What to Read When 2021 Is Just Around the Corner
It’s true that 2020 was a year that challenged all of us in so very many ways, but it was also a banner year for reading (find some of our favorite books from the year here and here).
While we know that 2021 will find us facing ever more political and social upheaval, we can also assure you that there will be great literature to bring us solace, to inspire and enlighten us, and to offer us moments of escape.
If a title is marked as a Rumpus Book Club or Poetry Book Club upcoming 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 subscribe today! And, thrill any and all readers on your holiday shopping list with a gift subscription! Gift subscriptions come with a certificate you can print out and put under the tree—a perfect last-minute present!
Below are books Rumpus editors are eagerly anticipating that release between January 1 and June 30. Here’s to a happy New Year!
Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant (Balzer + Bray, January 5, 2021)
Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader. When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she’s excited to finally let her stories shine. But when she goes to her first workshop, the words are just… gone. Fortunately, Caroline has a solution: Tessa just needs to find some inspiration in a real-life love story of her own. And she’s ready with a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. Nico, the brooding artist who looks like he walked out of one of Tessa’s stories, is cast as the perfect Prince Charming. But as Tessa checks off each item off Caroline’s list, she gets further and further away from herself. She risks losing everything she cares about—including the surprising bond she develops with sweet Sam, who lives across the street. She’s well on her way to having her own real-life love story, but is it the one she wants, after all?
Aftershocks: A Memoir by Nadia Owusu (Simon & Schuster, January 12, 2021)
Young Nadia Owusu followed her father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia’s nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Her Armenian American mother, who abandoned Nadia when she was two, would periodically reappear, only to vanish again. Her father, a Ghanaian, the great hero of her life, died when she was thirteen. After his passing, Nadia’s stepmother weighed her down with a revelation that was either a bombshell secret or a lie, rife with shaming innuendo. With these and other ruptures, Nadia arrived in New York as a young woman feeling stateless, motherless, and uncertain about her future, yet eager to find her own identity. What followed, however, were periods of depression in which she struggled to hold herself and her siblings together. Aftershocks is the way she hauled herself from the wreckage of her life’s perpetual quaking, the means by which she has finally come to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one written into existence by her own hand.
Pedro’s Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land by Marcos Gonsalez (Melville House, January 12, 2021)
One Pedro goes to a school where they take away his language. Another disappears in the desert, leaving behind only a backpack. A cousin Pedro comes to visit, awakening feelings that others are afraid to make plain. A rumored Pedro goes missing so completely it’s as if he were never there. In Pedro’s Theory, Marcos Gonsalez explores the lives of these many Pedros, real and imagined. Several are the author himself, while others are strangers, lovers, archetypes, and the men he might have been in other circumstances. All are journeying to some sort of Promised Land, or hoping to discover an America of their own. With sparkling prose and cutting insights, this brilliant literary debut closes the gap between who the world sees in us and who we see in ourselves. Deeply personal yet inspiringly political, it also brings to life those selves that never get the chance to be seen at all.
Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses (Catapult, January 19, 2021)
The traditional writing workshop was established with white male writers in mind; what we call craft is informed by their cultural values. In this bold and original examination of elements of writing—including plot, character, conflict, structure, and believability—and aspects of workshop—including the silenced writer and the imagined reader—Matthew Salesses asks questions to invigorate these familiar concepts. He upends Western notions of how a story must progress. How can we rethink craft, and the teaching of it, to better reach writers with diverse backgrounds? How can we invite diverse storytelling traditions into literary spaces? Drawing from examples including One Thousand and One Nights, Curious George, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, and the Asian American classic No-No Boy, Salesses asks us to reimagine craft and the workshop. In the pages of exercises included here, teachers will find suggestions for building syllabi, grading, and introducing new methods to the classroom; students will find revision and editing guidance, as well as a new lens for reading their work. Salesses shows that we need to interrogate the lack of diversity at the core of published fiction: how we teach and write it. After all, as he reminds us, “When we write fiction, we write the world.”
Pretty Tripwire by Alessandra Lynch (Alice James Books, January 19, 2021)
In Lynch’s fourth collection, we carefully navigate the fine line between terror and beauty as we face palpable trauma, heartbreak, and wild astonishment through the raw and personal poems. The genuine, delicate voice works to examine who we are, after everything.
The Part that Burns by Jeannine Ouellette (Split/Lip Press, February 1, 2021)
In her fiercely beautiful memoir, Ouellette recollects fragments of her life and arranges them elliptically in order to see each piece as torn and whole, as something more than itself. Caught between the dramatic landscapes of Lake Superior and Casper Mountain, between her stepfather’s groping and her mother’s erratic behavior, Ouellette lives for the day she can become a mother herself, and create her own sheltering family. What she does not know is how the visceral reality of birth and motherhood will pull her back into the body she long ago abandoned, revealing new layers of pain and desire, and forcing her to choose between her idealistic vision of perfect marriage and motherhood and the birthright of her own flesh, unruly and alive. This is a story about the tenacity of family roots, the formidable undertow of trauma, and the rebellious and persistent yearning of human beings for love from each other.
