Wednesday, 12:30 pm EDT - 1:30 pm EDT October 18, 2023
Online via Zoom
October 2023 Selection:
Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
The Literarians is a free monthly discussion group open to members of The Center for Fiction. Led by our Head Librarian and Education Director, Allison Escoto, The Literarians read a wide variety of contemporary fiction selected by participants each month. Looking for recommendations? Browse their previous selections and RSVP above for the next discussion!
Members are welcome to join The Literarians throughout the year. Not a member yet? Join today!
Click Register above to RSVP for this month’s discussion. Questions? Please email Allison Escoto at [email protected].
Head Librarian & Education Director
Head Librarian & Education Director
New Yorker by way of New Orleans, Allison Escoto received her BA in Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz and closed out the 90s as a bookseller in Greenwich Village. After several years in publishing, she pursued and received her MLS from Queens College. Since then she has worked as a librarian for 15 years in various libraries in and around NYC and has been moonlighting as a poet and copywriter. She reviews books for Booklist and serves on the ALA RUSA Notables committee. From 2017-2020, she was the Associate Editor for Newtown Literary Journal, a publication dedicated to featuring writers from her beloved Queens.
By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Published by Knopf Doubleday
October 2023 Selection
Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.
In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death-matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, she considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games, but CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.
Moving from the Links in the field to the protestors to the CAPE employees and beyond, Chain-Gang All-Stars is a kaleidoscopic, excoriating look at the American prison system’s unholy alliance of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration, and a clear-eyed reckoning with what freedom in this country really means from a “new and necessary American voice” (Tommy Orange, New York Times Book Review).
By Alba de Céspedes
Published by Astra House
Translated by Ann Goldstein
September 2023 Selection
In this modern translation by acclaimed Elena Ferrante translator Ann Goldstein, Forbidden Notebook centers the inner life of a dissatisfied housewife living in postwar Rome.
Valeria Cossati never suspected how unhappy she had become with the shabby gentility of her bourgeois life—until she begins to jot down her thoughts and feelings in a little black book she keeps hidden in a closet. This new secret activity leads her to scrutinize herself and her life more closely, and she soon realizes that her individuality is being stifled by her devotion and sense of duty toward her husband, daughter, and son. As the conflicts between parents and children, husband and wife, and friends and lovers intensify, what goes on behind the Cossatis’ facade of middle-class respectability gradually comes to light, tearing the family’s fragile fabric apart.
An exquisitely crafted portrayal of domestic life, Forbidden Notebook recognizes the universality of human aspirations..
By Eleanor Catton
Published by FSG
July 2023 Selection
Birnam Wood is on the move . . .
A landslide has closed the Korowai Pass on New Zealand’s South Island, cutting oﬀ the town of Thorndike and leaving a sizable farm abandoned. The disaster presents an opportunity for Birnam Wood, an undeclared, unregulated, sometimes-criminal, sometimes-philanthropic guerrilla gardening collective that plants crops wherever no one will notice. For years, the group has struggled to break even. To occupy the farm at Thorndike would mean a shot at solvency at last.
But the enigmatic American billionaire Robert Lemoine also has an interest in the place: he has snatched it up to build his end-times bunker, or so he tells Birnam’s founder, Mira, when he catches her on the property. He’s intrigued by Mira, and by Birnam Wood; although they’re poles apart politically, it seems Lemoine and the group might have enemies in common. But can Birnam trust him? And, as their ideals and ideologies are tested, can they trust one another?
A gripping psychological thriller from the Booker Prize–winning author of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its drama, Austenian in its wit, and, like both inﬂuences, fascinated by what makes us who we are. A brilliantly constructed study of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is a mesmerizing, unﬂinching consideration of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.
I Have Some Questions for You
By Rebecca Makkai
Published by Penguin
June 2023 Selection
A successful film professor and podcaster, Bodie Kane is content to forget her past—the family tragedy that marred her adolescence, her four largely miserable years at a New Hampshire boarding school, and the murder of her former roommate, Thalia Keith, in the spring of their senior year. Though the circumstances surrounding Thalia’s death and the conviction of the school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, are hotly debated online, Bodie prefers—needs—to let sleeping dogs lie.
But when the Granby School invites her back to teach a course, Bodie is inexorably drawn to the case and its increasingly apparent ﬂaws. In their rush to convict Omar, did the school and the police overlook other suspects? Is the real killer still out there? As she falls down the very rabbit hole she was so determined to avoid, Bodie begins to wonder if she wasn’t as much of an outsider at Granby as she’d thought—if, perhaps, back in 1995, she knew something that might have held the key to solving the case.
In I Have Some Questions for You, award-winning author Rebecca Makkai has crafted her most irresistible novel yet: a stirring investigation into collective memory and a deeply felt examination of one woman’s reckoning with her past, with a transﬁxing mystery at its heart. Timely, hypnotic, and populated with a cast of unforgettable characters, I Have Some Questions for You is at once a compulsive page-turner and a literary triumph..
By Salman Rushdie
Published by Random House
May 2023 Selection
In the wake of an unimportant battle between two long-forgotten kingdoms in fourteenth-century southern India, a nine-year-old girl has a divine encounter that will change the course of history. After witnessing the death of her mother, the grief-stricken Pampa Kampana becomes a vessel for a goddess, who begins to speak out of the girl’s mouth. Granting her powers beyond Pampa Kampana’s comprehension, the goddess tells her that she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga—“victory city”—the wonder of the world.
Over the next 250 years, Pampa Kampana’s life becomes deeply interwoven with Bisnaga’s, from its literal sowing from a bag of magic seeds to its tragic ruination in the most human of ways: the hubris of those in power. Whispering Bisnaga and its citizens into existence, Pampa Kampana attempts to make good on the task that the goddess set for her: to give women equal agency in a patriarchal world. But all stories have a way of getting away from their creator, and Bisnaga is no exception. As years pass, rulers come and go, battles are won and lost, and allegiances shift, the very fabric of Bisnaga becomes an ever more complex tapestry—with Pampa Kampana at its center.
