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Inspired by Robert Mugabe’s fall from power in 2017 and George Orwell’s classic fable Animal Farm, Bulawayo satirizes the dysfunctional politics that curse so many African nations in this long-awaited sophomore effort after her 2013 Booker finalist debut, We Need New Names. —Tomi Obaro (From "26 Books to Get Excited About This Year")
In this inventive debut, a disparate group of social outcasts get by in the city of Lagos, even as the criminalization of homosexuality dampens their ability to live freely. Some characters are humans, others are spirits, others seem to shift between the two. Like the work of fellow Nigerian writers Lesley Nneka Arimah and Akwaeke Emezi (who incidentally blurbed this book), these stories eschew strict realism for magical writing in both the literal and figurative sense. —T.O. (From "26 Books to Get Excited About This Year")
This smart, satirical novel takes a critical look at racism in academia through the lens of our protagonist, Ingrid Yang, a 29-year-old Taiwanese American grad student who feels cornered into researching the poet Xiao-Wen Chou for her dissertation but could not be more bored by this. But things begin to spiral out of control for Ingrid when she discovers a note within her research, left by a name she doesn’t recognize. Upon solving this specific (albeit distracting) mystery, she begins to uncover even more secrets that she’ll be forced to reckon with. —Farrah Penn
Stuart’s debut novel, 2020’s Shuggie Bain, was an immersive, deeply compelling story about a working-class Scottish family and the matriarch Agnes’s debilitating alcohol addiction. In his second novel, Stuart explores similar themes. Mungo Hamilton is 15, the youngest of three children; older brother Hamish is a local gangster who terrorizes Catholic adolescents while sister Jodie is sleeping with her older teacher and dreaming of a life away from their council estate. Their mother, Mo-Maw, meanwhile, has an alcohol addiction and is in and out of the house trying to date again after the death of her husband when Mungo was small. Mungo strikes up a friendship with a fellow loner named James, who happens to be Catholic. As their intimacy deepens, the ramifications of their love converge in painful, inevitably violent ways. —T.O.
In her latest book, Emily St. John Mandel (who has written four other novels, including the acclaimed Station Eleven) interweaves four disparate realities spanning centuries and geographical locations, which are nevertheless unmistakably touched by our present. (She wrote the book during the earlier stages of the pandemic.)
In the year 2203, author Olive Llewellyn wonders whether she’s made the right choice, promoting her new book amid rumors of a spreading virus. She meets a stranger who seems extremely interested in her work; the same man travels back to 2020 and to 1912 investigating a kind of existential glitch that has manifested throughout the years.
Mandel uses the classic quandaries of time travel to explore the equally classic question of what moves us to live how we do. “An interesting question,” Olive says to a listening audience, “is why there’s been such interest in postapocalyptic literature over this past decade or so.” In 2022, we barely need to address a query like that — we’re living through unprecedented crises that threaten our very future and looking for messages that can soothe and light the way. Sea of Tranquility does both, planting seeds of catastrophe amongst vivid characters who want the same thing people always have: to love and to keep living. It’s elegant and unlikely and familiar all at the same time. —Estelle Tang
Picking up where her 2010 Pulitzer-winning collection A Visit From the Goon Squad left off, Egan once again hopscotches characters, countries, and years in this book about a technological invention called Own Your Unconscious that allows people to upload their memories to the cloud. The privacy implications of such an idea prompt a swift backlash. Using the inventiveness that made A Visit From the Goon Squad such a delight, Egan delivers another formally creative novel. —T.O. (From "26 Books to Get Excited About This Year").
