Set against the background of Denver, the stories of Kali Fajardo-Anstine's Sabrina & Corina follow indigenous women in relation to their home. In some cases the land holds histories these women long to escape; in others, it changes so rapidly as to disorient those who call it home. Fajardo-Anstine's prose blossoms on the page; her scenes and characters develop so vividly that they're likely to leave an impression lasting long after you stop reading.
Favorite passage: "She said people will find the loveliest part of you and try to make it ugly. 'And they will do anything,' she always said, 'to own that piece of you.'"
Binnie Kirshenbaum's Rabbits for Food — her first novel in 10 years — is a burst of energy, following a middle-aged woman's mental breakdown and subsequent hospitalization. The aftermath is often hilarious. Our narrator examines her surroundings — the eccentric patients and doctors, the absurd daily activities, the Kafkaesque system — with a blunt and biting wit that leaves little room for sentimentality. It might make her seem plain mean, if she weren't also directing that judgment at herself.
Favorite passage: "Although she cannot bring herself to say so in these words, Bunny is suffering from depression. In reference to herself the inherent theatricality of the verb to suffer embarrasses her. In this context, to suffer, she believes, would be melodramatic and self-aggrandizing, not to mention rendering her a person empathetically stunted when you consider real suffering like starving to death or stage four colon cancer or a baby rhesus monkey given a wire coat hanger to cling to instead of a mother."
Alison C. Rollins' debut poetry collection probes the idea of the body as archive — an accounting of tragedy and trauma, yes, but also of love and grace. Rollins explores the ways in which we store our personal and cultural histories and how they act upon us, in language so immediate and evocative it's sure to bring about some tears while reading.
Favorite passage: "how dare the two of us make art when / god has ordered us to drown."
G. Willow Wilson's sprawling, fantastical novel takes place during the reign of the last sultan of Muslim Iberia, focusing on a concubine named Fatima and her best friend Hassan. The two have a dangerous secret — Hassan, the palace mapmaker, can draw maps that bend reality — and when Fatima accidentally reveals this to a woman from the newly formed Spanish monarchy, she puts her and Hassan's lives at risk. Wilson describes their escape from the palace and their subsequent journey through the country — trying to elude the Inquisition with the help of a wry jinn — with heart and humor, weaving in an ongoing exploration of the meaning and value of freedom.
Favorite passage: "When she was a child, everyone in the palace wanted to touch her, from cooks to kings: they all marveled at the profound color of her eyes, the evenness of her complexion, yet they joked with each other about taming her hair and her temper. It rendered all their praise suspect: even compliments were infuriating. [...] Her beauty was indivisible from her anger."
Adam Ehrlich Sachs's The Organs of Sense is layers-deep. At its core it's a story of a 1666 encounter between a young Gottfried Leibniz and a blind astronomer who makes the unlikely prediction of a solar eclipse, but it's also about the astronomer's magical history, as relayed to Leibniz. These nested stories — about art and reality, genius and insanity, fathers and sons — drive the narrative, and are encapsulated by the narrator's own recounting of the three-hour encounter, referring frequently to Leibniz's later writings on their meeting. It is at once a pitch-perfect send-up of an overwrought philosophical tract and a philosophical tract in its own right — meaty, hilarious, and a brilliant examination of intangible and utterly human mysteries.
Favorite passage: "Bad thinkers, I include incidentally Kepler and Tycho and Galileo in this category, and also Copernicus, start over here and end up over there, and the farther apart here and there are the better they think they've thought, and the louder the world claps, as if they're children in a jumping competition, because the world thinks thinking is a kind of jumping ... but true thinking is actually an elaborate standing-still, or at most a going-over-there followed by a coming-back-here."
Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir is a frank but warm examination of the world as it is distilled and understood by Jacob’s 6-year-old son. Looking for the best way to answer the many (many) questions her son — who is half Jewish and half Indian — asks about not only the world but also his place in it, Jacob turns to her own history, and looks at the conversations about race, sexuality, injustice, and love that have helped her make sense of the world. Jacob's medium — cut-out illustrations and text bubbles over photographs — allows for the dialogue to propel the story, and more significantly, allows the reader to feel the immediacy of the impact of people's words.
Favorite passage: "Sometimes, you hear someone say something so new and true and obvious that it completely bewilders you, making the familiar paths of your daily life unrecognizable. How, you wonder, did you not see it before, this particular road forward, this way of moving that no longer requires you to lead yourself astray?"
