July 24, 2021
A paen to W.E.B. Du Bois and a rediscovered gem of Black fiction; a frenetic memoir by an actor whose infectious energy will take you on an exhilarating ride; two important literary superstars’ lives revealed through biography and letters; and the return of one of our best Chinese-American writers. This selection digs deep into the personal histories of both writers and their subjects.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
The Minister Primarily
By JOHN OLIVER KILLENS
Published by AMISTAD
Here’s one of the most important Black American writers that you might not have read. Killens was a member of the Black Arts Movement, forged in the ’60s by Amiri Baraka, with poets, musicians, novelists, and activists—many of whom became Black cultural icons. A three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, his novel is set in the ’80s when an American musician visiting a tiny West African country in turmoil is conscripted to pose as the leader and return to America to meet with the U.S. President. Hilarious political satire ensues.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
By HONORÉE FANONNE JEFFERS
Published by HARPER
The author has penned a story from the slave era to today by creating a community of characters inspired by stories passed down by her own mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Told by a descendent investigating her past, the characters of Jeffers’s fictional extended family in the American South come vividly alive on the page. Multi-generational and grand in scale, this epic novel encompasses significant moments in Black American history through the eyes and ears, and beautiful language of an award-winning poet..
By RICHARD ZENITH
Published by LIVERIGHT
Fernando Pessoa (The Book of Disquiet) died in 1935 but it was almost fifty years later that his work was published in his native Portugal. Posthumously acknowledged as the most important Portuguese writer of his generation we are fortunate to now have a definitive biography by his long-time translator. Another writer who was a bit of a mystery, and who wrote under many alter egos and in several languages, Pessoa’s fiction is a key to his own personality. Zenith reveals the solitary man behind the fictional masterpieces. This biography should be in the running for the major awards of 2021.
Bob Goes to Jail
By ROB SEDGWICK
Published by RARE BIRD BOOKS
Growing up in great privilege does not ensure an easy life. Actor Rob Sedgwick, whose American pedigree is replete with wealth and glamour (sister Kyra and brother-in-law Kevin Bacon, tragic cousin Edie, etc.), has poured out a memoir of a bad boy, drenched in pop culture. Unvarnished, sometimes appalling and always honest, it manages to be both shocking and still create a sympathetic portrait of a guy who owns his own personal history. Bad decisions abound, illegal substances and arrests follow. It captures a certain generation and class, recalling Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-fueled writing from the ’60s on, and like a train wreck, it is hard to look away..
The Letters of Shirley Jackson
By Laurence Jackson Hyman in Consultation with Dr. Bernice M. Murphy
Published by RANDOM HOUSE
Jackson’s 1938 letter to her future husband Stanley Hyman, the Brooklyn boy she met at Syracuse University, is a revelation both for her passion for writing, and for her voice. Read it to get a sense of this mercurial writer of gothic novels and stories and you’ll be hooked (“i shall go on writing revolutionary poetry as long as i damn well please”). Her eldest son edited the selection of thirty years of letters (and her drawings!), which help to unveil the ever-mysterious, brilliant fiction writer (and poet and mother and wife) who has been having a well-deserved renaissance.
A Song Everlasting
By HA JIN
Published by PANTHEON
Ha Jin’s eighth novel (one of the first being the multi-award-winning Waiting) is set both in the U.S. and China. His protagonist is a singer who, after a U.S. tour, finds himself put on a blacklist by the Chinese government. Jin, who came to the U.S. in the ’80s, has said of his own experiences, “I write in English, which is viewed as a betrayal of my mother tongue.” The book explores the difficulties of having to renounce a homeland in order to preserve one’s identity and the freedoms another country can offer. It is a starkly poignant novel..