Daiyu was born in a fishing village in China, named for a tragic heroine. After the capture of her parents at age 12, and at the insistence of her grandmother, Daiyu heads out disguised as a boy named Feng and gets a job working for a calligrapher. But she is soon kidnapped and smuggled across the ocean to America. Her journey there begins in San Francisco, in a brothel she strives to escape from. Then, her story takes her to Idaho, and a shop tucked into the mountains. As the Chinese Exclusion Act falls over the country and anti-Chinese sentiment spreads, Daiyu will need to reconcile her past and present in order to have a chance at a future. Compelling, tragic, and poetic, this debut is an absolute must-read for literary fiction lovers. —Rachel Strolle
Two young Egyptians — an American transplant with a shaved head and a photographer with a drug addiction — meet in Cairo in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution and quickly fall in love. But they are very different. The transplant is wealthy, hailing from New York, and “she was Egyptian enough to wax her arms but American enough to shave her head” while the photographer comes from a village called Shobrakheit and only owns one pair of socks. Yet they are drawn to each other, and in short chapters told in alternating first person, we learn more about them, their family histories, their desires, and their attraction to each other even as class differences threatens to tear them apart. —T.O.
Marina is a half-Filipino, half-Black 18-year-old with a drug addiction, and when readers first meet her, she is dying from strangulation by a Canadian serial killer. But as she dies, she becomes an aswang, a mythical shape-shifter according to Filipino tradition, who is thirsty for revenge. Throughout the course of this original, heartbreaking debut, Chadburn traces the presence of aswang in Marina’s bloodline and the circumstances that brought Marina, a once-happy and bubbly child who lived with her lola and mother Mutya, into a traumatized teenager forced into the foster care system. —T.O.
This majestic literary debut is an introspective portrait of a vampire artist reconciling all the different conflicts within herself. Lydia is a biracial vampire who is living away from her vampire mother for the first time ever. But as it turns out, life on her own, which includes things like trying to get fresh pig's blood in London without questions or stares, is more complicated than she expected. She's also spending lots of time around those who should be her prey. The gallery she is interning at, to varying degrees of success, holds many, as does the studio space she shares with other artists. Plus, there's Ben, another artist with a goofy grin who she could be falling for. But before she can discover her place in the world, she needs to eat. —R.S.
Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations With a Body of Memory by Sarah Polley (Penguin Press; out now)
As an artist, memory has been one of filmmaker Sarah Polley’s major subjects, and the six essays in this book are united by her careful, prismatic examination at the gulf between what we feel in the moment and how we feel in the aftermath, spanning subjects such as motherhood and daughterhood, what we’d today call burnout performing as Alice (in Wonderland) onstage, the exploitation of life as a child actor, and the difficult beauty of the birth of her first child, intertwined with the memory of her late mother. In “The Woman Who Stayed Silent,” Polley recounts her sexual assault as it related to a major Canadian #MeToo case — it’s a difficult but gratifying read, and sheds light upon the impossible binds of trauma and the law. As a writer, Polley runs towards the danger at every moment, unafraid of being likable, coming upon great truths about the human condition in the murk, and it’s totally unfair that she can now add great writer to her intimidating list of accomplishments. —Elisabeth Donnelly
This sharp, humorous, and deeply vulnerable essay collection unpacks the trauma of understanding your identity during a time when pop culture (and people in general) were cutthroat and vicious, but also — with voice, humor, and flare — discusses sexuality, self-worth, and lesbian culture. I sucked down these pages like a delicious milkshake, easily enthralled by Gutowitz’s insights and relatability. You’ll certainly be entertained, but there is a certain level of tenderness and care that really makes this book shine. —F.P.
In this moving, incisive memoir, Jones, a professor and writer born with sacral agenesis, a rare condition that affects her mobility and leaves her in chronic pain, charts the process of coming into her own and taking up space after a lifetime of reminders — some shockingly overt, others implicit — that her disabled body makes her marginal. Leaving her young son and husband at home in New York, she travels to Italy and Cambodia, ostensibly for dissertation research but really as a way to sate her wanderlust and desire for something novel. She shifts between ruminations on ancient notions of beauty, from Socrates to Plato, and her own background, having grown up as the only child of an idealistic white father and more practical Filipino American mother amid all of these assumptions about what her life should look like because she is disabled. Her doctors assume she can never get pregnant, and fellow philosophical doctoral students argue over whether she should exist at all. Jones resists sentimentality and is as unsparing on herself as she is on other people, yet she writes with such graciousness too. A wonderful debut. —T.O.