Oyeyemi’s latest beguiling novel tells the story of Harriet and Perdita Lee, an oddball mother/daughter duo who live in London and make delicious gingerbread — a family recipe supposedly quite popular in Harriet’s (possibly fantastical?) homeland of Druhástrana. As daughter Perdita grows older and more curious about her mother’s mysterious upbringing, she digs into the past and ferrets out a thorny family legacy. It's everything Oyeyemi does best — funny, dreamy, vast, and just a tad eerie. Read the first chapter here.
Favorite passage: "A gingerbread addict once told Harriet that eating her gingerbread is like eating revenge. 'It’s like noshing on the actual and anatomical heart of somebody who scarred your beloved and thought they’d got away with it,' the gingerbread addict said."
A 12-year-old boy tries to navigate life in rural, impoverished Vermont, alongside a young mother with cancer, a 15-year-old brother who's become something of a celebrity in their Catholic community for his aggressive abortion protests, and a father trying his best to keep everyone afloat. When he meets Taylor — a girl from a nearby trailer park who seems to live her life free from the fears and rules that keep our unnamed narrator reined in — the two quickly develop a meaningful connection. Soon the Light Will Be Perfect is a heartbreaking, gently wrought story about reckonings: with adulthood, faith, love, and death.
Favorite passage: "He explains how to be sure a board is square, how he'll have to measure and cut, how the urethane will protect the surface, how the wood will take shape over the summer, and I nod. Though what I want to know is how the chemo will shape the tumors in my mother, I settle for the answers he has."
Melissa Rivero's novel holds nothing back, presenting the long and exhausting struggle of living undocumented in the US through the experience of one family, the Falcóns. When Ana Falcón fled Peru for New York with her husband and two young children in the 1990s, she was only looking to escape economic and political hardship, to give her family a chance. Now, she is struggling to keep them afloat. Up against inhumane working conditions, an intimidating loan shark, and a cousin who might throw them out of her home at any moment, Ana is forced to consider just how much she’s willing to sacrifice — and Rivero describes this unimaginable stress with compassion and deep insight.
Favorite passage: "She'd shut her eyes, eager for the darkness to melt away the weariness that weighed down her bones. Yet all she could see were her children clinging to their father, to each other, as if a deluge was about to overtake them and they were each other's only salvation."
For the inaugural title of their new book publishing imprint, literary magazine A Public Space is releasing Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, a collection of the late Bette Howland's autobiographical short stories spanning the entirety of her career. Howland's writing — notably lauded by Saul Bellow — is rich with wry observations and humility, drawing from her experiences as a self-identified outsider: a divorcé and single mother whose family disapproved of her; a writer and artist fighting poverty, self-doubt, and mental illness in working-class Chicago.
Favorite passage: "Survivor. The word seemed like some primeval amphibian dragging itself up from a swirling sea and gasping toward the sand. Ignorant, tedious, triumphant word: containing so much of the pain and necessity of living."
Okay, yes, this book is not technically a spring book, but I loved it so much I couldn't let it go without mention. Alex DiFrancesco packs a ton of insight into this slim essay collection, writing frankly about their years spent figuring out their identity, navigating complicated relationships, surviving mental illness, and contending with the often overwhelming desire to abandon everything and just disappear. Most compelling, though, is DiFrancesco's work toward finding evidence of connections between them and others in the trans community — both presently and in the past.
Favorite passage: "We can write our own stories so much better than those who use us to glimpse what it's like on the outside."
Polly Rosenwaike's debut short story collection centers on motherhood — women who do and don't want to be mothers, women who are mothers or soon will be — and how the question of motherhood affects every other aspect of life. There's the biologist who befriends a colleague's daughter while in the midst of scheduling her own abortion, the editor whose miscarriage causes her to reevaluate her ideas of success, the woman whose younger sister announces an unplanned pregnancy while she herself is in her second year of trying. Rosenwaike fully inhabits the interiority of these and other women — and though they reside in overlapping spheres, each is distinct in her desires, jealousies, fears, and hopes.
Favorite passage: "When had it started, where had it come from — the belief that she had to keep all her muck, her mistakes, her failures hidden until some dream of a magical time when she might be old enough, graceful enough, smart enough, to leave all of that behind?"
In his latest collection, Jericho Brown tackles history and trauma both private and public, personal and narrative — especially blackness and anti-blackness, queerness and anti-queerness. Brown is experimental in format — often its playfulness acts in contrast against its heavy themes — and his rumination on desire, violence, loss, and faith is resonant.