Love Is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar (Catapult, February 2, 2021) As an American raised for a time in Egypt, and finding herself captivated by the story of a celebrated Egyptian belly dancer’s journey across the United States in the 1940s, Randa Jarrar sets off from her home in California to her parents’ in Connecticut. Coloring this road trip are journeys abroad and recollections of a life lived with daring. Reclaiming her autonomy after a life of survival—domestic assault as a child, and later, as a wife; threats and doxxing after her viral tweet about Barbara Bush—Jarrar offers a bold look at domestic violence, single motherhood, and sexuality through the lens of the punished-yet-triumphant body. On the way, she schools a rest-stop racist, destroys Confederate flags in the desert, and visits the Chicago neighborhood where her immigrant parents first lived. Jarrar delivers a euphoric and critical, funny and profound memoir that will speak to anyone who has felt erased, asserting: I am here. I am joyful. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Milk Fed: A Novel by Melissa Broder (Scribner, February 2, 2021)
Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting. Early in the detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey. Pairing superlative emotional insight with unabashed vivid fantasy, Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we as humans can compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is a tender and riotously funny meditation on love, certitude, and the question of what we are all being fed, from one of our major writers on the psyche—both sacred and profane.
Come-Hither Honeycomb by Erin Belieu (Copper Canyon Press, February 2, 2021)
In Come-Hither Honeycomb, Erin Belieu turns her signature wit and intellectual rigor inward for an unguarded exploration of human vulnerability. The poems meditate on the impact of large and small traumas: the lasting thumbprint of abuse, the collective specter of disease, the achingly sweet humility of parenting. The bodies in these poems are trapped, held hostage, bleeding. And yet there is agency—structural dynamism, texture, the color green—while a woman climbs a metal ladder to the diving board, a girl climbs high into the branches. The speaker grapples with a lifelong pattern of brutality, then painfully breaks free. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Milk Blood Heat: Stories by Dantiel W. Moniz (Grove Press, February 2, 2021)
Milk Blood Heat depicts the sultry lives of Floridians in intergenerational tales that contemplate human connection, race, womanhood, inheritance, and the elemental darkness in us all. Set among the cities and suburbs of Florida, each story delves into the ordinary worlds of young girls, women, and men who find themselves confronted by extraordinary moments of violent personal reckoning. These intimate portraits of people and relationships scour and soothe and blast a light on the nature of family, faith, forgiveness, consumption, and what we may, or may not, owe one another. A thirteen-year-old meditates on her sadness and the difference between herself and her white best friend when an unexpected tragedy occurs; a woman recovering from a miscarriage finds herself unable to let go of her daughter—whose body parts she sees throughout her daily life; a teenager resists her family’s church and is accused of courting the devil; servers at a supper club cater to the insatiable cravings of their wealthy clientele; and two estranged siblings take a road-trip with their father’s ashes and are forced to face the troubling reality of how he continues to shape them. Wise and subversive, spiritual and seductive, Milk Blood Heat forms an ouroboros of stories that bewitch with their truth.
Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen (Mariner Books, February 2, 2021)
Gripping and compassionate, Land of Big Numbers depicts the diverse and legion Chinese people, their history, their government, and how all of that has tumbled—messily, violently, but still beautifully—into the present. Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen’s stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited. Twins take radically different paths: one becomes a professional gamer, the other a political activist. A woman moves to the city to work at a government call center and is followed by her violent ex-boyfriend. A man is swept into the high-risk, high-reward temptations of China’s volatile stock exchange. And a group of people sit, trapped for no reason, on a subway platform for months, waiting for official permission to leave. With acute social insight, Chen layers years of experience reporting on the ground in China with incantatory prose in this taut, surprising debut.
Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler (Catapult, February 2, 2021)
On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, a young woman snoops through her boyfriend’s phone and makes a startling discovery: he’s an anonymous internet conspiracy theorist, and a popular one at that. Already fluent in internet fakery, irony, and outrage, she’s not exactly shocked by the revelation. Actually, she’s relieved—he was always a little distant—and she plots to end their floundering relationship while on a trip to the Women’s March in DC. But this is only the first in a series of bizarre twists that expose a world whose truths are shaped by online lies. Suddenly left with no reason to stay in New York and increasingly alienated from her friends and colleagues, our unnamed narrator flees to Berlin, embarking on her own cycles of manipulation in the deceptive spaces of her daily life, from dating apps to expat meetups, open-plan offices to bureaucratic waiting rooms. She begins to think she can’t trust anyone—shouldn’t the feeling be mutual? Narrated with seductive confidence and subversive wit, Fake Accounts challenges the way current conversations about the self and community, delusions and gaslighting, and fiction and reality play out in the internet age.
This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith (Grand Central Publishing, February 2, 2021)
On a rainy October night in Kentucky, recently divorced therapist Tallie Clark is on her way home when she spots a man precariously standing on the edge of a bridge. Without a second thought, Tallie pulls over and jumps out of the car into the pouring rain. She convinces the man to join her for a cup of coffee, and he eventually agrees to come back to her house, where he finally, reluctantly, shares his first name: Emmett. Over the course of the emotionally charged weekend that follows, Tallie makes it her mission to provide a safe and comfortable space for Emmett, although she doesn’t confess that she works as a therapist. However, Emmett is not the only one who needs help—and he has secrets of his own. Alternating between Tallie and Emmett’s perspectives as they inch closer to the truth of what brought Emmett to the bridge, This Close to Okay is an uplifting, powerful story of two strangers brought together by wild chance at the moment they need it the most.