This book, by a former longtime New York Times cultural critic, is a thoughtful melange of criticism and memoir. In her previous book, 2015’s Negroland, Jefferson wrote about growing up as part of the Black bourgeoisie on the South Side of Chicago, interspersing personal memories with biographies of famous Black elites. Constructing a Nervous System feels more experimental in form; she addresses beauty, aging, and colorism using subjects like Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, and Josephine Baker as conduits. Her roving intelligence and refusal of pat conclusions make this a nuanced, thought-provoking read. —T.O.
Painful cramps and mood swings have always been integral components of Caldwell’s periods. But in her 30s, the symptoms appear to worsen. When the mood swings begin to threaten her burgeoning romantic relationship, Caldwell gets a medical diagnosis that confirms she has premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Armed with this information, she talks to different people about their own painful periods while also charting her experiences with love and the pressures on women in their 30s to “settle down.” —T.O. (From "26 Books to Get Excited About This Year")
Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics by Olúfẹ́mi O Táíwò (Haymarket Books; May 3)
Georgetown philosophy professor Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò’s 2020 academic essay “Being-in-the-Room Privilege: Elite Capture and Epistemic Deference” got much more social media traction than the usual journal treatise.
As the post-Bernie left has struggled to create cross-racial, cross-class solidarity, critiques of the limited corporate nature of identity politics have also arisen. And his essay about the limitations of standpoint epistemology — taken as something of a left critique of the lack of attention to class in identity politics more broadly — sparked the kind of buzz that has now led to his compact new book, Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else).
While elite capture usually refers to the corrupt way elites use public funds meant as public resources for themselves, he extends it as a metaphor to argue against the limitations of a politics that focuses on getting marginalized people to enter powerful rooms. The book traverses some of the history (and co-optation) of the very term “identity politics” from the Combahee River Collective and features compelling mini-histories of cross-ethnic and cross-racial solidarity in independence movements.
Throughout the five chapters, Táíwò provides critiques of liberal democracy and institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and considers thinkers ranging from Frantz Fanon to Paulo Freire. The argument that transforming the world that creates the powerful rooms and being accountable to those not in the room are more important ethical imperatives than neoliberal multiculturalism is important. But other fields like cultural studies have long made these kinds of critiques about the limits of representationalism.
And some of the specificity and power of the original essay is lost in the translation and expansion; the historical jumps — from examples of decolonial struggles to the material realities of big tech — can be jarring, and makes it hard to really see what the historical examples can teach us in the current context. Still, his amplification of debates about power and politics within a broader context of class and colonial struggle is an important public intervention and a rebuke to the parochialism of corporate media debates about identity. —Alessa Dominguez
Though my relationship with Abdelmahmoud, my BuzzFeed News colleague, could perhaps best be described as “gently antagonistic,” I can’t say enough nice things about his debut book. Son of Elsewhere is described as a “memoir in pieces,” and indeed it gives gorgeous if sometimes brutal flashes from Abdelmahmoud’s life. Each essay covers a wide range — stories about Blackness, immigration, fatherhood, wrestling fanfiction, war, and the glory of suburban Canadian highways— but his writing always pulls you in and makes you stay, even if it’s painful, even if it hurts. —Scaachi Koul (From "26 Books to Get Excited About This Year")
Franny Doyle is having the worst day of her life. After being fired from her design job, her dress is torn on the subway and she's at risk of mooning a lot of New Yorkers. Luckily, a handsome and stoic stranger comes to her rescue, but their awkward interaction is mistaken for a meet-cute that goes viral online. All she wants to do is put the whole moment, and Hayes Montgomery III, in the past and focus on her future, namely launching her own interior design business. But fate has other plans, and their paths continue to cross, leading to them working together. While Franny designs Hayes' office, the two get to know each other and she realizes there's a warm-hearted person underneath his cold exterior who she may be falling in love with. —Shyla Watson
