July 23, 2022
Short and long fiction abounds this week, as well as an essay collection that gives wise advice for the changing ways in which we need to read these days. Explore different cultures from extraordinary voices and discover how best to approach these narratives and respect where they come from.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
Published by Liveright
We are excited to highlight a debut novel by one of The Center’s Emerging Writer Fellowship alumni. Set in Harlem, we meet Malaya at eight years old with her mother at a Weight Watchers meeting in the basement of their AME church. Malaya’s descriptions of the shamefully coveted food she craves, like “shiny” french fries, make your mouth water and feel for her struggle. Sullivan’s sensitive portrayal of this likable young girl makes your heart break too. Malaya’s ballet teacher instructs her to “be in her body.” Sometimes that is the hardest part. Vivid and raw, Big Girl will touch readers everywhere.
By Sayaka Murata
Published by Grove Press
Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Convenience Store Woman was one of our favorite novels from 2019 and earned Murata a huge fan base. Her newest is the first collection of her stories to be translated into English and is every bit as good as that novel. One of the best is “A First-Rate Material,” in which an engaged couple disagree about the practice of using skin, hair, teeth and bones for clothing and furniture. It has a futuristic, yet grounded plot with her trademark subtle humor. With each story one is left with something to mull over, a deeper meaning to the gentle surface..
By Rebecca Miller
Published by FSG
In Miller’s third story collection she writes about women in intensely dramatic situations and seems to relish putting them there. There is sex and infidelity; children and mothers; and the nature of love with all its rewards and dangers. Plenty will startle readers looking for easy endings. One of the most disturbing is the title story with echoes of Ishiguro set in some future world in which phone sex causes birth defects. There’s even a Chekhovian story as a treat. As the narrator in “Mrs. Covet” says, “The price for love, we all know, is eventual loss and it’s a stiff price, let me tell you!”
Calling for a Blanket Dance
By Oscar Hokeah
Published by Algonquin Books
Here is a vibrant Indigenous voice that heralds a new star. Hokeah remains involved in the community in Oklahoma where he grew up—the Cherokee Nation and the Kiowa Tribe—and is active in helping children on the reservations. His first novel is set there, filled with a variety of voices from different generations telling the story of a family’s struggles. It is led by a charismatic hero, Ever Geimausaddle, whose anger was shaped in childhood and only grows stronger as he comes of age. The author explores the prevalence of toxic masculinity he witnessed growing up and how so many Indigenous boys are conditioned from an early age..
How to Read Now
By Elaine Castillo
Published by Viking
Perfectly timed and impeccable in tone, Castillo addresses the issue of racial politics as it applies to the way we read today. What incites her are the discrepancies she finds between writers of color—who are often expected to teach us about the suffering and trauma of their histories—and white writers who have few requirements concerning their subjects. To bring a measure of fair-mindedness and raise awareness of the perpetration of these assumptions, she includes the publishing industry’s failure to provide a corrective. With fierce passion, her book offers a battle cry that all readers can benefit from embracing.