Favorite passage: "You don't have breath. You got / Heaven. That's supposed to be my / Haven. I want you to tell me it sparkles / There."
It's impossible not to fall in love with the young Chris Rush who opens this fiery memoir about coming of age in a Catholic family in the 1970s; he's a boy who saved his money to buy a pink silk cape, who practiced fainting just for the drama, who spent his free time making paper flowers and then started a small business of selling them to his parents' wealthy friends, who overheard his father angry over these habits and telling his mother, "The boy is a goddamn queer." As The Light Years progresses, Rush writes eloquently and candidly about his adventures and travails through a short stint in Catholic boarding school (where a too-friendly priest started paying him inappropriate nightly visits), expulsion from said school (for kissing a boy), and then years spent on a drug-filled journey through the underground countercultures across the US.
Favorite passage: "To Mom, the past was something you sped by — and best to do it at ten miles over the speed limit, in a brand-new Cadillac."
Bryan Washington’s debut short story collection is an ode to Houston and a vibrant portrait of the myriad people who call it home. The stories circle around a young boy figuring out his sexual identity while holding down a job at his family restaurant; around him, a city of creators, survivors, and hustlers vibrates with life. Washington’s effervescent prose draws the reader into the fold — his use of first person, especially plural first, can read like a generous inclusion — as his characters explore family, community, new freedoms, and love.
Favorite passage: "We tried our hand at a dime of week (courtesy of Jeff's older sisters downtown) but I spent that evening lost inside of myself, marveling at all of the space in my head no one had taken the time to tell me about."
While killing time on the internet when she was just 19 years old, Lara Prior-Palmer landed on a website about “the world’s longest, toughest horse race” — and though she’d never heard of it before that day, and had no qualifications other than a love of horses and great drive, she decided to enter. The decision is impulsive but not surprising; Prior-Palmer describes her tendency to question norms and invite chaos. This energy propels her through the race — 10 days on 25 ponies, over 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland — and though it's easy to judge her for her naiveté, her humility and earnest drive make it impossible not to root for her. The journey is absolutely riveting.
Favorite passage: "I hadn't noticed until now that part of me preferred to travel slowly and catastrophically. Nor had I realized this preference would be at odds with participating in a race."
Queenie opens at a gynecological appointment, our protagonist with her legs splayed, making the kind of awkward conversation anyone who's been in the stirrups knows too well. It sets the tone for this wry, candid novel — which has been aptly described as a "black Bridget Jones" — perfectly. Reading about 25-year-old Queenie as she navigates romantic entanglements, a frustrating job at a local newspaper, the ongoing tension among her and her white, middle-class peers, and pressure from her Jamaican British family, feels like listening to a good friend's woes and wins — and cheering her on along the way.
Favorite passage: "I checked OKCupid. I'd filled in my profile and added some things about myself in the About Me section that might remind men that I was a person as well as someone they could have sex with. Turns out the sadness that silence from the person you love brings can be temporarily erased by the dull thrill of attention from strangers."
On a winter day in 1970s Colorado, high schooler Sammy Henderson takes a shortcut across a frozen river and falls through the ice. His death leaves his family gutted — especially his older sister Kathleen — and his secret girlfriend, 14-year-old Irene, alone and pregnant with his child. If the Ice Had Held explores the wake of this tragedy in the decades that follow — how Kathleen opens up to Irene and agrees to raise her child, how that child grows up to be a woman struggling to find footing in her own romantic relationships and ends up entangled in a love triangle that unexpectedly ties her to her past. Throughout, Fox pivots seamlessly among the perspectives of these key players, crafting a poignant story that questions fate and free will.
Favorite passage: "She would always remember how at Sammy's funeral there was nothing to say; he was young, and he was gone before he could do much. She would remember that she wished she had reached for his hand that night they were walking home, even if she thought it silly. She would remember that he was special for small things..."
Namwali Serpell’s sweeping, marvelous debut novel begins in 1904, on a colonial settlement along the Zambezi River called the Old Drift — where one man’s mistake has cataclysmic consequences. Over the course of the century, Serpell traces the history of Zambia through the experiences of three families entangled in a generations-long cycle of revenge. Full of magic, history, humor — not to mention a biting criticism of white colonialism — The Old Drift will be unlike anything you’ve ever read.
Favorite passage: "This is the story of a nation — not a kingdom or a people — so it begins, of course, with a white man."
