What to Read When You’ve Made it Halfway Through 2023


We’ve asked Rumpus editors to share the titles forthcoming between now and the year’s end that they are most eagerly anticipating. These books transport us to different worlds, give us glimpses into lives we might never otherwise know, share new perspectives to consider, and offer us respite from reality.

If a title is marked as a Poetry Book Club selection, you can receive this book before its release date and participate in an exclusive conversation with its author! Just head to our store and become a member today! Our subscription programs help keep The Rumpus running—so you can connect with your favorite writers and support The Rumpus with just one click.

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo
Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake–a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she’s led–her sisters are surprised. Has Flor foreseen her own death, or someone else’s? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila. But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets: her sisters are hiding things, too. And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own. Spanning the three days prior to the wake, Family Lore traces the lives of each of the Marte women, weaving together past and present, Santo Domingo and New York City. Told with Elizabeth Acevedo’s inimitable and incandescent voice, this is an indelible portrait of sisters and cousins, aunts and nieces–one family’s journey through their history, helping them better navigate all that is to come.

Forgive Me Not by Jennifer Baker
All it took was one night and one bad decision for fifteen-year-old Violetta Chen-Samuels’ life to go off the rails. After driving drunk and causing the accident that kills her little sister, Violetta is incarcerated. Under the juvenile justice system, her fate lies in the hands of those she’s wronged–her family. Denied their forgiveness, Violetta is now left with two options, neither good–remain in juvenile detention for an uncertain sentence or participate in the Trials. The Trials are no easy feat, but if she succeeds, she could regain both her freedom and what she wants most of all: her family’s love. In her quest to prove her remorse, Violetta is forced to confront not only her family’s grief, but her own–and the question of whether their forgiveness is more important than forgiving herself.

The New Naturals by Gabriel Bump
Drive by the abandoned restaurant on a hill off the highway in Western Massachusetts, and it doesn’t look like much. Definitely not a destination. But that’s exactly what it becomes, after a young Black Boston woman sees the country–in fact, the whole world–as an increasingly dangerous place. After losing their child and looking hard for a safe place, she and her husband begin to construct a separate society: somewhere nurturing, where everyone can feel loved and wanted, where all the Spike Lee movies play, where the children learn actual history–and somewhere underground, where they won’t need anything or anyone from the world above ground to make it work. She locates a Benefactor and soon it all begins to take shape. Two homeless men are told about the place and begin their journey by bus to get there. A young and disillusioned journalist stumbles upon it and wants in. And a former soccer player, having lost his footing in society, is persuaded to check out this place too. But it doesn’t take long for problems to develop, for conflicts to surface, for food to become scarce, for the children to crave life beyond this place.

I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times by Taylor Byas
a Rumpus Poetry Book Club Selection (subscribe by July 15!)
I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times takes its inspiration and concept from the cult classic film The Wiz to explore a Black woman’s journey out of the South Side of Chicago and into adulthood. The narrative arc of The Wiz–a tumultuous departure from home, trials designed to reveal new things about the self, and the eventual return home–serves as a loose trajectory for this collection, pulling readers through an abandoned barn, a Wendy’s drive-thru, a Beyoncé video, Grandma’s house, Sunday service, and the corner store. At every stop, the speaker is made to confront her womanhood, her sexuality, the visibility of her body, alcoholism in her family, and various ways in which narratives are imposed on her. Subverting monolithic ideas about the South Side of Chicago, and re-casting the city as a living, breathing entity, I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times spans sestinas, sonnets, free-verse, and erasures, all to reimagine the concept of home. Chicago isn’t just a city, but a teacher, a lingering shadow, a way of seeing the world.

Ripe by Sarah Rose Etter
A year into her dream job at a cutthroat Silicon Valley start-up, Cassie finds herself trapped in a corporate nightmare. Between the long hours, toxic bosses, and unethical projects, she also struggles to reconcile the glittering promise of a city where obscene wealth lives alongside abject poverty and suffering. Ivy League grads complain about the snack selection from a conference room with a view of houseless people bathing in the bay. Start-up burnouts leap into the paths of commuter trains, and men literally set themselves on fire in the streets. Though isolated, Cassie is never alone. From her earliest memory, a miniature black hole has been her constant companion. It feeds on her depression and anxiety, growing or shrinking in relation to her distress. The black hole watches, but it also waits. Its relentless pull draws Cassie ever closer as the world around her unravels. When her CEO’s demands cross an illegal threshold and she ends up unexpectedly pregnant, Cassie must decide whether the tempting fruits of Silicon Valley are really worth it.

Every Drop is a Man’s Nightmare by Megan Kamalei Kakimoto
Megan Kamalei Kakimoto’s wrenching and sensational debut story collection follows a cast of mixed native Hawaiian and Japanese women through a contemporary landscape thick with inherited wisdom and the ghosts of colonization. This is a Hawai’i where unruly sexuality and generational memory overflow the postcard image of paradise and the boundaries of the real, where the superstitions born of the islands take on the weight of truth. A childhood encounter with a wild pua’a (pig) on the haunted Pali highway portends one young woman’s fraught relationship with her pregnant body. An elderly widow begins seeing her deceased lover in a giant flower. A kanaka writer, mid-manuscript, feels her raw pages quaking and knocking in the briefcase.


Son has lived his entire life inside the mansion. He is a good child. He reads, practices piano, studies, and watches ghosts tend the farmland through a window in the attic. When Father decides it is time for Son to venture outside, Son’s desire to please Father overpowers his fear, and he must contend with questions he never wanted to face. What are the relentlessly grinning ghosts hiding? Has a ghost taken control of Father? What answers or horrors lie in the forest? And who will stop the mysterious encroaching shadows? Nghiem Tran’s debut inverts the haunted house tale, shaping it into a moving exploration of loss, coming of age in a collapsing world, and the battle between isolation and assimilation.

Blackouts by Justin Torres
Out in the desert in a place called the Palace, a young man tends to a dying soul, someone he once knew briefly, but who has haunted the edges of his life. Juan Gay–playful raconteur, child lost and found and lost, guardian of the institutionalized–has a project to pass along to this new narrator. It is inspired by a true artifact of a book, Sex Variants: A Study in Homosexual Patterns, which contains stories collected in the early twentieth century from queer subjects by a queer researcher, Jan Gay, whose groundbreaking work was then co-opted by a committee, her name buried. As Juan waits for his end, he and the narrator trade stories–moments of joy and oblivion–and resurrect lost loves, lives, mothers, fathers, minor heroes. The past is with us, beside us, ahead of us; what are we to create from its gaps and erasures?

Hush Harbor by Anise Vance
After the murder of an unarmed Black teenager by the hands of the police, protests spread like wildfire in Bliss City, New Jersey. A full-scale resistance group takes control of an abandoned housing project and decide to call it Hush Harbor, in homage to the secret spaces their enslaved ancestors would gather to pray. Jeremiah Prince, alongside his sister Nova, are leaders of the revolution, but have ideological differences regarding how the movement should proceed. When a new mayor with ties to white supremacists threatens the group’s pseudo-sanctuary and locks the city down, the collective must come to a decision for their very survival.