While we can’t promise that 2019 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 these things—we can assure you that there will be great literature to bring us solace, to inspire and enlighten us, and to offer us moments of escape.
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Below are books Rumpus editors are eagerly anticipating that release between January 1 and June 30. Here’s to a happy New Year!
A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland by DaMaris Hill (Bloomsbury Publishing, January 15, 2019)
In A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing, Hill presents bitter, unflinching history that artfully captures the personas of these captivating, bound yet unbridled African-American women. Hill’s passionate odes to Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, and others also celebrate the modern-day inheritors of their load and light, binding history, author, and reader in an essential legacy of struggle.
Only As the Day Is Long: New and Selected Poems by Dorianne Laux (W. W. Norton & Company, January 15, 2019)
Drawn from Dorianne Laux’s five expansive volumes, including her debut Awake, National Book Critics Circle Finalist What We Carry, and Paterson Prize–winning The Book of Men, the poems in this collection have been “brought to the hard edge of meaning” (B. H. Fairchild) and praised for their “enormous precision and beauty” (Philip Levine). Twenty new odes pay homage to Laux’s mother, an ordinary and extraordinary woman of the Depression era. Exploring experiences of survival and healing, of sexual love and celebration, Only as the Day Is Long shows Laux at the height of her powers.
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer (Riverhead Books, January 22, 2019)
In The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Treuer melds history with reportage and memoir. Tracing the tribes’ distinctive cultures from first contact, he explores how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering that put the lie to the myth that Indians don’t know or care about property. The forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. Conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.
Miraculum by Steph Post (Polis Books, January 22, 2019)
The year is 1922. The carnival is Pontilliar’s Spectacular Star Light Miraculum, staked out on the Texas-Louisiana border. One blazing summer night, a mysterious stranger steps onto the midway, lights a cigarette and forever changes the world around him. Tattooed snake charmer Ruby has traveled with her father’s carnival for most of her life and, jaded though she is, can’t help but be drawn to the tall man in the immaculate black suit who conveniently joins the carnival as a chicken-biting geek. Mercurial and charismatic, Daniel charms everyone he encounters, but his manipulation of Ruby turns complicated when it’s no longer clear who’s holding all the cards. Daniel is full of secrets, but he hadn’t counted on Ruby having a few of her own.
Republic Café by David Biespiel (University of Washington Press, January 27, 2019)
A single sequence, arranged in fifty-four numbered sections, Republic Café details the experience of lovers in Portland, Oregon, on the eve and days following September 11, 2001. To touch a loved one’s bare skin, even in the midst of great tragedy, is simultaneously an act of remembering and forgetting. This is a tale of love and darkness, a magical portrait of the writer as a moral and imaginative participant in the political life of his nation.
The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan (Mariner Books, January 29, 2019)
In Islamic and Western tradition, age twenty-nine is a milestone, a year of transformation and upheaval. For Hala Alyan, this is a year in which the past—memories of family members, old friends and past lovers, the heat of another land, another language, a different faith—winds itself around the present. Hala’s ever-shifting, subversive verse sifts together and through different forms of forced displacement and the tolls they take on mind and body. Poems leap from war-torn cities in the Middle East, to an Oklahoma Olive Garden, a Brooklyn brownstone; from alcoholism to recovery; from a single woman to a wife. A vivid catalog of heartache, loneliness, love and joy, The Twenty-Ninth Year is an education in looking for home and self in the space between disparate identities. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country by Pam Houston (W. W. Norton & Company, January 29, 2019)
In essays as lucid and invigorating as mountain air, Deep Creek delivers Houston’s most profound meditations yet on how “to live simultaneously inside the wonder and the grief… to love the damaged world and do what I can to help it thrive.”
Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib (University of Texas Press, February 1, 2019)
How does one pay homage to A Tribe Called Quest? The seminal rap group brought jazz into the genre, resurrecting timeless rhythms to create masterpieces such as The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders. Seventeen years after their last album, they resurrected themselves with an intense, socially conscious record, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, which arrived when fans needed it most, in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib digs into the group’s history and draws from his own experience to reflect on how its distinctive sound resonated among fans like himself. The result is as ambitious and genre-bending as the rap group itself.