20. Magical Realism for Non-Believers: A Memoir of Finding Family by Anika Fajardo (April 16, University of Minnesota Press)
Anika Fajardo's debut memoir explores family and identity, describing her decision in her early 20s to build a relationship with her estranged father, Renzo. Fajardo — who was born in Colombia but raised in Minnesota by her American mother — visits Renzo in his native Colombia, and the reunion is conflicted, awkward. Fajardo describes the pain of yearning for something you can't quite articulate, of getting what you thought you wanted and finding it less than satisfying. She dives into her family's past and continues her story into her own adulthood, laying bare the many complicated ways our family informs who we are and how we interact with the world.
Favorite passage: "I wondered how different knowing and remembering were. I met countless people whose names I immediately forgot, I remembered stories that never happened, and I knew nothing about ones that had."
Juliet Grames's epic novel follows Mariastella Fortuna, the indomitable Italian woman who, in the course of a long life beginning in Calabria and ending in the US, escapes death seven times — or eight, depending who you ask. Stella's life is rich in eccentric characters and unlikely encounters, and she inhabits a world that is tinged with magic but still limited by patriarchal values — and she carries with her a dark family history. It's an extensive, often cheeky, exploration of lineage, fate, and womanhood.
Favorite passage: "Assunta cried silently, open-eyed, her tears sliding off her cheeks and landing on the protrusion of her belly. She was crying because a part of her was relieved at Antonio's going away, at not having to cater to his insatiable alimentary and sexual appetites, which had become very trying when she was tired from the pregnancy. She felt guilty for feeling this way. As, the priest told her at confession, she should."
22. Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up by Tom Phillips (May 7, Hanover Square Press)
In Humans, Tom Phillips (a former BuzzFeed employee) outlines the unique human ability to, as the subtitle promises, fuck it all up. "It" here is, well, everything we touch — the planet, our government, interpersonal relations — and the disasters are usually the consequence of our (sometimes) well-meaning innovations. It's hard to imagine someone other than Phillips pulling off a 250-plus page roast of mankind, but his perfect blend of brilliance and goofiness makes it a joy to read. But as Phillips warns in the intro, if you don't enjoy schadenfreude, Humans might not be for you.
Favorite passage: "The story of human progress starts with our capacity for thinking and creativity. That's what sets humans apart from other animals — but it's also what leads us to make complete tits of ourselves on a regular basis."
Sarah Pinsker's debut short story collection is speculative and strange, exploring such wide-ranging scenarios as a young man receiving a prosthetic arm with its own sense of identity, a family welcoming an AI replicate of their late Bubbe into their home, or an 18th-century seaport town trying to survive a visit by a pair of sirens — all while connecting them in a book that feels cohesive. The stories are insightful, funny, and imaginative, diving into the ways humans might invite technology into their relationships.
Favorite passage: "The real Bubbe said to remember with my hands, so I showed the new Bubbe how the secret to kasha was to mix in the chicken fat. [...] My thought that day was if I taught her hands the recipes, if her lips knew Bubbe's songs, then there would always be two of us to remember, even when Father was away. My real grandmother had been my teacher, but this one needed me to teach her."
In his debut novel, Fernando A. Flores tours a slightly altered world, with a widower named Esteban Bellacosa as the guide. Bellacosa wanders the US–Mexico border, investigating an underground economy built on the revival and selling of extinct animals. It's a dark and dangerous underbelly, involving the mass kidnapping (and murder) of scientists, the misuse of groundbreaking technology meant to solve world hunger, and a cartel that trades in exotic dishes ever since the government legalized narcotics. As Bellacosa is swept up in this bizarre world, Flores weaves in his motivation — grief over the deaths of his daughter and wife — and creates an intricate, philosophical, trippy thriller.
Favorite passage: "Maybe the machine that needs to be invented now is a machine that lets all men and women keep being human, and not become beasts. That would be quite a scientific achievement. A machine that would let people maintain their human dignities, that won't let them succumb to barbarism."
"This is my love letter to the world," Dobby Gibson writes in the poem "Fall In" — and it feels like a perfect encapsulation of his latest collection. Gibson's writing is exuberant, electric, and frank; this is a love letter, despite — despite the bleakness of late capitalism, the complicated pull of our many devices, our often terrifying political sphere. There is still so much to love in this world, and Gibson recognizes it in small moments of shared humanity and pockets of the natural world. In Little Glass Planet, he invites us to celebrate with him.
