While we know that 2022 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!
Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho (Viking, January 4, 2022)
Best friends since second grade, Fiona Lin and Jane Shen explore the lonely freeways and seedy bars of Los Angeles together through their teenage years, surviving unfulfilling romantic encounters, and carrying with them the scars of their families’ tumultuous pasts. Fiona was always destined to leave, her effortless beauty burnished by fierce ambition—qualities that Jane admired and feared in equal measure. When Fiona moves to New York and cares for a sick friend through a breakup with an opportunistic boyfriend, Jane remains in California and grieves her estranged father’s sudden death, in the process alienating an overzealous girlfriend. Strained by distance and unintended betrayals, the women float in and out of each other’s lives, their friendship both a beacon of home and a reminder of all they’ve lost. In stories told in alternating voices, Jean Chen Ho’s debut collection peels back the layers of female friendship—the intensity, resentment, and boundless love—to probe the beating hearts of young women coming to terms with themselves, and each other, in light of the insecurities and shame that holds them back.
Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades (Random House, January 4, 2022)
Welcome to Queens, where streets echo with languages from all over the globe, subways rumble above dollar stores, trees bloom and topple over sidewalks, and the funky scent of the Atlantic Ocean wafts in from Rockaway Beach. Within one of New York City’s most vibrant and eclectic boroughs, young women of color like Nadira, Gabby, Naz, Trish, Angelique, and countless others, attempt to reconcile their immigrant backgrounds with the American culture in which they come of age. Here, they become friends for life—or so they vow. Exuberant and wild, together they roam The City That Never Sleeps, sing Mariah Carey at the tops of their lungs, yearn for crushes who pay them no mind—and break the hearts of those who do—all while trying to heed their mothers’ commands to be obedient daughters. But as they age, their paths diverge and rifts form between them, as some choose to remain on familiar streets, while others find themselves ascending in the world, beckoned by existences foreign and seemingly at odds with their humble roots. A blazingly original debut novel told by a chorus of unforgettable voices, Brown Girls illustrates a collective portrait of childhood, adulthood, and beyond, and is a striking exploration of female friendship, a powerful depiction of women of color attempting to forge their place in the world today. For even as the conflicting desires of ambition and loyalty, freedom and commitment, adventure and stability risk dividing them, it is to one another—and to Queens—that the girls ultimately return.
The Maid by Nita Prose (Ballantine Books, January 4, 2022)
Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by. Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection. But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez (Flatiron Books, January 4, 2022)
It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers. Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent but she can’t seem to find her own. . . until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets. Olga and Prieto’s mother, Blanca, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives. Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Xochitl Gonzalez’s Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream—all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.
Lost & Found: A Memoir by Kathryn Schulz (Random House, January 11, 2022)
Eighteen months before Kathryn Schulz’s beloved father died, she met the woman she would marry. In Lost & Found, she weaves the stories of those relationships into a brilliant exploration of how all our lives are shaped by loss and discovery—from the maddening disappearance of everyday objects to the sweeping devastations of war, pandemic, and natural disaster; from finding new planets to falling in love. Three very different American families form the heart of Lost & Found: the one that made Schulz’s father, a charming, brilliant, absentminded Jewish refugee; the one that made her partner, an equally brilliant farmer’s daughter and devout Christian; and the one she herself makes through marriage. But Schulz is also attentive to other, more universal kinds of conjunction: how private happiness can coexist with global catastrophe, how we get irritated with those we adore, how love and loss are themselves unavoidably inseparable. The resulting book is part memoir, part guidebook to living in a world that is simultaneously full of wonder and joy and wretchedness and suffering—a world that always demands both our gratitude and our grief.
Constellation Route by Matthew Olzmann (Alice James Books, January 18, 2022)
“Matthew Olzmann has long been a poet of exceptional wisdom and his latest collection is revelatory. Each poem reaches beyond the interior landscape to address the other in timely and intimate dialogues that bend, reframe, surprise, and ultimately embrace. Deeply perceptive, this series of epistolary poems are offerings to a new age in need of understanding where we are going, where we have been, and more importantly, what do we do for each other once we’ve reached our destination.” – Oliver de la Paz, author of The Boy in the Labyrinth A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
What Is Otherwise Infinite: Poems by Bianca Stone (Tin House, January 18, 2022)
Written in four sections with incisive and vivid lyrical language, Bianca Stone’s What Is Otherwise Infinite considers how we find our place in the world through themes of philosophy, religion, environment, myth, and psychology. “I deal only in the hardest pain-revivers, symbols and tongues,” writes Stone. “I want to tell you only / in the intimacy of our discomfort.” Populated by Archangels, limping in paradise; by allergies of the soul; the intimacy and danger of motherhood; psychic wounds; and dirty, dirty chocolate layer cake, What Is Otherwise Infinite deftly examines our inherent and inherited ideas of how to live, and the experience of the Self—which on one hand is so intensely personal, and on the other, universal.