Brilliantly styled as a translation of an ancient epic, Victory City is a saga of love, adventure, and myth that is in itself a testament to the power of storytelling.
By Percival Everett
Published by Graywolf Press
April 2023 Selection
Percival Everett’s The Trees is a page-turner that opens with a series of brutal murders in the rural town of Money, Mississippi. When a pair of detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation arrive, they meet expected resistance from the local sheriff, his deputy, the coroner, and a string of racist White townsfolk. The murders present a puzzle, for at each crime scene there is a second dead body: that of a man who resembles Emmett Till.
The detectives suspect that these are killings of retribution, but soon discover that eerily similar murders are taking place all over the country. Something truly strange is afoot. As the bodies pile up, the MBI detectives seek answers from a local root doctor who has been documenting every lynching in the country for years, uncovering a history that refuses to be buried. In this bold, provocative book, Everett takes direct aim at racism and police violence, and does so in a fast-paced style that ensures the reader can’t look away. The Trees is an enormously powerful novel of lasting importance from an author with his finger on America’s pulse..
The Rabbit Hutch
By Tess Gunty
Published by Knopf Doubleday
March 2023 Selection
An online obituary writer. A young mother with a dark secret. A woman waging a solo campaign against rodents—neighbors, separated only by the thin walls of a low-cost housing complex in the once bustling industrial center of Vacca Vale, Indiana.
Welcome to the Rabbit Hutch.
Ethereally beautiful and formidably intelligent, Blandine shares her apartment with three teenage boys she neither likes nor understands, all, like her, now aged out of the state foster care system that has repeatedly failed them, all searching for meaning in their lives.
Set over one sweltering week in July and culminating in a bizarre act of violence that finally changes everything, The Rabbit Hutch is a savagely beautiful and bitingly funny snapshot of contemporary America, a gorgeous and provocative tale of loneliness and longing, entrapment and, ultimately, freedom.
By Abdulrazak Gurnah
Published by Penguin
February 2023 Selection
When he was just a boy, Ilyas was stolen from his parents on the coast of east Africa by German colonial troops. After years away, fighting against his own people, he returns home to find his parents gone and his sister, Afiya, abandoned into de facto slavery. Hamza, too, returns home from the war, scarred in body and soul and with nothing but the clothes on his back–until he meets the beautiful, undaunted Afiya. As these young people live and work and fall in love, their fates knotted ever more tightly together, the shadow of a new war on another continent falls over them, threatening once again to carry them away..
About this series
Whether you’re looking to catch up on great novels or you’re interested in exploring a new writer or literary period, our reading groups offer high-level literary discussion led by experts in the field.
Dickens, Gaskell, and Collins with Amanda Hollander
Six Sessions Thursdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT September 28, 2023 to January 4, 2024
Surgery on the Sentence Level with Omer Friedlander$150
Saturday & Sunday 12:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT September 30 to October 1, 2023
Writing History with Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond$125
Saturday, 12:00 pm EDT - 4:30 pm EDT September 30, 2023
Writing Fiction for Social Justice with Ruth Mukwana$495
Once a week Mondays, 12:00 pm EDT - 2:00 pm EDT October 2 to November 20, 2023
George Eliot’s Middlemarch with Sheila Kohler
Every Other Week Mondays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT October 2 to November 27, 2023
William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying with Elizabeth Howard
Once a week Wednesdays, 6:30 pm EDT - 8:00 pm EDT October 4 to October 25, 2023
Good Moms, Bad Moms: Mothers in Contemporary French Autobiographies with Lise Schreier$225
Five Sessions Thursdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT October 5 to December 21, 2023
Belief and Doubt: The Novels of Graham Greene (and One by John le Carré) with Dennis Krieger
Five Sessions 7:00 pm EDT - 8:30 pm EDT October 5 to January 18, 2023
Writing Family Stories and Family Histories with Eraldo Souza dos Santos$150
Friday—Sunday October 6 to October 8, 2023
An Introduction to Comics with Sofia Warren$150
Saturday & Sunday 11:00 am EDT - 2:00 pm EDT October 7 to October 8, 2023
What's Italian? Collodi's Pinocchio and De Amicis’s Heart with Antonio Romani
Once a week Saturdays, 12:00 pm EDT - 1:30 pm EDT October 7 to October 28, 2023
Revising the College Essay with Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons$75
Saturday, 1:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT October 7, 2023
Genre/Gender-Bending Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy with Joy Sanchez-Taylor
Three Sessions Mondays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT October 9 to November 20, 2023
Writing Powerful, Characterizing Dialogue in Fiction with Joanna Cantor$395
Once a week Wednesdays, 7:00 pm EDT - 9:00 pm EDT October 11 to November 15, 2023
Henry Fielding's The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling with Rebecca Rukeyser
Once a week Wednesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT October 11 to December 13, 2023
How to Publish Translation Writing with Bruna Dantas Lobato$150
Saturday & Sunday 12:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT October 14 to October 15, 2023
Members Only: The NightlightersFree
Monday, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT October 16, 2023
Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual with Evan James
Once a week Tuesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT October 17 to December 19, 2023
Creating a Book Marketing Plan: How to Authentically Promote Your Book and Engage Your Community with Eleanor Whitney$150
Saturday & Sunday 11:00 am EDT - 2:00 pm EDT October 21 to October 22, 2023
Literary Truth: How to Write Immersive Nonfiction with Courtney Zoffness$150
Saturday & Sunday 12:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT October 21 to October 22, 2023