Alternating between the perspectives of a 23-year-old DeafBlind man named Arlo, who's attempting to take the reins of his life for the first time, and Cyril, his new interpreter who's determined to facilitate just that, this is a novel that'll easily live in your brain for months after The End. It is very much centered on Arlo, who's been raised as a Jehovah's Witness by his fervently religious uncle and interpreter, which has colored everything he's experienced at this point...and that isn't much. But there is one standout to Arlo's childhood, and that's his romance with a girl he met at a boarding school for the Deaf. When a tragic incident took her away forever, Arlo resigned himself to a mediocre life. But as Cyril (who's gay, single, drinking, and has his own heartbreaking past to reckon with) helps him navigate a new, life-changing class at college, he finds that the combination of reflecting on the past and looking toward the future could help him turn everything around, especially when he learns there may still be a chance for his lost love. Arlo's compelling and unique voice and story would be drive enough, but the explorations of ASL, communication styles, and developing assistive technology (Fell is a longtime ASL interpreter) truly make this a must-read. —Dahlia Adler
When Solange Perreira is roped into helping her wedding planner cousin with a client's ceremony, she never imagines she would stop the wedding. But after stumbling upon a situation that proves the couple was not meant to be, that's exactly what she does. After Dean Chapman's marriage of convenience blows up in smoke, his promotion dependent on him having a significant other looks like it will follow suit. So when he's put on the spot, he claims he's in a relationship with the woman who crashed his wedding. When the two fake their way right into a real relationship, neither of them knows what to do next. —S.W.
Ten years ago, Chani Horowitz was a twentysomething writer eager to prove her talents outside of the occasional puff piece. When she gets an opportunity to profile her celebrity crush and James Bond movie star Gabe Parker, an interview turns into a whirlwind weekend that sets Hollywood tongues wagging. Now, Chani is a successful writer with several distinguished works (and one divorce) under her belt. Still, her profile of Gabe is her claim to fame, and when she's asked to reunite with him for a second interview, she says yes. After all, what better way to find out if their magical weekend meant as much to him as it did to her...even all these years later? —S.W.
Claire Kann's first foray into adult fiction is a marvelous delight of a book with a joyous asexual main character that immediately makes you want to reread. And not to bring geometry into a romance book rec or anything, but I must say I am a sucker for the entertaining shape that is the love rectangle. For you see, Joy is in love with her best friend, Malcolm. But he's just announced that he's met the love of his life, a woman named Summer. And Summer's ex, Fox, is part of a plan to pretend he and Joy are falling for each other to make Malcolm jealous. Over the course of a weekend getaway, Joy plans to show Malcolm exactly what he is missing. But it might just be Fox who's the romantic partner of her dreams. —R.S.
After driving her car into a ditch, Alexis Montgomery finds herself momentarily stranded in Wakan, a small tourist town off for the season. She's rescued by a charming carpenter who also happens to be an innkeeper, the mayor...and 10 years her junior. After one passionate night together, Alexis is determined to end things. If their age difference and her busy schedule as a prestigious ER doctor didn't complicate things enough, Alexis is also recovering from the trauma of a previous relationship. But something about Daniel and the town of Wakan is just too alluring to resist. Will they be able to make it work, or will their differences get in the way of something magical? —S.W.
When literary agent Nora Stephens' beloved younger sister Libby asks her to take a vacation just the two of them, she has no idea that her sibling is secretly hoping a trip to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, will make Nora finally act as the heroine of her own story. Except instead of idyllic picnics or humble doctors, Nora's only new interaction happens to be running into her rival, book editor Charlie Lastra. She tries to write him off, but fate has other plans. Maybe the twist in her story is that she'll get a happy ending with the hero she least expected. —S.W.