Return Flight by Jennifer Huang (January 18, 2022, Milkweed Editions)
When Return Flight asks “what name / do you crown yourself,” Huang answers with many. Textured with mountains—a folkloric goddess-prison, Yushan, mother, men, self—and peppered with shapeshifting creatures, spirits, and gods, the landscape of Jennifer Huang’s poems is at once mystical and fleshy, a “myth a mess of myself.” Sensuously, Huang depicts each of these not as things to claim but as topographies to behold and hold. Here, too, is another kind of mythology. Set to the music of “beating hearts / through objects passed down,” the poems travel through generations—among Taiwan, China, and America—cataloging familial wounds and beloved stories. A grandfather’s smile shining through rain, baby bok choy in a child’s bowl, a slap felt decades later—the result is a map of a present-day life, reflected through the past. Return Flight is a thrumming debut that teaches us how history harrows and heals, often with the same hand; how touch can mean “purple” and “blue” as much as it means intimacy; and how one might find a path toward joy not by leaving the past in the past, but by “[keeping a] hand on these memories, / to feel them to their ends.” A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk (Poisoned Pen Press, January 25, 2022)
Liesl Weiss long ago learned to be content working behind the scenes in the distinguished rare books department of a large university, managing details and working to make the head of the department look good. But when her boss has a stroke and she’s left to run things, she discovers that the library’s most prized manuscript is missing. Liesl tries to sound the alarm and inform the police about the missing priceless book, but is told repeatedly to keep quiet, to keep the doors open and the donors happy. But then a librarian unexpectedly stops showing up to work. Liesl must investigate both disappearances, unspooling her colleagues’ pasts like the threads of a rare book binding as it becomes clear that someone in the department must be responsible for the theft. What Liesl discovers about the dusty manuscripts she has worked among for so long—and about the people who care for and revere them—shakes the very foundation on which she has built her life. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Getting Clean with Stevie Green by Swan Huntley (Gallery Books, January 25, 2022)
At thirty-seven, Stevie Green has had it with binge drinking and sleeping with strange men. She’s confused about her sexuality and her purpose in life. When her mother asks her to return to her hometown of La Jolla to help her move into a new house, she’s desperate enough to say yes. The move goes so well that Stevie decides to start her own decluttering business. She stops drinking. She hires her formerly estranged sister, Bonnie, to be her business partner. She rekindles a romance with her high school sweetheart, Brad. Things are better than ever–except for the complicated past that Stevie can’t seem to outrun. Who was responsible for the high school scandal that caused her life to take a nosedive twenty years earlier? Why is she so secretive about the circumstances of her father’s death? Why are her feelings for her ex-friend, Chris, so mystifying? If she’s done drinking, then why can’t she seem to declutter the mini wine bottles from her car? A winsome, fast-paced read, Getting Clean With Stevie Green is about coming to terms with who you are, resolving the pain of your past, and accepting the truth of your life in all its messy glory.
Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu (Tin House, February 1, 2022)
In the twelve unforgettable tales of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, the strange is made familiar and the familiar strange, such that a girl growing wings on her legs feels like an ordinary rite of passage, while a bug-infested house becomes an impossible, Kafkaesque nightmare. Each story builds a new world all its own: a group of children steal a haunted doll; a runaway bride encounters a sea monster; a vendor sells toy boxes that seemingly control the passage of time; an insomniac is seduced by the Sandman. These visions of modern life wrestle with themes of death and technological consequence, guilt and sexuality, and unmask the contradictions that exist within all of us. Mesmerizing, electric, and wholly original, Kim Fu’s Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century blurs the boundaries of the real and fantastic, offering intricate and surprising insights into human nature.
How We Are Translated by Jessica Gaitán Johannesson (Scribe US, February 1, 2022)
Swedish immigrant Kristin won’t talk about the Project growing inside her. Her Brazilian-born Scottish boyfriend Ciaran won’t speak English at all; he is trying to immerse himself in a Swedish språkbad language bath, to prepare for their future, whatever the fick that means. Their Edinburgh flat is starting to feel very small. As this young couple is forced to confront the thing that they are both avoiding, they must reckon with the bigger questions of the world outside, and their places in it.
Cost of Living: Essays by Emily Florence Maloney (Henry Holt & Co., February 8, 2022)
When we fall ill, our lives are itemized on a spreadsheet. A thousand dollars for a broken leg, a few hundred for a nasty cut while cooking dinner. Then there are the greater costs for even greater misfortunes. The car accidents, breast cancers, blood diseases, and dark depressions. When Emily Maloney was nineteen she tried to kill herself, an act that would not only cost a great deal personally, but also financially, sending her down a dark spiral of misdiagnoses, years spent in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices, and tens of thousands owed in medical debt. To work to pay off this crippling burden, Emily becomes an emergency room technician. Doing the grunt work in a hospital, and taking care of patients at their most vulnerable moments, chronicling these interactions in searingly beautiful, surprising ways. Shocking and often slyly humorous, Cost of Living is a brilliant examination of just what exactly our troubled healthcare system asks us to pay, as well as a look at what goes on behind the scenes at our hospitals and in the minds of caregivers.
