February 26, 2022
This week we welcome in a stellar debut from a Southern Black writer, a dystopian novel in which Japan no longer exists, artistic awakening from an Irish writer with a deserved cult following, 19th-century hysteria and sexy vampirism. All feature marginalized characters—on the edge, off the grid, finding solace in art and literature.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By TARA M. STRINGFELLOW
Published by DIAL PRESS
Stringfellow’s childhood in the American South has inspired a group of indelible fictional characters. In this debut novel, generations of women leap off the page as they teach the protagonist Joan, whose passion is painting, to understand and start to heal the violence and racism she inherited. Look out for this writer. “I grew up with devastating, grief-laced stories about gorgeous and unknown Black folk.” Memphis, an homage to those people, is a portrait of a community that encompasses the good and the bad, the burdens and the gifts that a complicated family encounters.
Scattered All Over the Earth
By YOKO TAWADA
Published by NEW DIRECTIONS
Translated by Margaret Mitsutani
A favorite at The Center, Tawada (The Emissary, winner of the National Book Award in Translated Literature) places her heroine in Denmark after her mother country, Japan, has vanished. There she teaches immigrants in an invented language while her native language is disappearing. The novel is made up of various vivid encounters from umami competitions to robots. The first in a trilogy, it touches on climate change, immigration, language and identity, all in a playfully political stew from a writer that Rivka Galchen (another favorite here) calls “magnificently strange.”.
By CLAIRE-LOUISE BENNETT
Published by RIVERHEAD
Pond introduced Bennett’s unique Irish voice to American readers in 2017 and established her credentials as a creator of eccentric, completely suis generis characters. She scores again in this story about a girl discovering what it feels like to release her imagination. She begins to invent stories like the ones she peruses in the library, looking for just the right one. That is, when she’s not working at the local grocery outside of London. Wildly enthusiastic critics rarely compare her writing to other authors because she is such an original.
City of Incurable Women
By MAUD CASEY
Published by BELLEVUE LITERARY PRESS
Casey’s new novel is set at a 19th-century asylum, the infamous Salpêtrière in Paris, where women deemed ‘hysterics’ were sent. Casey revisits a character from her novel The Man Who Walked Away, providing backstory through a chorus of female patients who were treated by Jean-Martin Charcot (a disciple of Freud). It is a stinging yet lyrically sensual feminist exploration of the women whose lives were devastated by incarceration, and a corrective to the male gaze of the doctors who considered them unfit for society. Casey delivers a fascinating historical look at female mental health treatment of long ago—complete with medical documents and illustrations..
By ISAAC FELLMAN
Published by PENGUIN BOOKS
Fellman, winner of the 2019 Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, addresses transphobia in his witty new novel. The romance stars an archivist (like the author, who works at the San Francisco GLBT Historical Society) and a widow who is donating the papers of her wife. A budding romance develops between them but is complicated by vampirism. Now there’s a plot you don’t often read. It’s funny and touching, totally fresh. Also, look for his new fantasy, The Two Doctors Górski, coming from Tordotcom in the fall, exploring psychiatric magic.