines daily life, Robinson’s peerless prose and boundless humanity are on full display.
Registers of Illuminated Villages by Tarfia Faizullah (March 6, 2018)
Faizullah’s new work extends and transforms her powerful accounts of violence, war, and loss into poems of many forms and voices―elegies, outcries, self-portraits, and larger-scale confrontations with discrimination, family, and memory. Faizullah is an essential new poet whose work only grows more urgent, beautiful, and―even in its unsparing brutality―full of love. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
The Explosive Expert’s Wife by Shara Lessley (University of Wisconsin Press, March 6, 2018)
In sparse, powerful lines, Shara Lessley recalls an expat’s displacement, examines her experience as a mother, and offers intimate witness to the unfolding of the Arab Spring. Veering from the strip malls and situation rooms of Washington to the markets and mines of Amman, Lessley confronts the pressures and pleasures of other cultures, exploring our common humanity with all its aggressions, loves, biases, and contradictions. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Census by Jesse Ball (Ecco, March 6, 2018)
When a widower receives notice from a doctor that he doesn’t have long left to live, he is struck by the question of who will care for his adult son—a son whom he fiercely loves, a boy with Down syndrome. With no recourse in mind, and with a desire to see the country on one last trip, the man signs up as a census taker for a mysterious governmental bureau and leaves town with his son. Traveling into the country, through towns named only by ascending letters of the alphabet, the man and his son encounter a wide range of human experience. When they press toward the edges of civilization, the landscape grows wilder, and the towns grow farther apart and more blighted by industrial decay. As they approach “Z,” the man must confront a series of questions: What is the purpose of the census? Is he complicit in its mission? And just how will he learn to say goodbye to his son? A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Eats of Eden by Tabitha Blankenbiller (Alternating Current Press, March 6, 2018)
Memoir and essays of food, writing, coming-of-age, family, sex, self-esteem, and above all, overcoming personal odds to live your best life—complete with recipes that will change your relationship with food forever. Get ready for a special Rumpus Letter in the Mail and signed book giveaway from Tabitha Blankenbiller in April!
Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman
The brilliant editor of Pacific Standard and son of a devoted Jane Austen scholar, Ted Scheinman spent his childhood eating Yorkshire pudding, singing in an Anglican choir, and watching Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. Determined to leave his mother’s world behind, he nonetheless found himself in grad school organizing the first ever UNC-Chapel Hill Jane Austen Summer Camp, a weekend-long event that sits somewhere between an academic conference and superfan extravaganza. In a haze of morning crumpets and restrictive tights, Scheinman delivers a hilarious and poignant survey of one of the most enduring and passionate literary coteries in history. Brimming with stockings, culinary etiquette, and scandalous dance partners, this is summer camp like you’ve never seen it before.
Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith (Hub City Press, March 6, 2018) LITM Promo
Evi, a classically trained ballerina, was nine months pregnant when her husband Eamon was killed in the line of duty on a steamy morning in July. Now, it is winter, and Eamon’s adopted brother Dalton has moved in to help her raise six-month-old Noah. Whiskey & Ribbons is told in three intertwining voices: Evi in present day, as she’s snowed in with Dalton during a freak blizzard; Eamon before his murder, as he prepares for impending fatherhood and grapples with the danger of his profession; and Dalton, as he struggles to make sense of his life next to Eamon’s, and as he decides to track down the biological father he’s never known. Get ready for a special Rumpus Letter in the Mail and signed book giveaway from Leesa Cross-Smith in March!
Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance by Fady Joudah (Milkweed Editions, March 13, 2018)
In Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance, Fady Joudah has written love poems to the lovely and unlovely, the loved and unloved. Here he celebrates moments of delight and awe with his wife, his mentors, his friends, and the beauty of the natural world. Yet he also finds tenderness for the other, the dead, and the disappeared, bringing together the language of medicine with the language of desire in images at once visceral and vulnerable. Generous in its scope, inventive in its movements and syntax, Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance is a richly rewarding and indispensable collection.
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg (Holt Paperbacks, March 13, 2018)
Adapted from her beloved “Children’s Stories Made Horrific” series, The Merry Spinster takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of The Toast. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children’s stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.