Seeking Fortune Elsewhere by Sindya Bhanoo (Catapult, February 15, 2022)
Traveling from Pittsburgh to Eastern Washington to Tamil Nadu, these astonishing stories about dislocation and dissonance see immigrants and their families confront the costs of leaving and staying, identifying sublime symmetries in lives growing apart. In “Malliga Homes,” a widow in a retirement community glimpses her future while waiting for her daughter to visit from America. In “No. 16 Model House Road,” a woman long subordinate to her husband makes a choice of her own after she inherits a house. In “Nature Exchange,” a mother grieving in the wake of a school shooting finds an unusual obsession. In “A Life in America,” a professor finds himself accused of having exploited his graduate students. Sindya Bhanoo’s haunting stories show us how immigrants’ paths, and the paths of those they leave behind, are never simple. Bhanoo takes us along on their complicated journeys where regret, hope, and triumph appear in disguise.
Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James (Riverhead Books, February 15, 2022)
In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Sogolon the Moon Witch proved a worthy adversary to Tracker as they clashed across a mythical African landscape in search of a mysterious boy who disappeared. In Moon Witch, Spider King, Sogolon takes center stage and gives her own account of what happened to the boy, and how she plotted and fought, triumphed and failed as she looked for him. It’s also the story of a century-long feud—seen through the eyes of a 177-year-old witch—that Sogolon had with the Aesi, chancellor to the king. It is said that Aesi works so closely with the king that together they are like the eight limbs of one spider. Aesi’s power is considerable—and deadly. It takes brains and courage to challenge him, which Sogolon does for reasons of her own. Both a brilliant narrative device—seeing the story told in Black Leopard, Red Wolf from the perspective of an adversary and a woman—as well as a fascinating battle between different versions of empire, Moon Witch, Spider King delves into Sogolon’s world as she fights to tell her own story.
Desgraciado (The Collected Letters) by Angel Dominguez (Nightboat Books, February 15, 2022)
In Desgraciado, Angel Dominguez navigates language and memory to illuminate the ongoing traumas of misremembered and missing histories and their lasting impacts. Dominguez unravels a critical and tender language of lived experience in letters addressed to their ancestral oppressor, Diego de Landa, (a Spanish friar who attempted to destroy the written Maya language in Mani Yucatán, on July 12, 1562), to articulate an old rage, dreaming of a futurity beyond the wreckage and ruin of the colonial imaginary. This collection doesn’t seek to heal the incurable wound of colonization so much as attempt to re-articulate a language towards recuperation. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Pure Colour: A Novel by Sheila Heti (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, February 15, 2022)
Here we are, just living in the first draft of Creation, which was made by some great artist, who is now getting ready to tear it apart. In this first draft of the world, a woman named Mira leaves home to study. There, she meets Annie, whose tremendous power opens Mira’s chest like a portal—to what, she doesn’t know. When Mira is older, her beloved father dies, and his spirit passes into her. Together, they become a leaf on a tree. But photosynthesis gets boring, and being alive is a problem that cannot be solved, even by a leaf. Eventually, Mira must remember the human world she’s left behind, including Annie, and choose whether or not to return. Pure Colour is a galaxy of a novel: explosive, celestially bright, huge, and streaked with beauty. It is a contemporary bible, an atlas of feeling, and an absurdly funny guide to the great (and terrible) things about being alive. Sheila Heti is a philosopher of modern experience, and she has reimagined what a book can hold.
the déjà vu: black dreams & black time by Gabrielle Civil (Coffee House Press, February 22, 2022)
Emerging from the intersection of pandemic and uprising, the déjà vu activates forms both new and ancestral, drawing movement, speech, and lyric essay into performance memoir. As Civil considers Haitian tourist paintings, dance rituals, race at the movies, Black feminist legacies, and more, she reflects on her personal losses and desires, speculates on Black time, and dreams into expansive Black life. With intimacy, humor, and verve, the déjà vu blurs boundaries between memory, grief, and love; then, now, and the future. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
In Sensorium by Tanaïs (Mariner Books, February 22, 2022)
Focusing their gaze on our most primordial sense, writer and perfumer Tanaïs weaves a brilliant and expansive memoir, a reckoning that offers a critical, alternate history of South Asia from an American Bangladeshi Muslim femme perspective. From stories of their childhood in the South, Midwest, and New York; to transcendent experiences with lovers, psychedelics, and fragrances; to trips home to their motherland, Tanaïs builds a universe of memories and scent: a sensorium. Alongside their personal history, and at the very heart of this work, is an interrogation of the ancient violence of caste, rape culture, patriarchy, war, and the inherited ancestral trauma of being from a lush land constantly denuded, a land still threatened and disappearing because of colonization, capitalism, and climate change.