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang (Graywolf Press, February 5, 2019)
Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the “collected schizophrenias” but to those who wish to understand it as well. Opening with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Wang discusses the medical community’s own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life. Wang’s analytical eye, honed as a former lab researcher at Stanford, allows her to balance research with personal narrative. An essay collection of undeniable power, The Collected Schizophrenias dispels misconceptions and provides insight into a condition long misunderstood. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Magical Negro by Morgan Parker (Tin House Books, February 5, 2019)
Magical Negro is an archive of black everydayness, a catalog of contemporary folk heroes, an ethnography of ancestral grief, and an inventory of figureheads, idioms, and customs. These American poems are both elegy and jive, joke and declaration, songs of congregation and self-conception. They connect themes of loneliness, displacement, grief, ancestral trauma, and objectification, while exploring and troubling tropes and stereotypes of Black Americans. Focused primarily on depictions of black womanhood alongside personal narratives, the collection tackles interior and exterior politics―of both the body and society, of both the individual and the collective experience.
Willa & Hesper by Amy Feltman (Grand Central Publishing, February 5, 2019)
Willa’s darkness enters Hesper’s light late one night in Brooklyn. Theirs is a whirlwind romance until Willa starts to know Hesper too well, to crawl into her hidden spaces, and Hesper shuts her out. She runs, following her fractured family back to her grandfather’s hometown of Tbilisi, Georgia, looking for the origin story that he is no longer able to tell. Meanwhile, heartbroken Willa is so desperate to leave New York that she joins a group trip for Jewish twentysomethings to visit Holocaust sites in Germany and Poland, hoping to override her emotional state. When it proves to be more fraught than home, she must come to terms with her past—the ancestral past, her romantic past, and the past that can lead her forward.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (Riverhead Books, February 5, 2019)
In the stunning first novel in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child. Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that’s come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.
I Am Yours: A Shared Memoir by Reema Zaman (Amberjack Publishing, February 5, 2019)
For too long, through the most intimate acts of erasure, women have been silenced. Now, women everywhere are breaking through the limits placed on us by family, society, and tradition. To find our voices. To make space for ourselves in this world. Now is the moment to reclaim what was once lost, stolen, forsaken, or abandoned. I Am Yours is about my fight to protect and free my voice from those who have sought to silence me, for the sake of creating a world where all voices are welcome and respected. Because the voice, without intimacy, will atrophy. We’re in this together. You are mine, and I am yours.
How to Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship by Eva Hagberg Fisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 5, 2019)
Eva Hagberg Fisher spent her lonely youth looking everywhere for connection: drugs, alcohol, therapists, boyfriends, girlfriends. Sometimes she found it, but always temporarily. Then, at age thirty, an undiscovered mass in her brain ruptured. So did her life. A brain surgery marked only the beginning of a long journey, and when her illness hit a critical stage, it forced her to finally admit the long‑suppressed truth: she was vulnerable, she needed help, and she longed to grow. She needed true friendship for the first time.
The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison (Knopf, February 12, 2019)
The Source of Self-Regard is brimming with all the elegance of mind and style, the literary prowess and moral compass that are Toni Morrison’s inimitable hallmark. It is divided into three parts: the first is introduced by a powerful prayer for the dead of 9/11; the second by a searching meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., and the last by a heart-wrenching eulogy for James Baldwin. In the writings and speeches included here, Morrison takes on contested social issues: the foreigner, female empowerment, the press, money, “black matter(s),” and human rights. She looks at enduring matters of culture: the role of the artist in society, the literary imagination, the Afro-American presence in American literature, and in her Nobel lecture, the power of language itself.
Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev (Simon & Schuster, February 12, 2019)
An arresting memoir equal parts refugee-coming-of-age story, feminist manifesto, and meditation on motherhood, displacement, gender politics, and art that follows award-winning writer Sophia Shalmiyev’s flight from the Soviet Union, where she was forced to abandon her estranged mother, and her subsequent quest to find her. Don’t miss our EIC, Marisa Siegel, in conversation with Sophia Shalmiyev and Eileen Myles at McNally Jackson on February 27!
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf, February 12, 2019)
A mother and father set out with their two children, driving from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. Their destination: Apacheria, the place the Apaches once called home. In their car, they play games and sing along to music. But on the radio, there is news about an “immigration crisis”: thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States, but getting detained—or lost in the desert along the way. As the family drives, we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can almost feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, harrowing adventure—both in the desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations.
Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Riverhead Books, February 19, 2019)
A missionary doctor pines for his native New England even as he succumbs to the vibrant chaos of nineteenth-century Siam. A post-WWII society woman marries, mothers, and holds court, little suspecting her solitary future. A jazz pianist in the age of rock, haunted by his own ghosts, is summoned to appease the resident spirits. A young woman tries to outpace the long shadow of her political past. And in New Krungthep, savvy teenagers row tourists past landmarks of the drowned old city they themselves do not remember. Time collapses as these stories collide and converge, linked by the forces voraciously making and remaking the amphibious, ever-morphing capital itself.
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden (Bloomsbury Publishing, March 5, 2019)
With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai’i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It’s a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera (Simon & Schuster, March 5, 2019)
Sixteen-year-old Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That role brings with it violent throwdowns and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but Nalah quickly grows weary of her questionable lifestyle. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega Towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search of the mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles crews and her own doubts but the closer she gets to her goal the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone—she cares about. Nalah must choose whether or not she’s willing to do the unspeakable to get what she wants. Can she discover that home is not where you live but whom you chose to protect before she loses the family she’s created for good?
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead Books, March 5, 2019)
Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories—equal parts wholesome and uncanny, from the tantalizing witch’s house in “Hansel and Gretel” to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can—beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.
Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (Graywolf Press, March 5, 2019)
Deaf Republic opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear—they all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, Deaf Republic confronts our time’s vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
The Tradition by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press, March 8, 2019)
Jericho Brown’s daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. Poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are propelled into stunning clarity by Brown’s mastery, and his invention of the duplex―a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues―is testament to his formal skill.
If, Then by Kate Hope Day (Random House, March 12, 2019)
In the quiet haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in parallel realities. At first the visions are relatively benign, but they grow increasingly disturbing—and, in some cases, frightening. When a natural disaster threatens Clearing, it becomes obvious that the visions were not what they first seemed and that the town will never be the same.
Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington (Riverhead Books, March 19, 2019)
In the city of Houston—a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America—the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys. Around him, others live and thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighborhoods: a young woman whose affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, a reluctant chupacabra. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot explores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.
The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Sam Taylor (FSG, March 26, 2019)
More like a poetic biographical essay on a fictional person than a novel, The Cook is a coming-of-age journey centered on Mauro, a young self-taught cook. The story is told by an unnamed female narrator, Mauro’s friend and disciple who we also suspect might be in love with him. We follow Mauro as he finds his path in life: baking cakes as a child; cooking for his friends as a teenager; a series of studies, jobs, and travels; a failed love affair; a successful business; a virtual nervous breakdown; and―at the end―a rediscovery of his hunger for cooking, his appetite for life. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (Hogarth, March 26, 2019)
In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives—their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes—form a symphony about what it means to be human.
The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3: Halal If You Hear Me edited by Fatima Asghar and Safia Elhillo (Haymarket Books, April 2, 2019)
The collected poems dispel the notion that there is one correct way to be a Muslim by holding space for multiple, intersecting identities while celebrating and protecting those identities. Halal If You Hear Me features poems by Safia Elhillo, Fatimah Asghar, Warsan Shire, Tarfia Faizullah, Angel Nafis, Beyza Ozer, and many others.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews (Bloomsbury Publishing, April 2, 2019)
One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm.
Soft Science by Franny Choi (Alice James Books, April 2, 2019)
Soft Science explores queer, Asian American femininity. A series of Turing Test-inspired poems grounds its exploration of questions not just of identity, but of consciousness―how to be tender and feeling and still survive a violent world filled with artificial intelligence and automation. We are dropped straight into the tangled intersections of technology, violence, erasure, agency, gender, and loneliness. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
The Crazy Bunch by Willie Perdomo (Penguin Books, April 2, 2019)
In his fourth collection, The Crazy Bunch, Willie Perdomo returns to his beloved neighborhood to create a vivid, kaleidoscopic portrait of a “crew” coming of age in East Harlem at the beginning of the 1990s. In poems written in couplets, vignettes, sketches, riffs, and dialogue, Perdomo recreates a weekend where surviving members of the crew recall a series of tragic events: “That was the summer we all tried to fly. All but one of us succeeded.”
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (One World, April 2, 2019)
Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Indigenous Latina characters and the land they inhabit. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado—a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite—these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force. Sabrina & Corina is a moving narrative of unrelenting feminine power and an exploration of the universal experiences of abandonment, heritage, and an eternal sense of home.