Five years after the death of her husband, Feyi is still in mourning, but she'd like not to be. And so she finds the perfect guy to bring her back into dating and sex, but she isn't prepared for the way things spiral from her introduction to his friend group. From there, it's a blink until she's spending the summer at the island home of a wealthy celebrity chef and experiencing sizzling and forbidden chemistry with a man who, like Feyi, is bisexual. He both makes her feel alive and respects her connection to the dead. But with no easy path forward for them, they'll both have to consider what they're prepared to sacrifice for an uncertain romantic future. Emezi once again absolutely slays a new-for-them genre, with tenderhearted characters and an immaculate balance of realistic dialogue and lyrical prose. —D.A.
HISTORY, MYSTERY, AND THRILLERS
Charlotte belongs to The League of Gentlewomen Witches, who strive to improve the world by using magic in small ways. Her current goal is to keep the long-lost (and recently discovered) amulet of Black Beryl from falling into the wrong hands. Regrettably, her path crosses with that of pirate Alex O'Riley, who she reluctantly teams up with to steal the amulet before the rest of the world gets to it. If all that isn't enough to get you hyped about this book, I shall leave you with the way the book was initially pitched to me by the publisher: knowing her boots are weapons, he tells her to step on him. —R.S.
Carmen works in the comics industry in 1975 New York City. While she's in an assistant position at Triumph Comics, she's thrilled to be on track to fulfill her dream of writing a superhero book. And everything seems to be poised for her to get that chance: She's been enlisted by junior editor Harvey to help with the creation of The Lethal Lynx, Triumph's first female hero. But assuming that the story won't get to move forward if the knowledge of her involvement gets to the head honcho, Harvey asks her to keep her part a secret. Not long after the scripts are turned into the publisher, without her name, Harvey is found dead. With the appearance of a visitor from her home in Miami, her search for the truth becomes an extremely tangled web. This comic book world noir (which features comic spreads drawn by Sandy Jarrell) is a fantastic take on a world of both powerful women and women searching for an acknowledgment of their power. —R.S.
Coben takes us back to one of his most memorable characters: Wilde, also known as The Boy from the Woods. As a young child, Wilde mysteriously appeared one day in the Ramapo Mountains without any recollection of how he got there or of the identity of the parents who left him. Despite moving through the foster care system and finding a family of his own, Wilde was never that interested in uncovering how he ended up in those woods or who his biological mother and father are…until now. More than 30 years later, after entering his information in a DNA registry, Wilde is getting closer to piecing together his past, but unfortunately for him, nothing comes that easy. This newfound discovery soon links him to a highly publicized, presumed suicide of a media personality and a slew of shady characters willing to do anything to shield him from the truth. This modern-day thriller will leave readers at the edge of their seat with every turn of the page. And just when you think you’ve solved the case, Coben throws in another twist to keep you on your toes while also weaving in elements of love and deception. —Morgan Murrell
This clever debut is an absolutely thrilling ride from start to finish. Will is a senior at Harvard, comfortably living the life that has been curated for him. But everything changes with an offer from a mysterious Chinese benefactor. Will, and his crew, will need to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures that were looted from Beijing centuries before in exchange for $50 million. Irene Chen is a public policy major at Duke, a con artist skilled at talking her way out of sticky situations. Daniel Liang is a steady-handed thief and premed student. Alex Huang dropped out of MIT but is now a Silicon Valley software engineer, serving as the hacker of their group. And Lily Wu, an engineering major, races cars in her free time and is prepared to speed away as a getaway driver. Each of the five Chinese American students has a complicated relationship with China and their Chinese American identities, but not one of them turns down the offer. —R.S.
