September 10, 2021
There are six extraordinary novels this week from seasoned writers, two who are switching genres in their fiction. This week you can experience Harlem in the 1950s, Paris through the eyes of a Mexican American, moody reflections on Argentinian motherhood, a refugee camp in Greece, a farm in Morocco and the mind of one of our sharpest observers. We also want to commemorate the start of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) with a writer who is a Center favorite, Sandra Cisneros.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By COLSON WHITEHEAD
Published by DOUBLEDAY BOOKS
1950s Harlem is meticulously recreated (the neighborhood, the clothes, the language, the politics, the brothels) in Whitehead’s irresistible new fiction—a departure from his last Pulitzer Prize-winning novels (The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys) in tone and style. The author displays his uncanny ability to bring past worlds alive in a thriller that is also a portrait of a man who straddles two worlds. Ray Carney is an ambitious community merchant and secret petty thief and fence. His cousin, Freddie, who is not quite clever enough to stay above the fray, draws him inexorably down into the dangerous underworld. Their exploits become a moving family story as we follow Rays’ escapades while the stakes increase. Will he come out on top?
Martita, I Remember You / Martita, te recuerdo
By SANDRA CISNEROS
Published by KNOPF
Translated by Liliana Valenzuela
This lovely novella is packaged in a beautiful bilingual edition. It features a young Mexican American woman living in Chicago who goes to Paris to seek the expat writer’s life in the local cafes, and all the glamour that she imagines goes with it. But her experience is not quite what she was anticipating. The story unfolds as she reconnects with two women she had met that year through a discovered letter. It’s an intimate portrait of friendship—both tender and bittersweet—as we’ve come to expect from the beloved writer of The House on Mango Street / La Casa en Mango Street..
The Wrong End of the Telescope
By RABIH ALAMEDDINE
Published by GROVE PRESS
An Unnecessary Woman was one of the best novels of 2014. Alameddine’s newest fiction is set on the island of Lesbos, Greece where Mina, a trans Lebanese American doctor, has come to help with the overwhelming Syrian refugee crisis. She tells her story to an unnamed doctor in crisp, emotion-filled chapters–with a leavening wry humor. Attempting to do some good in the world, she becomes particularly attached to a dying woman. Her connection to the community there creates a potent narrative, an extraordinary heroine and a powerful reminder of the costs of war.
By MARIANA DIMÓPULOS
Published by TRANSIT BOOKS
Translated by Alice Whitmore
Argentinian writer Dimópulos scrutinizes conflicting feelings about motherhood in her atmospheric, dreamy novella focusing on one day of Irina’s life in a Buenos Aires apartment. Time shifts between the past and the present as she recalls her previous lovers and attempts to fathom what it is to be a woman, and how to be a mother. “[T]his kind of structure has a natural link to our present modes of daily communication,” the author said in a Paris Review interview, a concept she explores in all of her fiction. Dimópulos is a great discovery..
In the Country of Others
By LEILA SLIMANI
Published by PENGUIN BOOKS
Translated by Sam Taylor
Motherhood is also a theme in this Prix Goncourt winner’s powerful new historical novel, the first in a new trilogy. Slimani is a champion of women’s rights and President Macron’s personal Francophone representative. Changing focus from her previous bestsellers (The Perfect Nanny and Adèle) this is a more personal story inspired by her own grandparents. A Frenchwoman who has married a Moroccan soldier must accompany him home as he assumes responsibility of the family farm. Mathilde is not prepared for a culture that marginalizes women, and her efforts to maintain her identity are played out affectingly against Morocco’s political upheaval in the 40s and 50s.
By DEBORAH LEVY
Published by BLOOMSBURY
Deborah Levy closes her trilogy of Living Autobiography with perhaps the best installment yet, though I highly recommend you read the first two as well (The Cost of Living and Things I Don’t Want to Know). These memoirs are a catalog of her philosophy, of friends and ghosts from her past, of her possessions, of her real estate, of writers who have meant so much to her (Woolf, Sontag, Jean Genet among others) and of her life approaching sixty. She remarks, “The trouble was how to live a creative life in old age.” Levy is a consummate intellectual, both cool and warm in her prose and always compelling. And be sure to catch up with our Story/Teller event for her last novel, The Man Who Saw Everything..