Customs by Solmaz Sharif (Graywolf Press, March 1, 2022)
In Customs, Solmaz Sharif examines what it means to exist in the nowhere of the arrivals terminal, a continual series of checkpoints, officers, searches, and questionings that become a relentless experience of America. With resignation and austerity, these poems trace a pointed indoctrination to the customs of the nation-state and the English language, and the realities they impose upon the imagination, the paces they put us through. While Sharif critiques the culture of performed social skills and poetry itself—its foreclosures, affects, successes—she begins to write her way out to the other side of acceptability and toward freedom.
Animal Bodies: On Death, Desire, & Other Difficulties by Suzanne Roberts (University of Nebraska Press, March 1, 2022)
How do we reckon with our losses? In Animal Bodies, Suzanne Roberts explores the link between death and desire and what it means to accept our own animal natures, the parts we most often hide, deny, or consider only with shame—our taboo desires and our grief. In landscapes as diverse as Salamanca’s cobbled streets, the Mekong River’s floating markets, Fire Island’s windswept beaches, Nashville’s honky-tonks, and the Sierra Nevada’s snowy slopes, Roberts interrogates her memory and tries to make sense of her own private losses (deaths of people and relationships), as well as more public losses, including a mass shooting in her hometown and environmental devastation in the Amazon rainforest. With lyricism, insight, honesty, and dark humor, these essays illuminate the sometimes terrible beauty of what it means to be human, deepening the conversation on death and grief, sexuality, and the shame that comes from surviving the world in a female body with all of its complexities. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
A Year & Other Poems by Jos Charles (Milkweed Editions, March 8, 2022)
Jos Charles’s poems communicate with one another as neurons do: sharp, charged, in language that predates language. “A scandal / three cartons red / in a hedge / in / each the thousand eye research of flies.” With acute lyricism, she documents how a person endures seemingly relentless devastation—California wildfires, despotic legislation, housing insecurity—amid illusions of safety. “I wanted to believe,” Charles declares, “a corner a print leaned to / a corner can save / a people.” Still the house falls apart. Death visits and lingers. Belief proves, again and again, that belief alone is not enough. Yet miraculously, one might still manage to seek—propelled by love, or hope, or sometimes only momentum—something better. There is a place where there are no futile longings, no persistent institutional threats to one’s life. Poems might take us there; tenderness, too, as long as we can manage to keep moving. “A current / gives as much as it has,” writes Charles—despite fire, despite loss. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos (Catapult, March 15, 2022)
In this bold and exhilarating mix of memoir and master class, Melissa Febos tackles the emotional, psychological, and physical work of writing intimately while offering an utterly fresh examination of the storyteller’s life and the questions which run through it. How might we go about capturing on the page the relationships that have formed us? How do we write about our bodies, their desires and traumas? What does it mean for an author’s way of writing, or living, to be dismissed as “navel-gazing”—or else hailed as “so brave, so raw”? And to whom, in the end, do our most intimate stories belong? Drawing on her own path from aspiring writer to acclaimed author and writing professor—via addiction and recovery, sex work and academia—Melissa Febos has created a captivating guide to the writing life, and a brilliantly unusual exploration of subjectivity, privacy, and the power of divulgence. Candid and inspiring, Body Work will empower readers and writers alike, offering ideas—and occasional notes of caution—to anyone who has ever hoped to see themselves in a story.
Portrait of an Unknown Lady by María Gainza (Catapult, March 22, 2022)
In the Buenos Aires art world, a master forger has achieved legendary status. Rumored to be a woman, she seems especially gifted at forging canvases by the painter Mariette Lydis, a portraitist of Argentine high society. But who is this absurdly gifted creator of counterfeits? What motivates her? And what is her link to the community of artists who congregate, night after night, in a strange establishment called the Hotel Melancólico? On the trail of this mysterious forger is our narrator, an art critic and auction house employee through whose hands counterfeit works have passed. As she begins to take on the role of art-world detective, adopting her own methods of deception and manipulation, she warns us “not to proceed in expectation of names, numbers or dates… My techniques are those of the impressionist.” Driven by obsession and full of subtle surprise, Portrait of an Unknown Lady is a highly seductive and enveloping meditation on what we mean by authenticity in art, and a captivating exploration of the gap between what is lived and what is told.
