June 3rd, 2022
June is Pride Month, and we launch it with four new titles—two first novels from Asian American authors, an audacious first collection of stories, and new fiction from a writer whose 1978 debut put him on the map. Another debut comes from a 20-year-old Black woman, a former poet laureate, who is an exceptional writer to watch.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Joseph Han
Published by Counterpoint
The Cho family (based somewhat upon Han’s own) has left the divided nation of Korea and reinvented themselves in Hawai’i where they serve traditional plate lunches in their restaurant. The parents are struggling, the daughter is a stoner and the son who returns to Seoul is inhabited by the ghost of his grandfather. The action ratchets up when he is caught trying to cross the DMZ between North and South Korea. Through multiple voices, Han’s impressive family saga investigates the immigrant experience, being queer, the nature of borders and political trauma. All is infused with humor, confirming Han’s belief that “comedy and tragedy have a greater resonance when they contain one another.”
By Kathryn Harlan
Published by Norton
Harlan’s first collection of stories about queer women illustrates a remarkable handling of styles. She cites Shirley Jackson as a strong influence and her work ventures into the magical as well. In her title story, for example, Agnes and Geb live in a stone house in the woods. When mushrooms begin to emerge from Agnes’s body it seems a quietly thrilling miracle until a lost and injured hiker appears at their doorstep. You can feel the gothic dread in these stories. Harlan’s characters encounter life-altering events, their worlds mutable and poised for change..
The Kingdom of Sand
By Andrew Holleran
Published by FSG
Holleran’s debut Dancer from the Dance was published over twenty years ago. Set in NYC’s gay scene and Fire Island, it was an exhilarating coming-of-age story that captured an iconic moment in American history. Two decades later his new setting is small-town Florida, the ‘sand’ now transported to the Southeast. It depicts not the exuberance and abandon of youth but the sobering reality of maturity—parental loss, aging, fear of loneliness. The melancholy air is leavened with humor and pathos as we follow the narrator and his friendship with a man he met at the local boat ramps years before.
Mother Ocean Father Nation
By Nishant Batsha
Published by Ecco
The children of immigrants in an Indian neighborhood on a South Pacific island find it’s no longer a hospitable place to live. The two siblings—Bhumi the smart college student living in a dorm in the capital city, and Jaipal who remains home to work in the family business while secretly exploring his private desires in the queer community—traverse the increasingly boiling tensions leading to a coup. In his powerful debut, Batsha explores how lives are eternally affected by the eruption of political unrest. As Bhumi states, “Some of us will die. Some of us will suffer. The rest will escape. And we’ll find ourselves here or there.”.
By Leila Mottley
Published by Knopf
Like Tommy Orange, Mottley illuminates the underbelly of Oakland, California. Hard to believe this debut is written by a woman barely twenty, formerly that city’s Youth Poet Laureate. Her young narrator is barely keeping life together for herself, her unemployed dreamer of a brother and a ten-year old neighbor who she is determined to rescue from his neglectful mother. Nightcrawling (sex work) seems a last desperate resort for Kiara and will land her in the middle of a nasty police scandal. The novel is full of urgency, moving portraits of the marginal and one young Black girl’s battle with the justice system.