Go Home! edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (The Feminist Press, March 13, 2018)
Asian diasporic writers imagine “home” in the twenty-first century through an array of fiction, memoir, and poetry. Both urgent and meditative, this anthology moves beyond the model-minority myth and showcases the singular intimacies of individuals figuring out what it means to belong. With a forward by Viet Than Nguyen, and contributors including Rumpus Fiction Editor Karissa Chen, Alexander Chee, Alice Sola Kim, Esmé Weijun Wang, Wendy Xu, and more.
Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen (Little A, March 20, 2018)
The day nine-year-old San San and her twelve-year-old brother, Ah Liam, discover their grandmother taking a hammer to a framed portrait of Chairman Mao is the day that forever changes their lives. To prove his loyalty to the Party, Ah Liam reports his grandmother to the authorities. But his belief in doing the right thing sets in motion a terrible chain of events. Now they must flee their home on Drum Wave Islet, which sits just a few hundred meters across the channel from mainland China. But when their mother goes to procure visas for safe passage to Hong Kong, the government will only issue them on the condition that she leave behind one of her children as proof of the family’s intention to return.
Litany for the Long Moment by Mary-Kim Arnold (Essay Press, April 1, 2018)
The orphan at the center of Litany for the Long Moment is without homeland and without language. In three linked lyric essays, Arnold attempts to claim her own linguistic, cultural, and aesthetic lineage. Born in Korea and adopted to the US as a child, she explores the interconnectedness of language and identity through the lens of migration and cultural rupture. Invoking artists, writers, and thinkers—Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Francesca Woodman, Susan Sontag, among others—Litany interweaves personal documents, images, and critical texts as a means to examine loss and longing. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press, April 3, 2018)
In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy. The collection widens to include erasures of the Declaration of Independence and correspondence between slave owners, a found poem composed of evidence of corporate pollution and accounts of near-death experiences, a sequence of letters written by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and the survivors’ reports of recent immigrants and refugees.
The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown and Company, April 3, 2018)
With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and journalistic reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction–both her own and others’–and examines what we want these stories to do, and what happens when they fail us. With enormous empathy and wisdom, Jamison offers us nothing less than the story of addiction and recovery in America writ large, a definitive and revelatory account that will resonate for years to come.
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead Books, April 3, 2018)
To be admired by someone we admire—we all yearn for this: the private, electrifying pleasure of being singled out by someone of esteem. But sometimes it can also mean entry to a new kind of life, a bigger world. Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.
America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo (Viking, April 3, 2018)
How many lives can one person lead in a single lifetime? When Hero de Vera arrives in America, disowned by her parents in the Philippines, she’s already on her third. Illuminating the violent political history of the Philippines in the 1980s and 1990s and the insular immigrant communities that spring up in the suburban United States with an uncanny ear for the unspoken intimacies and pain that get buried by the duties of everyday life and family ritual, Castillo delivers a powerful, increasingly relevant novel about the promise of the American dream and the unshakable power of the past.
Eye Level by Jenny Xie (Graywolf Press, April 3, 2018)
Jenny Xie’s award-winning debut takes us far and near, to Phnom Penh, Corfu, Hanoi, New York, and elsewhere, as we travel closer and closer to the acutely felt solitude that centers this searching, moving collection. Animated by a restless inner questioning, these poems meditate on the forces that moor the self and set it in motion, from immigration to travel to estranging losses and departures. The sensual worlds here—colors, smells, tastes, and changing landscapes—bring to life questions about the self as seer and the self as seen.
How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister (Liveright, April 3, 2018)
Recently suspended for a so-called outburst, high school English teacher Anna Crawford is stewing over the injustice at home when she is shocked to see herself named on television as a suspect in a shooting at the school where she works. Though she is quickly exonerated, and the actual teenage murderer identified, her life is nevertheless held up for relentless scrutiny and judgment as this quiet town descends into media mania. Gun sales skyrocket, victims are transformed into martyrs, and the rules of public mourning are ruthlessly enforced. Anna decides to wholeheartedly reject the culpability she’s somehow been assigned, and the rampant sexism that comes with it, both in person and online.