Favorite passage: "I'm no more done with joy / than I am with gravity"
Normal People follows the relationship between Connell and Marianne — the former a popular football star, the latter more of an introvert — as they weave in and out of each other’s lives through high school and then university at Trinity College in Dublin. As the pair discover new desires and temptations, they redraw the boundaries of their identities and navigate intimacy as new adults — and Rooney is masterful in her teasing out the roles of love, loyalty, privilege, and power in their relationship.
Favorite passage: "Even in memory she will find this moment unbearably intense, and she's aware of this now, while it's happening. She has never believed herself fit to be loved by any person. But now she has a new life, of which this is the first moment, and even after many years have passes she will still think: Yes, that was it, the beginning of my life."
Juliet Escoria's debut autobiographical novel is a story of unraveling, following 14-year-old Juliet over the course of a two-year mental breakdown in the late ’90s. It's a difficult read, heavy and overwhelming in its vivid depiction of anguish and self-destruction, but it's also a force that shouldn't be ignored — an illuminating examination of youth and soul-crushing pressure.
Favorite passage: "I turned away from my classmates to look out at the ocean, shimmering in the yellow light, and it was so beautiful I couldn't stand it. I felt a shift in my tectonics, a sensation like I might burst out of myself, a rupture in my chest leaking something hot and dirty like lava."
Acclaimed poet and essayist Claudia Rankine's first play introduces us to Virginia and Charles, a wealthy white Manhattan couple who own an art foundation and pride themselves in their social justice work; and Charlotte, the emerging black artist they invite to dinner. Cracks and fissures along racial lines emerge over the course of the evening — the couple's son prods his parents, challenging their motivation in buying and displaying art that relies on black suffering; Virginia wants recognition and validation for her work as an ally; Charlotte wonders what exactly they see in her, want from her. It's a revelatory examination of the gulfs separating those who might identify as "allies" from those they believe they are allied with, and an invitation to think more critically about whiteness, blackness, and privilege.
Favorite passage: "It seems like our American pastimes are sports and forgetting. We assimilate; we appropriate; we move on."
Trust Exercise studies the inner machinations of an elite performing arts high school in the 1980s, focusing at first on the romance of two first-year students, Sarah and David, and then expanding to reveal a dark undercurrent connecting the students; Mr. Kingsley, the manipulative head of theater arts; and a visiting British theater troupe. As the novel progresses into the second half, Choi cleverly throws the prior plot into question, and we find ourselves doubting everything we previously took as fact. It's dark, evocative, and addictive.
Favorite passage: "In moments of transition, of general movement, David's gaze burned a hole through the air, Sarah's glance darted out, then away, like a whip. Unbeknownst to themselves they were as noticeable as lighthouses. In repose, even when they both stared straight ahead, the wire ran between them, and their peers changed their paths to avoid tripping on it."
Peter Rock's latest novel is quiet, moody, and beautiful, the recollection of an unnamed narrator of the summer of 1994, spent at his family cabin in rural Wisconsin. That summer, he's 26 years old with dreams of being a writer, and he spends his nights swimming in the darkness of Lake Michigan, alone — until the enigmatic Mrs. Abel, recently widowed, joins him. The rest of the neighborhood gossips about her — she was only married to Mr. Abel less than a month when he died — but the narrator is almost in thrall to her, their intimacy growing as they share dreamlike evenings in the water. And then, during one of those swims, she disappears. Now, decades later, the narrator tries to reconstruct that summer and their relationship, certain it holds deep truths within its darkness.
Favorite passage: "Swimming at night: to compare its slipperiness to that of a dream would be to ignore the work of staying afloat, the mesmerism brought on by the rhythm, the repetition of the strokes."
31. What My Mother and I Don't Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence edited by Michele Filgate (April 30, Simon & Schuster)
In 2017, when Michele Filgate published “What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About,” her essay about being abused by her stepfather, it struck a chord — the essay become one of Longreads’ most popular exclusive for the entire year, and was shared by writers like Anne Lamott, Rebecca Solnit, and Lidia Yuknavitch. Inspired by the responses, Filgate sought other essays about other unspoken topics between mother and child; this intimate, cathartic, and thought-provoking anthology (featuring essays from Kiese Laymon, Alexander Chee, Carmen Maria Machado, and others) is the result.