The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero (Ecco, April 2, 2019)
Ana Falcón, along with her husband Lucho and their two young children, has fled the economic and political strife of Peru for a chance at a new life in New York City in the 1990s. Being undocumented, however, has significantly curtailed the family’s opportunities. As the pressure builds, Ana becomes increasingly desperate. While Lucho dreams of returning to Peru, Ana is deeply haunted by the demons she left behind and determined to persevere in this new country. But how many sacrifices is she willing to make before admitting defeat and returning to Peru? And what lines is she willing to cross in order to protect her family?
Naamah by Sarah Blake (Riverhead Books, April 9, 2019)
With the coming of the Great Flood—the mother of all disasters—only one family was spared, drifting on an endless sea, waiting for the waters to subside. We know the story of Noah, moved by divine vision to launch their escape. Now, acclaimed writer Sarah Blake reclaims the story of his wife, Naamah, the matriarch who kept them alive. In fresh and modern language, Blake revisits the story of the Ark that rescued life on earth, and rediscovers the agonizing burdens endured by the woman at the heart of the story.
What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence edited by Michele Filgate (Simon & Schuster, April 30, 2019)
In the early 2000s, as an undergraduate, Michele Filgate started writing an essay about being abused by her stepfather. It took many years for her to realize what she was actually trying to write about: the fracture this caused in her relationship with her mother. When her essay, “What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About,” was published by Longreads in October of 2017, it went on to become one of the most popular Longreads exclusives of the year. The outpouring of responses gave Filgate an idea, and the resulting anthology offers an intimate, therapeutic, and universally resonant look at our relationships with our mothers. As Filgate poignantly writes, “Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them.” A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames (Ecco, May 7, 2019)
In her rugged Italian village, Stella is considered an oddity—beautiful and smart, insolent and cold. Stella uses her peculiar toughness to protect her slower, plainer baby sister Tina from life’s harshest realities. When the Fortunas emigrate to America on the cusp of World War II, Stella and Tina must come of age side-by-side in a hostile new world with strict expectations for each of them. Soon Stella learns that her survival is worthless without the one thing her family will deny her at any cost: her independence. In present-day Connecticut, one family member tells this heartrending story, determined to understand the persisting rift between the now-elderly Stella and Tina.
Light from Other Stars by Erika Swyler (Bloomsbury Publishing, May 7, 2019)
Eleven-year-old Nedda Papas is obsessed with becoming an astronaut. In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach—if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda’s newborn brother several years before, Theo turns to the dangerous dream of extending his living daughter’s childhood just a little longer. The result is an invention that alters the fabric of time. Decades later, Nedda has achieved her long-held dream, and as she floats in antigravity, far from earth, she and her crewmates face a serious crisis. Nedda may hold the key to the solution, if she can come to terms with her past and the future that awaits her.
The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin (FSG, May 7, 2019)
In Chia-Chia Lin’s debut novel, The Unpassing, we meet a Taiwanese immigrant family of six struggling to make ends meet on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska. When ten-year-old Gavin contracts meningitis at school, he falls into a deep, nearly fatal coma. He wakes up a week later to learn that his little sister Ruby was infected, too. She did not survive. Routine takes over for the grieving family, but things spiral when the father, increasingly guilt ridden after Ruby’s death, is sued for not properly installing a septic tank, which results in grave harm to a little boy. In the ensuing chaos, what really happened to Ruby finally emerges.
Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene (Knopf, May 14, 2019)
Two-year-old Greta Greene is sitting with her grandmother on a park bench on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A brick crumbles from a windowsill overhead, striking her unconscious, and she is immediately rushed to the hospital. But although it begins with this event and with the anguish Jayson and his wife, Stacy, confront in the wake of their daughter’s trauma and the hours leading up to her death, Once More We Saw Stars quickly becomes a narrative that is as much about hope and healing as it is about grief and loss. Jayson recognizes, even in the midst of his ordeal, that there will be a life for him beyond it—that if only he can continue moving forward, from one moment to the next, he will survive what seems unsurvivable.