And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell (Little, Brown and Company, April 10, 2018)
When Meaghan O’Connell got accidentally pregnant in her twenties and decided to keep the baby, she realized that the book she needed—a brutally honest, agenda-free reckoning with the emotional and existential impact of motherhood—didn’t exist. So, she decided to write it herself. Channeling fears and anxieties that are still taboo and often unspoken, And Now We Have Everything is an unflinchingly frank, funny, and a visceral motherhood story for our times, about having a baby and staying, for better or worse, exactly yourself.
The Second O of Sorrow by Sean Thomas Dougherty (BOA Editions Ltd., April 10, 2018)
Sean Thomas Dougherty celebrates the struggles, the dignity, and the joys of working-class life in the Rust Belt. Finding delight in everyday moments―a night at a packed karaoke bar, a father and daughter planting a garden, a biography of LeBron James as a metaphor for Ohio―these poems take pride in the people who survive despite all odds, who keep going without any concern for glory, fighting with wit and grace for justice, for joy, every goddamned day.
Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean (Grove Press, April 10, 2018)
Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm―these brilliant women are the central figures of Sharp. Their lives intertwine as they cut through the cultural and intellectual history of America in the twentieth century, arguing as fervently with each other as they did with the sexist attitudes of the men who often undervalued their work as critics and essayists. Mixing biography, literary criticism, and cultural history, Sharp is an enthralling exploration of how a group of brilliant women became central figures in the world of letters despite the many obstacles facing them, a testament to how anyone not in a position of power can claim the mantle of writer and, perhaps, help change the world.
Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (Copper Canyon Press, April 10, 2018)
In her fourth collection of poetry, Nezhukumatathil studies forms of love as diverse and abundant as the ocean itself. She brings to life a father penguin, a C-section scar, and the Niagara Falls with a powerful force of reverence for life and living things. With an encyclopedic range of subjects and unmatched sincerity, Oceanic speaks to each reader as a cooperative part of the earth, an extraordinary neighborhood to which we all belong.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (Mariner Books, April 17, 2018)
Here is Chee’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing—Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley—the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump. By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.
Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial, May 1, 2018)
Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women must measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics—including Rumpus Managing Editor Lyz Lenz, and Rumpus editors and contributors Elissa Bassist, Lisa Mecham, Aubrey Hirsch, Brandon Taylor, Amy Jo Burns, and more. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder (Hogarth, May 1, 2018)
Lucy has been writing her dissertation on Sappho for nine years when she and her boyfriend break up in a dramatic flameout. After she bottoms out in Phoenix, her sister in Los Angeles insists Lucy dog-sit for the summer. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube on Venice Beach, but Lucy can find little relief from her anxiety. Everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer while sitting alone on the beach rocks one night. But when Lucy learns the truth about his identity, their relationship, and Lucy’s understanding of what love should look like, take a very unexpected turn. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss (Graywolf Press, May 1, 2018)
Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl takes its title from Rembrandt’s painting, a dark emblem of femininity, violence, and the viewer’s own troubled gaze. In Diane Seuss’s new collection, the notion of the still life is shattered and Rembrandt’s painting is presented across the book in pieces―details that hide more than they reveal until they’re assembled into a whole. With invention and irreverence, these poems escape gilded frames and overturn traditional representations of gender, class, and luxury.
That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam (Ecco, May 8, 2018)
Like many first-time mothers, Rebecca Stone finds herself both deeply in love with her newborn son and deeply overwhelmed. She reaches out to the only person at the hospital who offers her any real help—Priscilla Johnson—and begs her to come home with them as her son’s nanny. Priscilla’s presence quickly does as much to shake up Rebecca’s perception of the world as it does to stabilize her life. Rebecca is white, and Priscilla is black, and through their relationship, Rebecca finds herself confronting, for the first time, the blind spots of her own privilege. When Priscilla dies unexpectedly in childbirth, Rebecca steps forward to adopt the baby. But she is unprepared for what it means to be a white mother with a black son. As she soon learns, navigating motherhood for her is a matter of learning how to raise two children whom she loves with equal ferocity, but whom the world is determined to treat differently.