A Better Class of People by Robert Lopez (Dzanc, March 22, 2022)
In an uncanny, distorted version of New York City, a man rides the subway through the chaos of an ordinary commute. He may have a gun in his pocket. He may be looking for someone—a woman named Esperanza. Between stops, we shuttle back and forth through time and see a man who stands in traffic, the same man seizing and shuddering on a sidewalk, an institution where the man is housed with other undesirables (or troublemakers?), a neighborhood where all the residents have forgotten their names. Over everything looms the specter of a nameless menace, a pervasive sense that something—more than just a ride—is coming to an end. With Robert Lopez’s signature innovation, A Better Class of People delivers a network of stories interconnected and careening like subway tunnels through the realities of modern America: immigration, gun violence, police brutality, sexual harassment, climate change, and the point of fracture at which we find ourselves, where reality and perception are indistinguishable.
Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American by Ian MacAllen (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, April 4, 2022)
In Red Sauce, Ian MacAllen traces the evolution of traditional Italian American cuisine, often referred to as “red sauce Italian,” from its origins in Italy to its transformation in America into a new, distinct cuisine. It is a fascinating social and culinary history exploring the integration of red sauce food into mainstream America alongside the blending of Italian immigrant otherness into a national American identity. The story follows the small parlor restaurants immigrants launched from their homes to large, popular destinations, and eventually to commodified fast food and casual dining restaurants. Eventually, the classic red-checkered-table-cloth Italian restaurant would be replaced by a new idea of what it means for food to be Italian, even as “red sauce” became entrenched in American culture. This book looks at how and why these foods became part of the national American diet, and focuses on the stories, myths, and facts behind classic (and some not so classic) dishes within Italian American cuisine.
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press, April 5, 2022)
In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break. Vuong writes directly to our humanity without losing sight of the current moment. These poems represent a more innovative and daring experimentation with language and form, illuminating how the themes we perennially live in and question are truly inexhaustible. Bold and prescient, and a testament to tenderness in the face of violence, Time Is a Mother is a return and a forging forth all at once.
Little Foxes Took Up Matches by Katya Kazbek (Tin House, April 5, 2022)
When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end, the promise of certain death. For Mitya, it is a small, metal treasure that guides him from within. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, torn between its past and the promise of modern freedom. Mitya finds himself facing a different sort of ambiguity: is he a boy, as everyone keeps telling him, or is he not quite a boy, as he often feels? After suffering horrific abuse from his cousin Vovka who has returned broken from war, Mitya embarks on a journey across underground Moscow to find something better, a place to belong. His experiences are interlaced with a retelling of a foundational Russian fairytale, Koschei the Deathless, offering an element of fantasy to the brutal realities of Mitya’s everyday life. Told with deep empathy, humor, and a bit of surreality, Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a revelation about the life of one community in a country of turmoil and upheaval, glimpsed through the eyes of a precocious and empathetic child, whose heart and mind understand that there are often more than two choices.
Heartbroke by Chelsea Bieker (Catapult, April 5, 2022)
United by the stark and sprawling landscapes of California’s Central Valley, the characters of Heartbroke boil with reckless desire. A woman steals a baby from a shelter in an attempt to salvage her own lost motherhood. A phone-sex operator sees divine opportunity when a lavender-eyed cowboy walks into her life. A mother and a son selling dream catchers along a highway that leads to a toxic beach manifest two young documentary filmmakers into their realm. And two teenage girls play a dangerous online game with destiny. Heartbroke brims over with each character’s attempt to salvage—or sabotage—grace where they can find it. Told in bright, snapping prose that reveals a world of loss and love underneath, Chelsea Bieker brilliantly illuminates a golden yet gothic world of longing and abandonment under an unrelenting California sun.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf, April 5, 2022)
Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core. Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him. When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: the exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi (Copper Canyon Press, April 5, 2022)
In their bold debut poetry collection, Akwaeke Emezi imagines a new depth of belonging. Crafted of both divine and earthly materials, these poems travel from home to homesickness, tracing desire to surrender and abuse to survival, while mapping out a chosen family that includes the son of god, mary auntie, and magdalene with the chestnut eyes. Written from a spiritfirst perspective and celebrating the essence of self that is impossible to drown, kill, or reduce, Content Warning: Everything distills the radiant power and epic grief of a mischievous and wanting young deity, embodied.
Against Heaven: Poems by Kemi Alabi (Graywolf Press, April 5, 2022)
Kemi Alabi’s transcendent debut reimagines the poetic and cultural traditions from which it is born, troubling the waters of some of our country’s central and ordained fictions—those mythic politics of respectability, resilience, and redemption. Instead of turning to a salvation that has been forced upon them, Alabi turns to the body and the earth as sites of paradise defined by the pleasure and possibility of Black, queer fugitivity. Through tender love poems, righteous prayers, and vital provocations, we see the colonizers we carry within ourselves being laid to rest. Against Heaven is a praise song made for the flames of a burning empire—a freedom dream that shapeshifts into boundless multiplicities for the wounds made in the name of White supremacy and its gods. Alabi has written an astonishing collection of magnificent range, commanding the full spectrum of the Black, queer spirit’s capacity for magic, love, and ferocity in service of healing—the highest power there is.