Doppelgangbanger by Cortney Lamar Charleston (Haymarket Books, February 9, 2021)
With the wit and musicality fitting of a 90s baby raised during the golden age of hip-hop, Cortney Lamar Charleston grapples with the landscapes of Chicago’s South Side and surrounding suburbs, and the tensions that impact a Black boy’s struggle through self-destructive definitions of manhood. While the language in these poems is playful, Charleston’s vulnerability invites readers to intimately witness the speaker’s journey from adopted persona to an authentic self that defies traditional molds.
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad (Random House, February 9, 2021)
A few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, Suleika Jaouad received a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35% chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself went up in flames. She would spend much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times. When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward—after three and a half years of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. How would she reenter the world and live again? How could she reclaim what had been lost? Jaouad embarked on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between sick and well is porous, that the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives.
How to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada, translated by Elizabeth Bryer (Tin House Books, February 16, 2021)
For seven-year-old M, the world is guided by a firm set of principles, based on her father D’s life as a traveling salesman. Enchanted by her father’s trade, M convinces him to take her along on his routes, selling hardware supplies against the backdrop of Pinochet-era Chile. As father and daughter trek from town to town in their old Renault, M’s memories and thoughts become tied to a language of rural commerce, philosophy, the cosmos, hardware products, and ghosts. M, in her innocence, barely notices the rising tensions and precarious nature of their work until she and her father connect with an enigmatic photographer, E, whose presence threatens to upend the unusual life they’ve created. At once nostalgic, dangerous, sharply funny, and full of delight and wonder, How to Order the Universe captures a vanishing way of life and a father-daughter relationship on the brink of irreversible change.
The Witch of Eye: Essays by Kathryn Nuernberger (Sarabande Books, February 16, 2021)
This amazingly wise and nimble collection investigates the horrors inflicted on so-called “witches” of the past. The Witch of Eye unearths salves, potions, and spells meant to heal, yet interpreted by inquisitors as evidence of evil. The author describes torture and forced confessions alongside accounts of gentleness of legendary midwives. In one essay about a trial, we learn through folklore that Jesus’s mother was a midwife who cured her own son’s rheumatism. In other essays there are subtle parallels to contemporary discourse around abortion and environmental destruction. Nuernberger weaves in her own experiences, too. There’s an ironic look at her own wedding, an uncomfortable visit to the Prague Museum of Torture, and an afternoon spent tearing out a garden in a mercurial fit. Her researched material is eye-opening, lively, and often funny. An absolutely thrilling collection.
No One Is Talking about This: A Novel by Patricia Lockwood (Riverhead Books, February 16, 2021)
As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms “the portal,” where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats—from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness—begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal’s void. An avalanche of images, details, and references accumulate to form a landscape that is post-sense, post-irony, post-everything. “Are we in hell?” the people of the portal ask themselves. “Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?” Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: “Something has gone wrong,” and “How soon can you get here?” As real life and its stakes collide with the increasingly absurd antics of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.
Honey Girl: A Novel by Morgan Rogers (Park Row, February 23, 2021)
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know… until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her parent’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows. In New York, she’s able to ignore all the constant questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.
Who’s Your Daddy by Arisa White (Augury Books, March 1, 2021)
A lyrical, genre-bending, coming-of-age tale featuring a queer, Black, Guyanese American woman who, while seeking to define her own place in the world, negotiates an estranged relationship with her father.
Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo (Make Me a World, March 2, 2021)
Nima doesn’t feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like an outsider to feel like that she belongs somewhere else. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself. Until she doesn’t. As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn’t give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might just be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry. And the life Nima has, the one she keeps wishing were someone else’s… she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had.
Justine by Forsyth Harmon (Tin House Books, March 2, 2021)
A debut illustrated novel, Justine is a sharp, intimate portrayal of girlhood on the edge of adulthood, and the thin line between friendship and obsession. When Long Island teenager Ali visits the local Stop & Shop, she finds herself powerfully drawn to a cashier, the seductive and troubled Justine, who’s so tall and thin she looks almost two-dimensional. Intrigued, Ali applies for a job on the spot. During the ensuing sizzling weeks of summer 1999, Justine takes Ali under her wing, and Ali’s fixation on Justine grows. But even as Ali reshapes herself in Justine’s image—unsure of whether she wants to be with her or be her—their inability to truly connect leads to a series of events that spiral from superficial to seismic.
Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer by Jamie Figueroa (Catapult, March 2, 2021)
In the tourist town of Ciudad de Tres Hermanas, in the aftermath of their mother’s passing, two siblings spend a final weekend together in their childhood home. Seeing her brother, Rafa, careening toward a place of no return, Rufina devises a bet: if they can make enough money performing for privileged tourists in the plaza over the course of the weekend to afford a plane ticket out, Rafa must commit to living. If not, Rufina will make her peace with Rafa’s own plan for the future, however terrifying it may be. As the siblings reckon with generational and ancestral trauma, set against the indignities of present-day prejudice, other strange hauntings begin to stalk these pages: their mother’s ghost kicks her heels against the walls; Rufina’s vanished child creeps into her arms at night; and above all this, watching over the siblings, a genderless, flea-bitten angel remains hell-bent on saving what can be saved.