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel (Riverhead Books, May 15, 2018)
Jana. Brit. Daniel. Henry. They would never have been friends if they hadn’t needed each other. They would never have found each other except for the art which drew them together. They would never have become family without their love for the music, for each other. Following these four unforgettable characters, Aja Gabel’s debut novel gives a riveting look into the high-stakes, cutthroat world of musicians, and of lives made in concert. The story of Brit and Henry and Daniel and Jana, The Ensemble is a heart-skipping portrait of ambition, friendship, and the tenderness of youth.
Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour (Harper Perennial, June 5, 2018)
For as long as writer Porochista Khakpour can remember, she has been sick. For most of that time, she didn’t know why. All her trips to the ER and her daily anguish, pain, and lethargy only ever resulted in one question: How could any one person be this sick? Several drug addictions, three major hospitalizations, and over $100,000 later, she finally had a diagnosis: late-stage Lyme disease. Sick is Khakpour’s arduous, emotional journey—as a woman, a writer, and a lifelong sufferer of undiagnosed health problems—through the chronic illness that perpetually left her a victim of anxiety, living a life stymied by an unknown condition.
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt (Bloomsbury Publishing, June 5, 2018)
A seductive story of a dangerous love triangle, inspired by the infamous Nabokov marriage, with a spellbinding psychological thriller at its core. Set in the 1920s, a young refugee from the Soviet Union finds herself in the alien landscape of an elite all-girls New Jersey boarding school. Having lost her family, her home, and her sense of purpose, Zoya struggles to belong, a task made more difficult by the malice her peers heap on scholarship students and her new country’s paranoia about Russian spies. When she meets the visiting writer and fellow Russian émigré Leo Orlov—whose books Zoya has privately obsessed over for years—her luck seems to have taken a turn for the better. But she soon discovers that Leo is not the solution to her loneliness: he’s committed to his art and bound by the sinister orchestrations of his brilliant wife, Vera.
Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto (Black Balloon, June 5, 2018)
Tiny Crimes reimagines the genre of crime writing in forty very short stories by leading and emerging literary voices. From the most hardboiled of noirs to the coziest of mysteries, with diminutive double crosses, miniature murders, and crimes both real and imagined, Tiny Crimes rounds up all the usual suspects, and some unusual suspects, too. Benjamin Percy, Amelia Gray, Adam Sternbergh, Yuri Herrera, Julia Elliott, Carmen Maria Machado, Elizabeth Hand, Brian Evenson, Charles Yu, Laura van den Berg, and more scour the underbelly of modern life to expose the criminal, the illegal, and the depraved.
Florida by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books, June 5, 2018)
The stories in this collection span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida—its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind—becomes its gravitational center: an energy and a mood as much as a place of residence. Groff transports the reader, then jolts us alert with a crackle of wit, a wave of sadness, a flash of cruelty, as she writes about loneliness, rage, family, and the passage of time.
Tango Lessons: A Memoir by Meghan Flaherty (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 19, 2018)
Tango was an unlikely choice for Meghan Flaherty. A young woman living with the scars of past trauma, she was terrified of being touched and shied away from real passion. But by her late twenties, she knew something had to change. She dug up an old dream and tried on her dancing shoes. In tango, there’s a leader and a follower, and, traditionally, the woman follows. As Meghan moved from beginner classes to the late-night dance halls of New York’s vibrant tango underground, she discovered that more than any footwork, the hardest and most essential lesson of the dance was to follow with strength and agency; to find her balance, regardless of the lead. And as she broke her own rule—never mix romance and tango—she started to apply those lessons in every corner of her life. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana Schwartz (Grand Central Publishing, June 19, 2018)
Join Dana Schwartz on a journey revisiting all of the terrible decisions she made in her early twenties through the Internet’s favorite method of self-knowledge: the quiz. Part-memoir, part-very long personality test, here is a manifesto about the millennial experience and modern feminism and how the easy advice of “you can be anything you want!” is pretty fucking difficult when there are so many possible versions of yourself it seems like you could be.