Lima :: Limón by Natalie Scenters-Zapico (Copper Canyon Press, May 21, 2019)
Drawing inspiration from the music of her childhood, her lyrical poems focus on the often-tested resilience of women. Scenters-Zapico writes heartbreakingly about domestic violence and its toxic duality of macho versus hembra, of masculinity versus femininity, and throws into harsh relief the all-too-normalized pain that women endure. Her sharp verse and intense anecdotes brand her poems into the reader; images like the Virgin Mary crying glass tears and a border fence that leaves never-healing scars intertwine as she stares down femicide and gang violence alike. Unflinching, Scenters-Zapico highlights the hardships and stigma immigrants face on both sides of the border, her desire to create change shining through in every line. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard by Jennifer Pastiloff (Dutton, June 4, 2019)
An inspirational memoir about how Jennifer Pastiloff’s years of waitressing taught her to seek out unexpected beauty, how deafness taught her to listen fiercely, how being vulnerable allowed her to find love, and how imperfections can lead to a life full of wild happiness. Centered around the touchstone stories Jen tells in her popular workshops, On Being Human is the story of how a starved person grew into the exuberant woman she was meant to be all along by battling the demons within and winning.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press, June 4, 2019)
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born—a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam—and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.
1919 by Eve L. Ewing (Haymarket Books, June 4, 2019)
The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, the most intense of the riots that comprised the “Red Summer” of violence across the nation’s cities, is an event that has shaped the last century but is widely unknown. In 1919, award-winning poet Eve L. Ewing explores the story of this event―which lasted eight days and resulted in thirty-eight deaths and almost five hundred injuries―through poems recounting the stories of everyday people trying to survive and thrive in the city. Ewing uses speculative and Afrofuturist lenses to recast history, and illuminates the thin line between the past and the present. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
In West Mills by De’Shawn C. Winslow (Bloomsbury Publishing, June 4, 2019)
Azalea “Knot” Centre is determined to live life as she pleases. Let the people of West Mills say what they will; the neighbors’ gossip won’t keep Knot from what she loves best: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. And yet, Knot is starting to learn that her freedom comes at a high price. Alone in her one-room shack, ostracized from her relatives and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home. Otis Lee is eager to help. But while he’s busy trying to fix Knot’s life, Otis Lee finds himself powerless to repair the many troubles within his own family, as the long-buried secrets of his troubled past begin to come to light.
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright, June 4, 2019)
When Patsy gets her long-coveted visa to America, it’s the culmination of years of yearning to be reunited with Cicely, her oldest friend and secret love, who left home years before for the “land of opportunity.” Patsy’s plans do not include her religious mother or even her young daughter, Tru, both of whom she leaves behind in a bittersweet trail of sadness and relief. But Brooklyn is not at all what Cicely described in her letters, and to survive as an undocumented immigrant, Patsy is forced to work as a bathroom attendant, and ironically, as a nanny. Meanwhile, back in Jamaica, Tru struggles with her own questions of identity and sexuality, grappling every day with what it means to be abandoned by a mother who has no intention of returning. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (Ecco, June 18, 2019)
From childhood, Katherine knows she is different, and that her parents are not who they seem to be. But in becoming a mathematician, she must face the most human of problems—who is she? What is the cost of love, and what is the cost of ambition? On her quest to conquer the Riemann Hypothesis, the greatest unsolved mathematical problem of her time, she turns to a theorem with a mysterious history that holds both the lock and key to her identity, and to secrets long buried during World War II in Germany. Forced to confront some of the most consequential events of the twentieth century and rethink everything she knows of herself, she strives to take her place in the world of higher mathematics and finds kinship in the stories of the women who came before her—their love of the language of numbers connecting them across generations. Get ready for a special Rumpus Letter in the Mail and signed book giveaway from Catherine Chung in June!
Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell (Knopf, June 18, 2019)
In “Bog Girl,” a young man falls in love with a two-thousand-year-old girl that he’s extracted from a mass of peat in a Floridian bog. In “The Bad Graft,” a couple on a road trip stop in Joshua Tree National Park, where the spirit of a giant tree accidentally infects the young woman, their fates becoming permanently entangled. In the brilliant, hilarious “Orange World,” a new mother desperate to ensure her daughter’s health strikes a diabolical deal—she agrees to breastfeed the devil in exchange for his protection. In “The Prospectors,” two opportunistic young women fleeing the depression strike out for new territory, and find themselves fighting for their lives. Survival stories, love stories, stories of surreal and magnificent transformation—this is haunting and beautiful work from a true modern master.