March 25, 2023
The title of Farah Jasmine Griffin’s new essay collection inspires this selection which includes a novel about formidable female characters out West; the latest from Jeannette Walls, an historical fiction; a much-anticipated debut from a remarkable Korean American writer; and a gorgeous novel about a lonely Irish man seeking freedom from his past. All these characters have longings, pursuing liberty in compelling, sometimes haunting ways.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Victor LaValle
Published by One World
Known for his inventive horror novels, LaValle blends genres bringing us to the American West. The opening scene is startling and brutal, setting up expectations for Adelaide’s spectacular escape from her family’s slowly failing homestead in Southern California. With a mysterious trunk in tow, she heads to Montana to stake a claim. LaValle says he was moved to write this story because it was so far from his own NYC experience. Through extensive research he discovered that homesteaders were not just men, but women, including women of color like Adelaide. Anthony Doerr compared this to a mashup of Ralph Ellison and Haruki Murakami. Need I say more?
Hang the Moon
By Jeannette Walls
Published by Scribner
When Sallie Kincaid was a little girl, she thought her father “hung the moon and scattered the stars.” “The Duke” is a bootlegger in the mountains of Virginia during Prohibition just like Walls’s father. Sallie’s a daddy’s girl, and her half-brother is a mama’s boy, so it follows she’d be the one to inherit Duke’s spirit. When she comes into her own, eventually taking the reins of the family business after her father’s death, the novel takes off. The book is full of colorful characters, family feuds, long-held grudges, and all-out war with violent neighbors centered on this feisty, memorable heroine..
By Gina Chung
Published by Vintage
Octopuses have lately become a preoccupation of many, and Dolores, star of Chung’s tender debut, is one cephalopod you’ll want to meet. One of the oldest Giant Pacific octopuses, she lives in a New Jersey aquarium where Ro works. Since her father disappeared in the Bering Vortex, and her boyfriend departed to potentially colonize Mars, Ro is struggling to make a life for herself. You’ll inevitably fall in love with her and Dolores as they navigate a changing world, a changing climate and what feels like the very end of life as we know it. Chung, a former Center for Fiction Susan Kamil Emerging Writer Fellow, has a bright literary future ahead.
Old God's Time
By Sebastian Barry
Published by Viking
Barry’s Days Without End becomes a favorite novel of anyone who picks it up. From the very first page of his latest, Old God’s Time, you’ll fall into his gorgeous prose and keen power of description. It features a retired copper now living in an Irish seaside castle looking to unpack his few things and revisit some of his beloved books. When two young policemen turn up, reports in hand, saying the chief sent them to get his opinion on a nasty cold case involving priests, his contented, solitary world is instantly disrupted. “He became the orphan of his happiness.” And of course, he is drawn inexorably into the case..
In Search of a Beautiful Freedom
By Farah Jasmine Griffin
Published by W. W. Norton
This is a terrific follow-up to Read Until You Understand and, as always, Griffin brings personal experiences into her powerful essays. This selection includes pieces, new and previously published, from the Black feminist perspective that has gained her much respect from scholars and students. These essays highlight important moments in Black culture and celebrate writers, musicians, and artists (Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Billie Holiday, Odetta, among others) who have made important contributions to American history. Griffin is continually inspired by her father’s love of learning and the values of freedom and democracy he so admired, which inform all her work and teaching at Columbia University. Here’s a short video: https://www.pbs.org/video/brief-but-spectacular-1651000090/