Favorite passage: "As the story spills from your mouth, your brown eyes turn black, and I know you are back in 1958, in the dark back seat of that police car, frightened and fifteen. The mind is as wonderful as it is wicked; it can choose to save us from our memories or bludgeon us with them." —Bernice L. McFadden, "Fifteen"
Between 2005 and 2009, in a small Mennonite community in Bolivia, more than 100 girls and women were drugged and assaulted by men in the colony — who then told the women these were the acts of demons. Miriam Toews’s sharp and devastating novel imagines the aftermath: While the men leave to post bail for their attackers, eight women gather secretly to decide their next steps. What follows is a two-day-long discussion (as documented by the one man they've asked to take notes) about justice, forgiveness, faith, and anger — and, through the discussion, a testament to the power of women’s collective voices.
Favorite passage: "Can't there be a category of forgiveness that is up to God alone, a category that includes the perpetration of violence upon one's children, an act so impossible for a parent to forgive that God, in His wisdom, would take exclusively upon Himself the responsibility for such forgiveness?"
Helen Hoang won us over last year with The Kiss Quotient, and her sophomore novel, The Bride Test, is just as charming, thoughtful, and romantic as her debut. The Bride Test brings back a character introduced in The Kiss Quotient — Khai Diep, who is autistic and also a secret millionaire — but the real star of this romance is Esme, a Vietnamese woman whom Khai's mother invites to the US in hopes that she'll be able to win over her perpetually single son. Esme is appalled by the offer, but she's also a single mother who cleans bathrooms for a living and dreams of escaping the one-bedroom apartment she shares with her daughter and mother. Through Esme, Hoang is able to incorporate an insightful depiction of the immigrant experience — and all of the sacrifice, love, and utter drive such a life change entails. It is at its core a love story (and plenty steamy, don't worry) but it's also a poignant tale of family and identity.
Favorite passage: "He was a puzzle she never would have been able to solve if he hadn’t shown her how. Those were the best kinds of puzzles though, weren’t they? The ones no one else could figure out?"
T Kira Madden’s highly anticipated debut memoir is about coming of age in Boca Raton as a queer biracial young woman, living simultaneously in worlds of massive privilege, thanks to her family wealth, and deep alienation. Being the only child of parents living with addiction and in nearly constant conflict, Madden looks elsewhere for solace — and these essays, often about the objects of those searches, are haunting, artful, and profound. Read an essay here.
Favorite passage: "Jet tells me that I can call him J-Daddy and that this name is reserved only for me. Reading this feels like the first glint of something grown-up in my life, a slice through my stomach clean as a kite through the sky."
In American Messiahs, journalist Adam Morris pulls from years of research into the messianic figures that have captivated Americans throughout history — including Cyrus Teed, Father Divine, and Jim Jones — and demonstrates their function within our nation’s culture. These self-described prophets and leaders could only exist in a country that promises an impossible “American dream,” and this fascinating and provocative investigation illuminates the ideals underpinning the work of these flawed, larger-than-life characters.
Favorite quote: "Communalism represents the ultimate repudiation of the values and institutions that Americans historically hold dear: it rejects not only the sacrosanct individualism on which American culture thrives, but also the nuclear family unit that evolved alongside industrial capitalism."
I felt like there was a moment in every poem within Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s sophomore collection that made me gasp from its sheer beauty. These poems meditate on all manner of borders — not only the literal boundary between the US and Mexico and the effects of those dueling places in the immigrant experience, but also the spaces between desire and sacrifice, sex and violence, masculinity and femininity. Scenters-Zapico's writing is lyrical, sensual, and often painful; it will linger in your brain for a long time.
Favorite passage: "I know my body is a sutured thing, / which by my hand can be torn & with a needle stitched again."
37. Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson (March 5, Simon & Schuster)
The “survival math” of Mitchell Jackson’s memoir refers to the necessary calculations he and his family made daily to ensure their safety in their small black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon — one of the country’s whitest cities; a city whose anti-blackness was written into its constitution — that was plagued by gang violence and ignored by the government. Interspersed with "survivor files" recounting the stories of his male relatives, Survival Math explores issues like sex, violence, addiction, community, and the toll this takes on a person’s life. It’s an extensively researched and illuminating look at the city of his childhood, at turns hopeful and heartbreaking. Read an excerpt here.
Favorite passage: "The real live hustler is — emphasis on is — at heart a transcendentalist, by which I mean at some point they gaze out at the world borne upon them and see beyond the moment, beyond the day, beyond the week, beyond the month, by which I mean they envision a future in which they've transcended their station."