Violets by Kyung-sook Shin (The Feminist Press, April 12, 2022)
San is twenty-two and alone when she happens upon a job at a flower shop in Seoul’s bustling city center. Haunted by childhood rejection, she stumbles through life—painfully vulnerable, stifled, and unsure. She barely registers to others, especially by the ruthless standards of 1990s South Korea. Over the course of one hazy, volatile summer, San meets a curious cast of characters: the nonspeaking shop owner, a brash coworker, kind farmers, and aggressive customers. Fueled by a quiet desperation to jump-start her life, she plunges headfirst into obsession with a passing magazine photographer.
Now Do You Know Where You Are by Dana Levin (Copper Canyon Press, April 19, 2022)
Dana Levin’s fifth collection is a brave and perceptive companion, walking with the reader through the disorientations of personal and collective transformation. Now Do You Know Where You Are investigates how great change calls the soul out of the old lyric, “to be a messenger—to record whatever wanted to stream through.” Levin works in a variety of forms, calling on beloveds and ancestors, great thinkers and religions—convened by Levin’s own spun-of-light wisdom and intellectual hospitality—balancing clear-eyed forensics of the past with vatic knowledge of the future. “So many bodies a soul has to press through: personal, familial, regional, national, global, planetary, cosmic— // ‘Now do you know where you are?’“
Singing Lessons for the Stylish Canary by Laura Stanfill (Lanternfish Press, April 19, 2022)
Georges Blanchard is revered in the small French town of Mireville both as a master serinette maker and for a miraculous incident in his childhood that earned him the title “The Sun-Bringer.” As his firstborn son, Henri Blanchard is expected to follow in his footsteps, but Henri would rather learn to make lace than music boxes. When Henri discovers a stash of American letters in his father’s drawer, he learns he’s not the firstborn son of Georges Blanchard at all: Henri has an older half-brother born to one of Georges’s American customers. When he crosses the ocean to encounter his half-brother at last, Henri discovers that there’s an entire world beyond Mirevilleace and there may be a perfect place for him yet. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau by Ben Shattuck (Tin House, April 19, 2022)
On a summer morning in 1849, Henry David Thoreau stepped out his front door to walk the beaches of Cape Cod. Over a century and a half later, Ben Shattuck does the same. With little more than a loaf of bread, brick of cheese, and a notebook, Shattuck sets out to retrace Thoreau’s path through the Cape’s outer beaches, from the elbow to Provincetown’s fingertip. This walk through Cape Cod is the first of six journeys taken by Shattuck, each one inspired by a journey once taken by Henry David Thoreau. As he first traverses the Cape, then Mount Wachusett, Mount Katahdin, the Allagash, and then his own hometown, Shattuck encounters the unexpected—like the enigmatic millionaire who buys him dinner in a Provincetown pub, or the kind couple who take him in for the night as an oysterman once took in Thoreau—and comes to see for himself the restorative effects that walking can have on a dampened spirit. Over years of following Thoreau, Shattuck finds himself uncovering new insights about family, love, friendship, and impending fatherhood, and understanding more deeply the lessons walking can offer through life’s changing seasons. Interweaving passages from Thoreau’s many writings alongside Shattuck’s own thinking and memories, Six Walks is an intimate, beautifully crafted meditation on Thoreau’s work and personhood, and a resounding tribute to the ways walking in nature can inspire us all.
Fixed Stars by Marisa Siegel (Burrow Press, April 22, 2022)
In Fixed Stars, Marisa Siegel investigates the in-between: windows, porches, drawers, bedrooms, and basements are portals to examine how language shapes and is shaped, and to what ends. With original artwork by Trisha Previte, Fixed Stars is a lush voyage through trauma and toward the reestablishment of hope. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
The Trees Witness Everything by Victoria Chang (Copper Canyon Press, April 26, 2022)
In The Trees Witness Everything, Victoria Chang reinvigorates language by way of concentration, using constraint to illuminate and free the wild interior. Largely composed in various Japanese syllabic forms called “wakas,” each poem is shaped by pattern and count. This highly original work innovates inside the lineage of great poets including W.S. Merwin, whose poem titles are repurposed as frames and mirrors for the text, stitching past and present in complex dialogue. Chang depicts the smooth, melancholic isolation of the mind while reaching outward to name—with reverence, economy, and whimsy—the ache of wanting, the hawk and its shadow, our human urge to hide the minute beneath the light.