In 2016, on the verge of retirement, Civil Townsend explains to her daughter the past she won't forget. In 1973 Montgomery, Alabama, Civil is determined to make a difference in her community. Fresh out of nursing school, she gets a job at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, and her plan is to help women make decisions about their bodies and lives. But within her first week, she discovers that some of her new patients are just children — 11 and 13. Those handling their family's welfare benefits believe the girls should be on birth control — despite the fact they've never kissed a boy — because their family is poor and Black. Not long after a terrible occurrence, she becomes a whistleblower about the forced sterilization patients were put through. An unforgettable novel about horrendous wrongs and the choice to fight back against them. —R.S.
Patience is the eldest daughter of Chief Kolade Adewale, living in the family mansion in Ibadan, Nigeria, in the 1990s. Secrets and uncertainty are her constant companions there, with her younger sister, Margaret, serving as her only ally. Her true desire is to discover what happened to her mother after her distant father and uncle banished her from the compound years prior. The search for answers weaves into her enrollment in university in Lagos, where she reconnects with her cousin Kash. But Kash needs Patience's help with something that might demand too high a price for her to pay. He and his friend Emeka are petty thieves, and an opportunity arises for a big score for which they need Patience and Chike, Emeka's brother, on board. Expertly telling the story of an unloved girl on a hunt for answers and her own path, Patience Is a Subtle Thief is both heartbreaking and heartfelt. —R.S.
There is a curse on the house of Atreus. Clytemnestra is the wife of Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae seeking to wage war on Troy after they took Helen (Clytemnestra's sister and the wife of Agamemnon's brother). After her husband sacrifices their daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis, Clytemnestra vows revenge. Elektra, the younger daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, is horrified by the death of Iphigenia, but is loyal to her father. And Cassandra, princess of Troy, has been blessed with visions of the future by Apollo. But what good is seeing the future when no one will listen to you about the destruction it holds? An elektra-fying take on a classic myth focused on a wildly compelling trio of women all caught up in the midst of curses and tragedy. —R.S.
In the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, Beatriz is without home and without family. To regain some security, she accepts a proposal from the handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano, choosing the idea of having a home again over the persistent whispers about the sudden demise of his first wife. But the sanctuary she craved in Hacienda San Isidro is nowhere to be found, and in its place are invisible eyes that track her every movement and voices that seep into her sleep. Despite voicing her fears and witnessing strange behaviors from the household, like how Rodolfo's sister, Juana, won't enter the house at night and how the cook marks the kitchen doorway with strange symbols, no one will help her. The only person that listens to her is young priest Padre Andrés, a witch who agrees to help protect Beatriz, who he feels a forbidden attraction toward. But even his skills might not be enough to combat the brutal darkness that consumes San Isidro. —R.S.
The painter Sylvia Wren has lived as a recluse with her wife for many decades, famous for her paintings but refusing to appear in public or to be interviewed. When a reporter threatens to reveal her past secrets unless she agrees to an interview, Silvia begins to write her memoir. Silvia is in fact Iris Chapel, the fifth daughter to a firearms tycoon. The six Chapel sisters grow up tightly knit, their father ignoring them and their mother, who never wanted children, haunted by ghosts in their sprawling Victorian mansion. Their mother claims the victims of Chapel firearms haunt the family. Wren’s memoir opens with preparations for her eldest sister Aster’s wedding, a much-longed-for escape from the suffocating confines of their home. However, when Aster dies soon after marrying and the next sister, Rosalind, also dies soon after marrying, the sisters begin to wonder if they’re cursed. This gorgeously written and all-consuming gothic explores feminism and sexuality and left me more than a little heartbroken. —Margaret Kingsbury
SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
In this deliciously fun novella set in 1929 Seattle during the height of the stock market crash, Dolly White, grifter, is hired as a lady's companion for Fiona. The rebellious daughter of a city leader who wishes to criminalize certain “magickers” like shape-shifters, Fiona is supposed to be "kept under control" by Dolly. But Dolly is also there for other reasons, ones that become clear as the story moves forward. Along on Dolly's journey is Violet, the widowed owner of a speakeasy; her shape-shifter brother, Philippe; and his partner, Gabe. Their paths cross as Violet is looking for revenge against her husband's murderer. Beginning at the ending and following the path backward through a magical heist, this story brings comeuppance to all. —R.S.
