May 6, 2023
Two debut books by Chinese American writers—a novel and a story collection—help usher in Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this week; a disturbed boy is on the run in a genre-defying novella; and a female-led cast in a debut mystery takes us to New Mexico. For a bonus, a movie star writes his first novel about…movie stars! Cause for merriment.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
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By Karin Lin-Greenberg
Published by Catapult
Lin-Greenberg, recipient of the prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, has placed a diverse group of personalities in a declining upstate New York shopping mall. This hothouse environment provides ample opportunity to excavate the hopes and dreams of her characters (the author is an admirer of the compassionate fiction of Anne Tyler), including a single Chinese American mom who works at the failing hair salon and enlists her son to help out after school. There are obligatory fast-food spots like Hot Dog Charlie’s where an aging magician can be found. The intersection of these ordinary lives builds to a shocking crescendo in this beautifully constructed debut novel.
The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece
By Tom Hanks
Published by Knopf
Channeling a Michael Chabon-like good old American story, Hanks brings an insider’s view to the creation of a big-budget superhero movie. It starts with a WWII hero and his admiring nephew who puts him in a comic book decades later. (Hanks includes three comics reproduced and illustrated within the text.) As you might expect, his perspective is one of good-hearted graciousness, and respect for the filmmaking process—not a satiric or bitter take on the business. He nails so many scenes with vivid accuracy, terrific dialogue, and a lovably recognizable cast of characters that it’s a pleasure to read..
By Max Porter
Published by Graywolf Press
A young boy is sneaking out of the group home where he lives with other troubled youth. “He’s sprayed, snorted, smoked, sworn, stolen, cut, punched, run, jumped, crashed an Escort…stabbed his stepfather’s finger…but it’s been a while since he’s crept.” The succinct yet emotionally powerful novel takes place over only a few hours. Porter captures this lost soul with such poetically lyrical language, the novel feels like a performance piece with a musical score. For further evidence of his exploration into coming of age, pick up both Grief Is the Thing with Feathers (adapted for the stage and produced at Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2019) and Lanny.
The Sorrows of Others
By Ada Zhang
Published by A Public Space
In this collection of stories, one of which came out in the publisher’s literary magazine (“Compromise”), you’ll read about the difficulties of emigrating from China to America or remaining there. In the tender title story, a widowed Chinese father has been set up by his daughter with a woman found by a matchmaker; in “Julia” a broken friendship between two young women from immigrant parents is revisited when a wedding invitation arrives in the mail. These and other pieces are often quiet, elegant and poignant—displaying Zhang’s talent at capturing the delicate experience of finding where one belongs..
The Night Flowers
By Sara Herchenroether
Published by Tin House
How refreshing to have three women protagonists in this cold case crime debut: the dogged detective for a New Mexico police force on the verge of retirement; a librarian whose obsession provides a distraction from her cancer treatments; and the victim whose case they are determined to solve. The heart-pounding story begins thirty years before with the discovery of the bodies of a woman and two children in the Gila National Forest by lost hikers. Herchenroether’s fact-based novel speaks to all the missing women and children, and to breast cancer survivors everywhere.