Inside Passage: A Memoir by Keema Waterfield (Green Writers Press, March 5, 2021)
A mother-daughter love story of resilience and hope against the odds: Keema Waterfield grew up chasing music with her twenty-year-old mother on the Alaskan folk festival circuit, two small siblings in tow. Summers they traveled by ferry and car, sharing the family tent with a guitar, cello, and fiddle. Adrift with a revolving cast of musicians, drunks, stepdads, and one man with a gun, Keema yearned for a place to call home. Preferably with heat and flushing toilets. Trying to understand the absence of her pot-dealing father, she is drawn deeper into her mother’s past instead.
The Arsonist’s City by Hala Alyan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 9, 2021)
The Nasr family is spread across the globe—Beirut, Brooklyn, Austin, the California desert. A Syrian mother, a Lebanese father, and three American children: all have lived a life of migration. Still, they’ve always had their ancestral home in Beirut—a constant touchstone—and the complicated, messy family love that binds them. But following his father’s recent death, Idris, the family’s new patriarch, has decided to sell. The decision brings the family to Beirut, where everyone unites against Idris in a fight to save the house. They all have secrets—lost loves, bitter jealousies, abandoned passions, deep-set shame—that distance has helped smother. But in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together.
If This Is the Age We End Discovery by Rosebud Ben-Oni (Alice James Books, March 9, 2021)
A fascinating blend of poetry and science, Ben-Oni’s poems are precisely crafted, like a surgeon sewing a complicated stitch. The speaker of the collection falls ill, and takes comfort in exploring the idea of “Efes” which is “zero” in Modern Hebrew, using that nullification to be a means of transformation.
Cosmogony: Stories by Lucy Ives (Soft Skull Press, March 9, 2021)
A woman answers a Craigslist ad (to write erotic diaries for money). A woman walks onto a tennis court (from her home at the bottom of the ocean). A woman goes to the supermarket and meets a friend’s husband (who happens to be an immortal demon). A woman goes for a run (and accidentally time travels). Cosmogony takes accounts of so-called normal life and mines them for inconsistencies, deceptions, and delights. Incorporating a virtuosic range of styles and genres (Wikipedia entry, phone call, physics equation, encounters with the supernatural), these stories reveal how the narratives we tell ourselves and believe are inevitably constructed, offering a glimpse of the structures that underlie and apparently determine human existence.
Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé (Akashic Books, March 16, 2021)
Nephthys Kinwell is a taxi driver of sorts in Washington, DC, ferrying passengers in a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere with a ghost in the trunk. Endless rides and alcohol help her manage her grief over the death of her twin brother, Osiris, who was murdered and dumped in the Anacostia River. Unknown to Nephthys when the novel opens in 1977, her estranged great-nephew, ten-year-old Dash, is finding himself drawn to the banks of that very same river. It is there that Dash—reeling from having witnessed an act of molestation at his school, but still questioning what and who he saw—has charmed conversations with a mysterious figure he calls the “River Man.” When Dash arrives unexpectedly at Nephthys’s door bearing a cryptic note about his unusual conversations with the River Man, Nephthys must face what frightens her most. Morowa Yejidé shows us an unseen Washington filled with otherworldly landscapes, flawed super-humans, and reluctant ghosts, and brings together a community intent on saving one young boy in order to reclaim itself. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib (Random House, March 30, 2021)
At the March on Washington in 1963, Josephine Baker was fifty-seven years old, well beyond her most prolific days. But in her speech she was in a mood to consider her life, her legacy, her departure from the country she was now triumphantly returning to. “I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too,” she told the crowd. Inspired by these few words, Hanif Abdurraqib has written a profound and lasting reflection on how Black performance is inextricably woven into the fabric of American culture. Each moment in every performance he examines—whether it’s the twenty-seven seconds in “Gimme Shelter” in which Merry Clayton wails the words “rape, murder,” a schoolyard fistfight, a dance marathon, or the instant in a game of spades right after the cards are dealt—has layers of resonance in Black and white cultures, the politics of American empire, and Abdurraqib’s own personal history of love, grief, and performance.
Girlhood by Melissa Febos (Bloomsbury, March 30, 2021)
When her body began to change at eleven years old, Melissa Febos understood immediately that her meaning to other people had changed with it. By her teens, she defined herself based on these perceptions and by the romantic relationships she threw herself into headlong. Over time, Febos increasingly questioned the stories she’d been told about herself and the habits and defenses she’d developed over years of trying to meet others’ expectations. The values she and so many other women had learned in girlhood did not prioritize their personal safety, happiness, or freedom, and she set out to reframe those values and beliefs. Blending investigative reporting, memoir, and scholarship, Febos charts how she and others like her have reimagined relationships and made room for the anger, grief, power, and pleasure women have long been taught to deny. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (Flatiron Books, March 30, 2021)
In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt. From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals―personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others―that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books, March 30, 2021)
Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.
Worn by Adrienne Christian (Santa Fe Writers Project, April 1, 2021)
Tenderness meets pain meets joy here, offering up the voices of Black folks fostering connection with their children, their lovers, and themselves. Christian’s third collection of poetry takes the reader through love and longing, and manifests how we all cope and get dressed again after the harsh reality of our world lays us bare. From ghazals about erotic kinks to the disappointment of a father, these poems explore the clothes we reach for first when loss strips us naked. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason by Gina Frangello (Counterpoint, April 6, 2021)
Gina Frangello spent her early adulthood trying to outrun a youth marked by poverty and violence. Now a long-married wife and devoted mother, the better life she carefully built is emotionally upended by the death of her closest friend. Soon, awakened to fault lines in her troubled marriage, Frangello is caught up in a recklessly passionate affair, leading a double life while continuing to project the image of the perfect family. When her secrets are finally uncovered, both her home and her identity will implode, testing the limits of desire, responsibility, love, and forgiveness. Blow Your House Down is a powerful testimony about the ways our culture seeks to cage women in traditional narratives of self-sacrifice and erasure. Frangello uses her personal story to examine the place of women in contemporary society: the violence they experience, the rage they suppress, the ways their bodies often reveal what they cannot say aloud, and finally, what it means to transgress “being good” in order to reclaim your own life.
