Our customers have great taste! From Colum McCann’s Apeirogon to Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, check out our bookstore’s top sellers from February.
By Colum McCann
Published by Random House
Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of conflict that colors every aspect of their lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on to the schools their children attend to the checkpoints, both physical and emotional, they must negotiate.
But their lives, however circumscribed, are upended one after the other: first, Rami’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Smadar, becomes the victim of suicide bombers; a decade later, Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, is killed by a rubber bullet. Rami and Bassam had been raised to hate one another. And yet, when they learn of each other’s stories, they recognize the loss that connects them. Together they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace—and with their one small act, start to permeate what has for generations seemed an impermeable conflict.
This extraordinary novel is the fruit of a seed planted when the novelist Colum McCann met the real Bassam and Rami on a trip with the non-profit organization Narrative 4. McCann was moved by their willingness to share their stories with the world, by their hope that if they could see themselves in one another, perhaps others could too.
With their blessing, and unprecedented access to their families, lives, and personal recollections, McCann began to craft Apeirogon, which uses their real-life stories to begin another—one that crosses centuries and continents, stitching together time, art, history, nature, and politics in a tale both heartbreaking and hopeful. The result is an ambitious novel, crafted out of a universe of fictional and nonfictional material, with these fathers’ moving story at its heart.
The Fox Hunt
By Mohammed Al Samawi
Published by HarperCollins
Born in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, to a pair of middle-class doctors, Mohammed Al Samawi was a devout Muslim raised to think of Christians and Jews as his enemy. But when Mohammed was twenty-three, he secretly received a copy of the Bible, and what he read cast doubt on everything he’d previously believed. After connecting with Jews and Christians on social media, and at various international interfaith conferences, Mohammed became an activist, making it his mission to promote dialogue and cooperation in Yemen.
Then came the death threats: first on Facebook, then through terrifying anonymous phone calls. To protect himself and his family, Mohammed fled to the southern port city of Aden. He had no way of knowing that Aden was about to become the heart of a north-south civil war, and the battleground for a well-funded proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As gunfire and grenades exploded throughout the city, Mohammed hid in the bathroom of his apartment and desperately appealed to his contacts on Facebook.
Miraculously, a handful of people he barely knew responded. Over thirteen days, four ordinary young people with zero experience in diplomacy or military exfiltration worked across six technology platforms and ten time zones to save this innocent young man trapped between deadly forces— rebel fighters from the north and Al Qaeda operatives from the south.
The story of an improbable escape as riveting as the best page-turning thrillers, The Fox Hunt reminds us that goodness and decency can triumph in the darkest circumstances.2 .
Old Lovegood Girls
By Gail Godwin
Published by Bloomsbury USA
When the dean of Lovegood Junior College for Girls decides to pair Feron Hood with Merry Jellicoe as roommates in 1958, she has no way of knowing the far-reaching consequences of the match. Feron, who has narrowly escaped from a dark past, instantly takes to Merry and her composed personality. Surrounded by the traditions and four-story Doric columns of Lovegood, the girls–and their friendship–begin to thrive. But underneath their fierce friendship is a stronger, stranger bond, one comprised of secrets, rivalry, and influence–with neither of them able to predict that Merry is about to lose everything she grew up taking for granted, and that their time together will be cut short.
Ten years later, Feron and Merry haven’t spoken since college. Life has led them into vastly different worlds. But, as Feron says, once someone is inside your “reference aura,” she stays there forever. And when each woman finds herself in need of the other’s essence, that spark–that remarkable affinity, unbroken by time–between them is reignited, and their lives begin to shift as a result.
Luminous and masterfully crafted, Old Lovegood Girls is the story of a powerful friendship between talented writers, two college friends who have formed a bond that takes them through decades of a fast-changing world, finding and losing and finding again the one friendship that defines them.
Everywhere You Don't Belong
By Gabriel Bump
Published by Algonquin Books
In this alternately witty and heartbreaking debut novel, Gabriel Bump gives us an unforgettable protagonist, Claude McKay Love. Claude isn’t dangerous or brilliant—he’s an average kid coping with abandonment, violence, riots, failed love, and societal pressures as he steers his way past the signposts of youth: childhood friendships, basketball tryouts, first love, first heartbreak, picking a college, moving away from home.