The Four Realms — Life, Death, Light, and Darkness — are dying. Each realm converges on the city of dusk, a once vibrant and thriving city that is now in a deadly descent. But there is a quartet who seek to save the city, each an heir of one of the realms and the child of a god who has withdrawn their favor from the city. Risha, heir to the Realm of Death, is a necromancer, searching for her own path outside of her parents. Angelica, heir to the Realm of Life, has been preparing for the throne her entire life. Nik, heir to the Realm of Light, is grappling with the hole left behind by his late brother. And Taesia, heir to the Realm of Darkness, is helping her brother try to abolish the monarchy. Tara Sim's adult debut is a glorious tapestry of magic and murderous gods and a perfect entry for anyone looking for a new series starter. —R.S.
Mueller creates an intricate and richly characterized world in her gothic fantasy debut. The Orchard House is an elite brothel where Borenguard nobility play cards and pay for women, but these are no ordinary women. Charm, the mistress of the house and the emperor’s mistress and prisoner, is a bone witch. She separates parts of herself and creates them into the house’s concubines — Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain. She is divided within herself as well, and is both The Lady and Charm. When the emperor is poisoned, he charges Charm with discovering who murdered him and placing her own choice on the throne. With a mindlock in place, she has to complete this task in order to be truly free. —M.K.
This first book in a new Afrofuturist space opera trilogy depicts an empire of city-states grappling with threats from within and without in the far future. The novel opens with the naming ceremony of Amachi Adisa, the adopted daughter of one of the seven founding families of the Muungano empire. These seven founding families form a tight-knit community despite their differences and vast distances apart. Immediately after her ceremony, the young Wachiru is announced as leader of his family, a surprising move for one so young. However, when an act of violence occurs, Amachi, Wachiru, and officer Maulana Buhari are forced to test their empire's utopian, nonviolent values in order to save it. —M.K.
This sapphic romantic fantasy with The Great Gatsby vibes takes place after WWI. When Annie Mason’s father dies, he leaves behind an estate on Crow Island, where rumors of magic and darkness abound. Annie’s father had left her and her mother in near poverty, so Annie isn’t interested in magic — she wants to close out her father’s estate and return home to her safe life, though a part of her yearns for adventure. She rents a cottage by the sea on Crow Island, and beside it is a sprawling mansion where parties are held every night. The alluring witch Emmeline Delacroix lives there. When Annie witnesses a fight between Emmeline and her best friend Beatrice, she finds herself inexorably drawn into the magic and mayhem of Crow Island. —M.K.
The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (Harper Voyager; April 19)
This collection of six thought-provoking science fiction short stories grapples with a future of surveillance, racism, and police states and expands on the world Monáe created in her album Dirty Computer. In the title story, memory librarian Seshet controls her city of New Dawn by remembering all and wiping the memories of those who cause trouble. When she goes on a date with a woman, she begins to question her role in the city as memories from her past slowly surface. In “Nevermind,” a group of women has fled New Dawn and created their own utopia called the Pynk Hotel. The group struggles to adhere to their utopian principles when attacked by New Dawn agents, questioning the loyalty of a trans member. Each story in this collection is a searing but ultimately hopeful glimpse into how marginalized groups can hope and create in a world set against them. Written with a group of collaborators, including award-winning authors and sociologists, this book is reminiscent of the anti-racist and community-building themes present in N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor’s work, as well as the utopian philosophy of Ursula K. Le Guin and the dystopian technological vision of Philip K. Dick. It’s a stunning collection of stories. —M.K.