The Wild Fox of Yemen by Threa Almontaser (Graywolf, April 6, 2021)
By turns aggressively reckless and fiercely protective, always guided by faith and ancestry, Threa Almontaser’s incendiary debut asks how mistranslation can be a form of self-knowledge and survival. A love letter to the country and people of Yemen, a portrait of young Muslim womanhood in New York after 9/11, and an extraordinarily composed examination of what it means to carry in the body the echoes of what came before, Almontaser’s polyvocal collection sneaks artifacts to and from worlds, repurposing language and adapting to the space between cultures. Half-crunk and hungry, speakers move with the force of what cannot be contained by the limits of the American imagination, and instead invest in troublemaking and trickery, navigate imperial violence across multiple accents and anthems, and apply gang signs in henna, utilizing any means necessary to form a semblance of home. In doing so, The Wild Fox of Yemen fearlessly rides the tension between carnality and tenderness in the unruly human spirit. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Caul Baby: A Novel by Morgan Jerkins (Harper, April 6, 2021)
Laila desperately wants to become a mother, but each of her previous pregnancies has ended in heartbreak. This time has to be different, so she turns to the Melancons, an old and powerful Harlem family known for their caul, a precious layer of skin that is the secret source of their healing power. When a deal for Laila to acquire a piece of caul falls through, she is heartbroken, but when the child is stillborn, she is overcome with grief and rage. What she doesn’t know is that a baby will soon be delivered in her family—by her niece, Amara, an ambitious college student—and delivered to the Melancons to raise as one of their own. Hallow is special: she’s born with a caul, and their matriarch, Maman, predicts the girl will restore the family’s prosperity. Growing up, Hallow feels that something in her life is not right. Did Josephine, the woman she calls mother, really bring her into the world? Why does her cousin Helena get to go to school and roam the streets of New York freely while she’s confined to the family’s decrepit brownstone? As the Melancons’ thirst to maintain their status grows, Amara, now a successful lawyer running for district attorney, looks for a way to avenge her longstanding grudge against the family. When mother and daughter cross paths, Hallow will be forced to decide where she truly belongs.
Cleave by Tiana Nobile (Hub City, April 6, 2021)
In her debut collection, Tiana Nobile grapples with the history of transnational adoption, both her own from South Korea and the broader, collective experience. In conversation with psychologist Harry Harlow’s monkey experiments and utilizing fragments of a highly personal cache of documents from her own adoption, these poems explore dislocation, familial relationships, and the science of love and attachment. Cleave attempts to unknot the complexities of adoptee childhood, revealing a nature of opposites—”the child cleaved to her mother / the child cleaved from her mother”—while reckoning with the histories that make us.
Low Country: A Memoir by J. Nicole Jones (Catapult, April 13, 2021)
J. Nicole Jones is the only daughter of a prominent South Carolina family, a family that grew rich building the hotels and seafood restaurants that draw tourists to Myrtle Beach. But at home, she is surrounded by violence and capriciousness: a grandfather who beats his wife, a barman father who dreams of being a country music star. At one time, Jones’s parents can barely afford groceries; at another, her volatile grandfather presents her with a fur coat. After a girlhood of extreme wealth and deep debt, of ghosts and folklore, of cruel men and unwanted spectacle, Jones finds herself face to face with an explosive possibility concerning her long-abused grandmother that she can neither speak nor shake. And through the lens of her own family’s catastrophes and triumphs, Jones pays homage to the landscapes and legends of her childhood home, a region haunted by its history: Eliza Pinckney cultivates indigo, Blackbeard ransacks the coast, and the Gray Man paces the beach, warning of Hurricane Hazel.
The Souvenir Museum: Stories by Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco, April 13, 2021)
In these stories, the mysterious bonds of family are tested, transformed, fractured, and fortified. A recent widower and his adult son ferry to a craggy Scottish island in search of puffins. An actress who plays a children’s game-show villainess ushers in the New Year with her deadbeat half-brother. A mother, pining for her children, feasts on loaves of challah to fill the void. A new couple navigates a tightrope walk toward love. And on a trip to a Texas water park with their son, two fathers each confront a personal fear. With sentences that crackle and spark and showcase her trademark wit, McCracken traces how our closely held desires—for intimacy, atonement, comfort—bloom and wither against the indifferent passing of time. Her characters embark on journeys that leave them indelibly changed—and so do her readers.