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (Penguin Books, June 19, 2018)
In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country’s past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered–the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.
Brood by Kimiko Hahn (Sarabande Books, July 3, 2018)
In Brood, Kimiko Hahn trains her eye on the commonplace—clothespins, bees, papaya, perfume, poached eggs, a sponge, fire, sand dollars—and reveals their very essence in concise evocative language. Underlying these little gems is a sense of loss, a mother’s death or a longing for childhood. “Brood” connotes the bundling of family or beasts, but also dark thinking, and both are at play here where the less said, the better.
Idiophone by Amy Fusselman (Coffee House Press, July 3, 2018)
Leaping from ballet to quilt-making, from the The Nutcracker to an Annie-B Parson interview, Idiophone is a strikingly original meditation on risk-taking and provocation in art and an unabashedly honest, funny, and intimate consideration of art-making in the context of motherhood, and motherhood in the context of addiction. Amy Fusselman’s compact, beautifully digressive essay feels both surprising and effortless, fueled by broad-ranging curiosity, and, fundamentally, joy. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk by John Lingan
Winchester, Virginia is an emblematic American town. When John Lingan first traveled there, it was to seek out Jim McCoy: local honky-tonk owner and the DJ who first gave airtime to a brassy-voiced singer known as Patsy Cline, setting her on a course for fame that outlasted her tragically short life. What Lingan found was a town in the midst of an identity crisis. As the US economy and American culture have transformed in recent decades, the ground under centuries-old social codes has shifted, throwing old folkways into chaos. Homeplace teases apart the tangle of class, race, and family origin that still defines the town, and illuminates questions that now dominate our national conversation about how we move into the future without pretending our past doesn’t exist, and about what we salvage and what we leave behind.
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (Riverhead Books, July 31, 2018)
Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by in secret. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe. Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a secretive extremist cult founded by a charismatic former student. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he’s tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act. Get ready for a special Rumpus Letter in the Mail and signed book giveaway from R.O. Kwon in February!
This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Graywolf Press, August 7, 2018)
In This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival. As a last resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job that forces her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead. It is this homecoming, in Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel, that culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August 7, 2018)
Shortly after Clare arrives in Havana, Cuba, to attend the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema, she finds her husband, Richard, standing outside a museum. He’s wearing a white linen suit she’s never seen before, and he’s supposed to be dead. Grief-stricken and baffled, Clare tails Richard, a horror film scholar, through the newly tourist-filled streets of Havana, clocking his every move. As the distinction between reality and fantasy blurs, Clare finds grounding in memories of her childhood in Florida and of her marriage to Richard, revealing her role in his death and reappearance along the way.
Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee (Scribner, August 14, 2018)
In this groundbreaking new book, McBee, a trans man, trains to fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden while struggling to untangle the vexed relationship between masculinity and violence. Through his experience boxing—learning to get hit, and to hit back; wrestling with the camaraderie of the gym; confronting the betrayals and strength of his own body—McBee examines the weight of male violence, the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes, and the limitations of conventional masculinity. A wide-ranging exploration of gender in our society, Amateur is ultimately a story of hope, as McBee traces a new way forward, a new kind of masculinity, inside the ring and outside of it. (Want to read McBee right now? Start with his Rumpus column, Self-Made Man.)
Everyday People: The Color of Life—A Short Story Anthology edited by Jennifer Baker (Atria Books, August 28, 2018)
This gorgeously wrought anthology represents a wide range of styles, themes, and perspectives on a variety of topics. The carefully selected stories depict moments that linger—moments of doubt, crossroads to be chosen, relationships, epiphanies, moments of loss and moments of discovery. Contributors include Mia Alvar, Nana Brew-Hammond, Glendaliz Camacho, Alexander Chee, Junot Díaz, Michael A. Gonzales, Marcus J. Guillory, Mitchell S. Jackson, Yiyun Li, Allison Mills, Courttia Newland, Jason Reynolds, Nelly Rosario, Hasanthika Sirisena, and Brandon Taylor.