The Year of the Horses: A Memoir by Courtney Maum (Tin House, May 3, 2022)
At the age of thirty-seven, Courtney Maum finds herself in an indoor arena in Connecticut, moments away from stepping back into the saddle. For her, this is not just a riding lesson, but a last-ditch attempt to pull herself back from the brink even though riding is a relic from the past she walked away from. She hasn’t been on or near a horse in over thirty years. Although Courtney does know what depression looks like, she finds herself refusing to admit, at this point in her life, that it could look like her: a woman with a privileged past, a mortgage, a husband, a healthy child, and a published novel. That she feels sadness is undeniable, but she feels no right to claim it. And when both therapy and medication fail, Courtney returns to her childhood passion of horseback riding as a way to recover the joy and fearlessness she once had access to as a young girl. As she finds her way, once again, through the physical and emotional landscapes of riding, Courtney becomes reacquainted with herself not only as a rider but as a mother, wife, daughter, writer, and woman. Alternating timelines and braided with historical portraits of women and horses alongside history’s attempts to tame both parties, The Year of the Horses is an inspiring love letter to the power of animals—and humans—to heal the mind and the heart.
Swallowed Light by Michael Wasson (Copper Canyon Press, May 10, 2022)
Swallowed Light begins at the opened clearing of myth, at the mouth of history. In his breathtaking debut poetry collection, Michael Wasson writes into the gaps left by a legacy of erasure—the wholly American fracture of colonialism—where the indigenous tongue is determined to bloom against its own vanishing. These poems mourn and build with pattern and intricacy, intuition and echo, calling ocean and heartbreak and basalt, monsters and bullets and bones, until they form one vibrant song.
Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi (Catapult, May 10, 2022)
Zuhour, an Omani student at a British university, is caught between the past and the present. As she attempts to form friendships and assimilate in Britain, she can’t help but ruminate on the relationships that have been central to her life. Most prominent is her strong emotional bond with Bint Amir, a woman she always thought of as her grandmother, who passed away just after Zuhour left the Arabian Peninsula. As the historical narrative of Bint Amir’s challenged circumstances unfurls in captivating fragments, so too does Zuhour’s isolated and unfulfilled present, one narrative segueing into another as time slips, and dreams mingle with memories. Bitter Orange Tree is a profound exploration of social status, wealth, desire, and female agency. It presents a mosaic portrait of one young woman’s attempt to understand the roots she has grown from, and to envisage an adulthood in which her own power and happiness might find the freedom necessary to bear fruit and flourish.
Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera (Ballantine Books, May 17, 2022)
The Guerreros have lived in Nothar Park, a predominantly Dominican part of New York City, for twenty years. When demolition begins on a neighboring tenement, Eusebia, an elder of the community, takes matters into her own hands by devising an increasingly dangerous series of schemes to stop construction of the luxury condos. Meanwhile Eusebia’s daughter, Luz, a rising associate at a top Manhattan law firm who strives to live the bougie lifestyle her parents worked hard to give her, becomes distracted by a sweltering romance with the handsome white developer of the company her mother so vehemently opposes. As Luz’s father, Vladimir, secretly designs their retirement home in the Dominican Republic, mother and daughter collide, ramping up tensions in Nothar Park, racing towards a near fatal climax. A beautifully layered portrait of family, friendship, and ambition, Neruda on the Park weaves a rich and vivid tapestry of community as well as the sacrifices we make to protect what we love most.
In the Event of Contact by Ethel Rohan (Dzanc, May 22, 2022)
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 an aspirational, angst-ridden mother captains the skies.
All the Things We Don’t Talk About by Amy Feltman (Grand Central Publishing, May 24, 2022)
Morgan Flowers just wants to hide. Raised by their neurodivergent father, Morgan has grown up haunted by the absence of their mysterious mother Zoe, especially now, as they navigate their gender identity and the turmoil of first love. Their father Julian has raised Morgan with care, but he can’t quite fill the gap left by the dazzling and destructive Zoe, who fled to Europe on Morgan’s first birthday. And when Zoe is dumped by her girlfriend Brigid, she suddenly comes crashing back into Morgan and Julian’s lives, poised to disrupt the fragile peace they have so carefully cultivated. Through it all, Julian and Brigid have become unlikely pen-pals and friends, united by the knowledge of what it’s like to love and lose Zoe; they both know that she hasn’t changed. Despite the red flags, Morgan is swiftly drawn into Zoe’s glittering orbit and into a series of harmful missteps, and Brigid may be the only link that can pull them back from the edge. A story of betrayal and trauma alongside queer love and resilience, All the Things We Don’t Talk About is a celebration of and a reckoning with the power and unintentional pain of a thoroughly modern family.