Water I Won’t Touch by Kayleb Rae Candrilli (Copper Canyon Press, April 20, 2021)
Both radically tender and desperate for change, Water I Won’t Touch is a life raft and a self-portrait, concerned with the vitality of trans people living in a dangerous and inhospitable landscape. Through the brambles of the Pennsylvania forest to a stretch of the Jersey Shore, in quiet moments and violent memories, Kayleb Rae Candrilli touches the broken earth and examines the whole in its parts. Written during the body’s healing from a double mastectomy―in the wake of addiction and family dysfunction―these ambitious poems put new form to what’s been lost and gained. Candrilli ultimately imagines a joyful, queer future: a garden to harvest, lasting love, the insistent flamboyance of citrus. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
White Magic by Elissa Washuta (Tin House Books, April 27, 2021)
Throughout her life, Elissa Washuta has been surrounded by cheap facsimiles of Native spiritual tools and occult trends, “starter witch kits” of sage, rose quartz, and tarot cards packaged together in paper and plastic. Following a decade of abuse, addiction, PTSD, and heavy-duty drug treatment for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, she felt drawn to the real spirits and powers her dispossessed and discarded ancestors knew, while she undertook necessary work to find love and meaning. In this collection of intertwined essays, she writes about land, heartbreak, and colonization, about life without the escape hatch of intoxication, and about how she became a powerful witch. She interlaces stories from her forebears with cultural artifacts from her own life—Twin Peaks, the Oregon Trail II video game, a Claymation Satan, a YouTube video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham—to explore questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule.
Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger (Santa Fe Writers Project, May 1, 2021)
Despite her parents’ struggles with addiction, Lilly Dancyger always thought of her childhood as a happy one. But what happens when a journalist interrogates her own rosy memories to reveal the instability around the edges? Dancyger’s father, Joe Schactman, was part of the iconic 1980s East Village art scene. He created provocative sculptures out of found materials like animal bones, human hair, and broken glass, and brought his young daughter into his gritty, iconoclastic world. She idolized him—despite the escalating heroin addiction that sometimes overshadowed his creative passion. When Schactman died suddenly, just as Dancyger was entering adolescence, she went into her own self-destructive spiral, raging against a world that had taken her father away. As an adult, Dancyger began to question the mythology she’d created about her father—the brilliant artist, struck down in his prime. Using his sculptures, paintings, and prints as a guide, Dancyger sought out the characters from his world who could help her decode the language of her father’s work to find the truth of who he really was. Featuring Schactman’s artwork throughout, Negative Space explores Dancyger’s grief, anger, and artistic inheritance as she sets out to illuminate the darkness her father hid from her, as well as her own. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
The Renunciations by Donika Kelly (Graywolf Press, May 4, 2021)
The Renunciations is a book of resilience, survival, and the journey to radically shift one’s sense of self in the face of trauma. Moving between a childhood marked by love and abuse and the breaking marriage of that adult child, Donika Kelly charts memory and the body as landscapes to be traversed and tended. These poems construct life rafts and sanctuaries even in their most devastating confrontations with what a person can bear, with how families harm themselves. With the companionship of “the oracle”—an observer of memory who knows how each close call with oblivion ends—the act of remembrance becomes curative, and personal mythologies give way to a future defined less by wounds than by possibility. In this gorgeous and heartrending second collection, we find the home one builds inside oneself after reckoning with a legacy of trauma—a home whose construction starts “with a razing.”
Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed (Ig Publishing, May 4, 2021)
Coconut trees. Carnival. Rum and coke. To many outsiders, these idyllic images represent the supposed easy life in Caribbean nations such as Trinidad and Tobago. However, the reality is far different for those who live there—a society where poverty and patriarchy savagely rule, and where love and revenge often go hand in hand. Written in a combination of English and Trinidad Creole, Pleasantview reveals the dark side of the Caribbean dream. In this novel-in-stories about a fictional town in Trinidad, we meet a political candidate who sets out to slaughter endangered turtles for fun, while his rival candidate beats his “outside-woman,” so badly she ends up losing their baby. On the night of a political rally, the abused woman exacts a very public revenge, the trajectory of which echoes through Pleasantview, ending with one boy introducing another boy to a gun and to an ideology which will help him aim the weapon.
In the Event of Contact by Ethel Rohan (Dzanc Books, May 18, 2021)
In the Event of Contact chronicles characters profoundly affected by physical connection, or its lack. Among them, a scrappy teen vies to be the next Sherlock Holmes; an immigrant daughter must defend her decision to remain childless; a guilt-ridden woman is haunted by the disappearance of her childhood friend; a cantankerous crossing guard celebrates getting run over by a truck; an embattled priest with dementia determines to perform a heroic, redemptive act, if he can only remember how; and a young girl navigates crippling aversion to touch, even from her sisters. Amidst backgrounds of trespass and absence, the indelible characters of In the Event of Contact seek renewed belief in themselves, recovery, and humanity.
Nervous System: A Novel by Lina Meruane, translated by Megan McDowell (Graywolf Press, May 18, 2021)
Ella is an astrophysicist struggling with her doctoral thesis in the “country of the present” but she is from the “country of the past,” a place burdened in her memory by both personal and political tragedies. Her partner, El, is a forensic scientist who analyzes the bones of victims of state violence and is recovering from an explosion at a work site that almost killed him. Consumed by writer’s block, Ella finds herself wishing that she would become ill, which would provide time for writing and perhaps an excuse for her lack of progress. Then she begins to experience mysterious symptoms that doctors find undiagnosable. As Ella’s anxiety grows, the past begins to exert a strong gravitational pull, and other members of her family come into focus: the widowed Father, the Stepmother, the Twins, and the Firstborn. Each of them has their own experience of illness and violence, and eventually the systems that both hold them together and atomize them are exposed. In this extraordinary clinical biography of a family, full of affection and resentment, dark humor and buried secrets, illness describes the traumas that can be visited not just upon the body, but on families and on the history of the countries—present and past—that we live in.
