September 24, 2022
This week we are pleased to highlight a rousing jazz-infused debut novel which we are launching at The Center and a pitch-perfect memoir from a Taiwanese American New Yorker writer that gets to the heart of true friendship. There are also three new novels by writers we especially like, voices that explore ancestral roots—Pakistan, Japan, the Dominican Republic—and whose previous work has had enthusiastic responses from our customers. All are ripe for spirited discussions among readers everywhere.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Hua Hsu
Published by Doubleday
“I was an American child, and I was bored, and I was searching for my people.” Hsu’s beautiful memoir takes us from his affecting relationship with his Taiwanese father as they swap letters and music, obsessing over Kurt Cobain and zines, to college at Berkeley where the murder of his best friend, Ken, a fellow Asian American, shocks and alters his life. This book, the author has said, contains “all the things not worth remembering until memories are all that’s left.” It has been gestating since those college days and we’re grateful Hsu took his time getting it right. Do not miss this moving story, a memorable requiem for a lost brother.
Best of Friends
By Kamila Shamsie
Published by Riverhead
As above, it is said that friends are the family you choose for yourself. Shamsie’s (Home Fire) provocative new book costars childhood girlfriends from Karachi schooldays whose families and personalities are markedly dissimilar. Thirty years on they are both successful—one an immigration lawyer; the other chair of an equity firm—in London. Can the friendship survive their divergent values as the past encroaches on their lives? Shamsie is a terrific observer of both the strength and the fragility of women’s bonds over time, of the power plays between men and women, and of the morality inherent in choices made from allegiances, both personal and political..
By Yoko Tawada
Published by New Directions
Translated by Margaret Mitsutani
A great addition to the ND Storybook series of inexpensive hardcover novellas—great writers, high design, short reading time. (See our earlier newsletter previewing Helen DeWitt’s.) The Berlin-based Japanese writer (most recently Scattered All Over the Earth), has been justly awarded multiple prizes, including the National Book Award in 2016 for The Emissary. In this volume she offers three ghost stories set on three different Berlin streets. All magical, infused with Tawada’s signature insatiable imagination, two with echoes of Russia and Gogol’s fanciful writing. One narrator even comes upon the ghost of the great poet, Mayakovsky. Perfect for Halloween reading!
How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water
By Angie Cruz
Published by Flatiron
Cruz (Dominicana) returns with the totally appealing character of Cara Romero, a resilient Dominican American middle-aged, unemployed single mother in Washington Heights. Cruz has crafted the novel as a series of one-sided conversations with Cara’s career counselor at the Senior Workforce Program. Though her history is littered with violence (a husband trying to kill her) and money is running out she still has a hopeful outlook on life. She is the ultimate over-sharer, an irrepressibly funny nonstop talker, blathering on about her friends and family, romantic and financial woes. You’ll recognize Cara and wish her the best in getting her life back on track in post-Obama America. She deserves it..
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm
By Laural Warrell
Published by Pantheon
The title is a quote from Jelly Roll Morton which sets the tone for Warrell’s seductive first fiction. As soon as we are introduced to Circus, the charismatic trumpet-playing protagonist, we know he is trouble, especially in his reaction to his girlfriend’s announcement that she’s pregnant. Throughout the novel we’ll meet other women who demonstrate the many ways in which women fall for ‘bad boys’—particularly artists to whom the art always comes first. This structure, the author has said, is like a jazz composition with players coming center stage for their solos. It allows Warrell to give these diverse women—the pregnant girlfriend, the teen daughter, the ex-wife—their voices, too. It is a terrific and fitting device.