Under the Blacklight: The Intersectional Vulnerabilities That the Twin Pandemics Lay Bare edited by Kimberlé Crenshaw and Daniel HoSang (Haymarket Books, May 24, 2022)
This brilliant collection of the most important insights from the Under The Blacklight livestream event series and Intersectionality Matters podcast, hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw and the African American Policy Forum, examines the intersectional dimensions of capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and nationalism have converged in the pandemic and its aftermath. Together, these essential thinkers navigate the historical contours of the pandemic, and the pre-existing inequalities that shape its impact. They also examine the historic moment of social and political mobilization that the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd sparked, and unpack the central role that ideological whiteness continues to play in the US response to both Covid-19 and police violence.
I Only Cry with Emoticons by Yuvi Zalkow (Red Hen Press, June 7, 2022)
Saul doesn’t get why he’s misunderstood. At his high-tech day job, he hides in the bathroom writing a novel about his dead grandfather and wonders why his boss wants to fire him. He tells his almost ex-wife about a blind date and wonders why she slams the door in his face. He aches with worry for his seven-year-old son, who seems happier living with his mom and her new man. When the blind date becomes a complicated relationship, and Saul’s blunders at work threaten the survival of the company, Saul has to wake up and confront his fears. I Only Cry with Emoticons is a quirky comedy that reveals the cost of being disconnected—even when we’re using a dozen apps on our devices to communicate—and an awkward man’s search for real connections, on and offline. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Kids in America: Essays on Gen X by Liz Prato (Santa Fe Writers Project, June 14, 2022)
Squeezed between the Baby Boomers and Millenials, Generation X was all but written off as cynical, sarcastic, slackers. Yet this generation profoundly impacted American culture—and were impacted by it—in ways that are only now being understood. In her revealing and provocative collection, Kids in America: Essays on Gen X, Liz Prato reveals a generation deeply affected by terrorism, racial inequality, rape culture, and mental illness, in an era when none of these issues were openly discussed.
The Girls in Queens by Christine Kandic Torres (HarperVia, June 14, 2022)
Best friends growing up along Clement Moore Avenue in Queens, Brisma and Kelly will do anything for each other. They keep each other’s secrets, from their mothers’ hidden heartbreaks to warding off the unwanted advances of creepy neighbors. Their exclusive world shifts when they begin high school and Brisma falls deeply in love with Brian, the local baseball legend. Always the wallflower to the vibrant and alluring Kelly, Brisma is secretly thrilled to be chosen by the popular athlete, to finally have someone that belongs to her alone. But as she, Brian, and Kelly fall into the roles that have been set before them, they ignite a bonfire of unrealized hopes and dreams, smoldering embers that finally find some oxygen to burn. Years later, Brisma and Kelly haven’t spoken to Brian, ever since a backyard party that went wrong, but their beloved Los Mets are on a historic run for the playoffs and the three friends—no longer children—are reunited. Brisma finds herself once again drawn to her first love. But when Brian is accused of sexual assault, the two friends must make a choice. At first, both rush to support and defend him. But while Kelly remains Brian’s staunch defender, Brisma begins to have doubts as old memories of their relationship surface. As Brisma and Kelly face off in a battle for what they each believe they are owed, these two lifelong friends must decide if their shared past is enough to sustain their future.
The World As We Knew It: Dispatches from a Changing Climate edited by Amy Brady and Tajja Isen (Catapult, June 14, 2022)
In this riveting anthology, leading literary writers reflect on how climate change has altered their lives, revealing the personal and haunting consequences of this global threat. In the opening essay, Lydia Millet mourns the end of the Saguaro cacti in her Arizona backyard due to drought. Later, Omar El Akkad contemplates how the rise of temperatures in the Middle East is destroying his home and the wellspring of his art. Gabrielle Bellot reflects on how a bizarre lionfish invasion devastated the coral reef near her home in the Caribbean—a precursor to even stranger events to come. Traveling through Nebraska, Terese Svoboda witnesses cougars running across highways and showing up in kindergartens. As the stories unfold—from Antarctica to Australia, New Hampshire to New York—an intimate portrait of a climate-changed world emerges, captured by writers whose lives jostle against incongruous memories of familiar places that have been transformed in startling ways.
Thrust: A Novel by Lidia Yuknavitch (Riverhead Books, June 28, 2022)
Lidia Yuknavitch has an unmatched gift for capturing stories of people on the margins—vulnerable humans leading lives of challenge and transcendence. Now, Yuknavitch offers an imaginative masterpiece: the story of Laisvė, a motherless girl from the late twenty-first century who is learning her power as a carrier, a person who can harness the power of meaningful objects to carry her through time. Sifting through the detritus of a fallen city known as the Brook, she discovers a talisman that will mysteriously connect her with a series of characters from the past two centuries: a French sculptor; a woman of the American underworld; a dictator’s daughter; an accused murderer; and a squad of laborers at work on a national monument. Through intricately braided storylines, Laisvė must dodge enforcement raids and find her way to the present day, and then, finally, to the early days of her imperfect country, to forge a connection that might save their lives—and their shared dream of freedom.