The Other Black Girl: A Novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria Books, June 1, 2021)
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust. Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career. A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
Bewilderness by Karen Tucker (Catapult, June 1, 2021)
Irene, a lonely nineteen-year-old in rural North Carolina, works long nights at the local pool hall, serving pitchers and dodging drunks. One evening, her hilarious, magnetic coworker Luce invites her on a joy ride through the mountains to take revenge on a particularly creepy customer. Their adventure not only spells the beginning of a dazzling friendship, it seduces both girls into the mysterious world of pills and the endless hustles needed to fund the next high. Together, Irene and Luce run nickel-tossing scams at the county fair and trick dealers into trading legit pharms for birth control pills. Everything is wild and wonderful until Luce finds a boyfriend who wants to help her get clean. Soon the two of them decide to move away and start a new, sober life in Florida––leaving Irene behind. Told in a riveting dialogue between the girls’ addicted past and their hopes for a better future, Bewilderness is not just a brilliant, funny, heartbreaking novel about opioid abuse, it’s also a moving look at how intense, intimate friendships can shape every young woman’s life.
Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford (Flatiron Books, June 1, 2020)
For as long as she could remember, Ashley has put her father on a pedestal. Despite having only vague memories of seeing him face-to-face, she believes he’s the only person in the entire world who understands her. She thinks she understands him, too. He’s sensitive like her, an artist, and maybe even just as afraid of the dark. She’s certain that one day they’ll be reunited again, and she’ll finally feel complete. There are just a few problems: he’s in prison, and she doesn’t know what he did to end up there. Through poverty, puberty, and a fraught relationship with her mother, Ashley returns to her image of her father for hope and encouragement. She doesn’t know how to deal with the incessant worries that keep her up at night, or how to handle the changes in her body that draw unwanted attention from men. In her search for unconditional love, Ashley begins dating a boy her mother hates; when the relationship turns sour, he assaults her. Still reeling from the rape, which she keeps secret from her family, Ashley finally finds out why her father is in prison. And that’s where the story really begins.
With Teeth by Kristen Arnett (Riverhead Books, June 1, 2021)
If she’s being honest, Sammie Lucas is scared of her son. Working from home in the close quarters of their Florida house, she lives with one wary eye peeled on Samson, a sullen, unknowable boy who resists her every attempt to bond with him. Uncertain in her own feelings about motherhood, she tries her best—driving, cleaning, cooking, prodding him to finish projects for school—while growing increasingly resentful of Monika, her confident but absent wife. As Samson grows from feral toddler to surly teenager, Sammie’s life begins to deteriorate into a mess of unruly behavior, and her struggle to create a picture-perfect queer family unravels. When her son’s hostility finally spills over into physical aggression, Sammie must confront her role in the mess—and the possibility that it will never be clean again. Blending the warmth and wit of Arnett’s breakout hit, Mostly Dead Things, with a candid take on queer family dynamics, With Teeth is a thought-provoking portrait of the delicate fabric of family—and the many ways it can be torn apart.
How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith (Little, Brown and Company, June 1, 2021)
Beginning in his own hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader through an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves. In a deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view-whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods—like downtown Manhattan—on which the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women and children has been deeply imprinted. Informed by scholarship and brought alive by the story of people living today, Clint Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark work of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in making sense of our country and how it has come to be.
Walking on Cowrie Shells: Stories by Nana Nkweti (Graywolf Press, June 1, 2020)
In her powerful, genre-bending debut story collection, Nana Nkweti mixes deft realism with clever inversions of genre. In the Caine Prize finalist story “It Takes a Village, Some Say,” Nkweti skewers racial prejudice and the practice of international adoption, delivering a sly tale about a teenage girl who leverages her adoptive parents to fast-track her fortunes. In “The Devil Is a Liar,” a pregnant pastor’s wife struggles with the collision of western Christianity and her mother’s traditional Cameroonian belief system as she worries about her unborn child. In other stories, Nkweti vaults past realism, upending genre expectations in a satirical romp about a jaded PR professional trying to spin a zombie outbreak in West Africa, and in a mermaid tale about a Mami Wata who forgoes her power by remaining faithful to a fisherman she loves. In between these two ends of the spectrum there’s everything from an aspiring graphic novelist at a comic con to a murder investigation driven by statistics to a story organized by the changing hairstyles of the main character. Pulling from mystery, horror, realism, myth, and graphic novels, Nkweti showcases the complexity and vibrance of characters whose lives span Cameroonian and American cultures.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (St. Martin’s Griffin, June 1, 2021)
Cynical twenty-three-year old August doesn’t believe in much. She doesn’t believe in psychics, or easily forged friendships, or finding the kind of love they make movies about. And she certainly doesn’t believe her ragtag band of new roommates, her night shifts at a 24-hour pancake diner, or her daily subway commute full of electrical outages are going to change that. But then, there’s Jane. Beautiful, impossible Jane. All hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair and saving August’s day when she needed it most. The person August looks forward to seeing on the train every day. The one who makes her forget about the cities she lived in that never seemed to fit, and her fear of what happens when she finally graduates, and even her cold-case obsessed mother who won’t quite let her go. And when August realizes her subway crush is impossible in more ways than one—namely, displaced in time from the 1970s—she thinks maybe it’s time to start believing.