Claude just wants a place where he can fit. As a young black man born on the South Side of Chicago, he is raised by his civil rights–era grandmother, who tries to shape him into a principled actor for change; yet when riots consume his neighborhood, he hesitates to take sides, unwilling to let race define his life. He decides to escape Chicago for another place, to go to college, to find a new identity, to leave the pressure cooker of his hometown behind. But as he discovers, he cannot; there is no safe haven for a young black man in this time and place called America.
Percolating with fierceness and originality, attuned to the ironies inherent in our twenty-first-century landscape, Everywhere You Don’t Belong marks the arrival of a brilliant young talent.4 .
By Jenny Offill
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. Sylvia has become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of western civilization.
As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you’ve seen the flames beyond its walls. When her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, Lizzie is forced to address the limits of her own experience—but still she tries to save everyone, using everything she’s learned about empathy and despair, conscience and collusion, from her years of wandering the library stacks . . . And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in—funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad.
Almost American Girl
By Robin Ha
Published by HarperCollins
For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.
So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated.
Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.
Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.6 .
My Autobiography of Carson McCullers
By Jenn Shapland
Published by WW Norton
While working as an intern in the archives at the Harry Ransom Center, Jenn Shapland encounters the love letters of Carson and a woman named Annemarie—letters are that are tender, intimate, and unabashed in their feelings. Shapland recognizes herself in the letters’ language—but does not see Carson as history has portrayed her.
And so, Shapland is compelled to undertake a recovery of the full narrative and language of Carson’s life: She wades through the therapy transcripts; she stays at Carson’s childhood home, where she lounges in her bathtub and eats delivery pizza; she relives Carson’s days at her beloved Yaddo. As Shapland reckons with the expanding and collapsing distance between her and Carson, she sees the way Carson’s story has become a way to articulate something about herself. The results articulate something entirely new not only about this one remarkable, walleyed life, but about the way we tell queer love stories.
In genre-defying vignettes, Jenn Shapland interweaves her own story with Carson McCullers’s to create a vital new portrait of one of America’s most beloved writers, and shows us how the writers we love and the stories we tell about ourselves make us who we are.
In West Mills
By De'Shawn Charles Winslow
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Let the people of West Mills say what they will about Azalea “Knot” Centre; they won’t keep her from what she loves best: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. And yet, when motherhood looms, Knot begins to learn that her freedom has come at a high price. Low on money, ostracized from her parents and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home.
Otis Lee is eager to help. A lifelong fixer, Otis Lee is determined to steer his friends and family away from decisions that will cause them heartache and ridicule. After his failed attempt to help his older sister, who lives a precarious life in the North, Otis Lee discovers a possible path to redemption in the chaos Knot brings to his doorstep. But while he’s busy trying to fix Knot’s life, Otis Lee finds himself powerless to repair the many troubles within his own family, as the long-buried secrets of his troubled past begin to come to light.
Spanning decades in a rural North Carolina town where a canal acts as the color line, In West Mills is a magnificent, big-hearted small-town story about family, friendship, storytelling, and the redemptive power of love.8 .
All About Love
By bell hooks
Published by HarperCollins
“The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet . . . we would all love better if we used it as a verb,” writes bell hooks as she comes out fighting and on fire in All About Love. Here, at her most provocative and intensely personal, bell hooks (renowned scholar, cultural critic, and feminist) skewers our view of love as romance. In its place she offers a proactive new ethic for a people and a society bereft with lovelessness.
As bell hooks uses her incisive mind and razor-sharp pen to explore the question “What is love?” her answers strike at both the mind and heart. In thirteen concise chapters, hooks examines her own search for emotional connection and society’s failure to provide a model for learning to love. Razing the cultural paradigm that the ideal love is infused with sex and desire, she provides a new path to love that is sacred, redemptive, and healing for individuals and for a nation. The Utne Reader declared bell hooks one of the “100 Visionaries Who Can Change Your Life.” All About Love is a powerful affirmation of just how profoundly she can.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
By Ocean Vuong
Published by Penguin Press
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.10 .