The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir by Wayétu Moore (Graywolf Press, June 2, 2021)
When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a big birthday party at their home in Monrovia, Liberia, but all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, who is working and studying in faraway New York. Before she gets the reunion her father promised her, war breaks out in Liberia. The family is forced to flee their home on foot, walking and hiding for three weeks until they arrive in the village of Lai. Finally, a rebel soldier smuggles them across the border to Sierra Leone, reuniting the family and setting them off on yet another journey, this time to the United States. Spanning this harrowing journey in Moore’s early childhood, her years adjusting to life in Texas as a Black woman and an immigrant, and her eventual return to Liberia, The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is a deeply moving story of the search for home in the midst of upheaval. In capturing both the hazy magic and the stark realities of what is becoming an increasingly pervasive experience, Moore shines a light on the great political and personal forces that continue to affect many migrants around the world, and calls us all to acknowledge the tenacious power of love and family.
Migratory Birds by Mariana Oliver, translated by Julia Sanches (Transit Books, June 8, 2021)
In her prize-winning debut, Mexican essayist Mariana Oliver trains her gaze on migration in its many forms, moving between real cities and other more inaccessible territories: language, memory, pain, desire, and the body. With an abiding curiosity and poetic ease, Oliver leads us through the underground city of Cappadocia, explores the vicissitudes of a Berlin marked by historical fracture, recalls a shocking childhood exodus, and recreates the intimacy of the spaces we inhabit. Blending criticism, reportage, and a travel writing all her own, Oliver presents a brilliant collection of essays that asks us what it means to leave the familiar behind and make the unfamiliar our own. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Transmutation: Stories by Alex DiFrancesco (Seven Stories Press, June 8, 2021)
Here is a wry, and at the same time dark and risk-taking, story collection from author (and baker) Alex DiFrancesco that pushes the boundaries of transgender awareness and filial bonds. Here is the hate between sixteen-year-old Junie, who is transitioning, and their mom’s boyfriend Chad when the family moves into Chad’s house on Lake Erie. And here is the love being tested between Sawyer and his dad, who named his boat after his child and resists changing it from Sara to Sawyer now. There is DiFrancesco’s willingness to enter lands that are violent and comfortless in some of these stories, testing the limits of what it means to be human, sometimes returning stronger and wiser and sometimes not returning at all as their characters surge forward into unknown spaces.
The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood by Krys Malcolm Belc (Counterpoint, June 15, 2021)
Krys Malcolm Belc has thought a lot about the interplay between parenthood and gender. As a nonbinary, transmasculine parent, giving birth to his son Samson clarified his gender identity. And yet, when his partner Anna adopted Samson, the legal documents listed Belc as the natural mother of the child. By considering how the experiences contained under the umbrella of motherhood don’t fully align with Belc’s own experience, The Natural Mother of the Child journeys both toward and through common perceptions of what it means to have a body and how that body can influence the perception of a family. With this visual memoir-in-essays, Belc has created a new kind of life record, one that engages directly with the documentation often thought to constitute a record of one’s life–childhood photos, birth certificates–and addresses his deep ambivalence about the before and after so prevalent in trans stories, which feels apart from his own experience.
The Vault by Andrés Cerpa (Alice James Books, June 15, 2021)
“These are spare sequences, notational and nicked by grief, though they lash out in lyric unrest and sudden splendor. If I could lead you on a treasure hunt through The Vault, you’d find the porcelain shard, wolf skin, a set of calendar dates, the sound of silk and razor blades, and all the afters. There is something of an after feeling here, as though we were standing in the riled wake of catastrophe that lumbered past moments ago.” – Carolina Ebeid A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead Books, June 22, 2021)
In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraught encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness. In other stories, a young woman battles with the cancers draining her body and her family; menacing undercurrents among a group of teenagers explode in violence on a winter night; a little girl tears through a house like a tornado, driving her babysitter to the brink; and couples feel out the jagged edges of connection, comfort, and cruelty. With Filthy Animals, Taylor renews and expands on the promise made in Real Life, training his precise and unsentimental gaze on the tensions among friends and family, lovers and others. Psychologically taut and quietly devastating, Filthy Animals is a tender portrait of the fierce longing for intimacy, the lingering presence of pain, and the desire for love in a world that seems, more often than not, to withhold it.
The Way She Feels by Courtney Cook (Tin House Books, June 29, 2021)
What does it feel like to fall in love too hard and too fast, to hate yourself in equal and opposite measure? To live in such fear of rejection that you drive friends and lovers away? Welcome to my world. I’m Courtney, and I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), along with four million other people in the United States. Though I’ve shown every classic symptom of the disorder since childhood, I wasn’t properly diagnosed until nearly a decade later, because the prevailing theory is that most people simply “grow out of it.” Not me.
Mona at Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James (Santa Fe Writers Project, June 30, 2021)
When we find what gives our life meaning, will we be ready for it? Get ready to meet Mona Mireles, the infamous “Sad Millennial,” as she finds herself unemployed, living with her parents, and adrift in life and love. Mona is a perfectionist who fails upwards in the midst of the 2008 economic crisis. Mona walks a knife’s edge as she faces unemployment, underemployment, the complexities of adult relationships, and the downward spiral of her parents’ shattering marriage. The more Mona craves perfection and order, the more she is forced to see that it is never attainable. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!