In the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, March 2016 looks like a banner month for diversity in publishing, including the following books from writers in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Burundi, India, and Morocco, as well as writers of color in the United Kingdom and the United States. We’ll be covering more than half of these books here at the CHIRB later this month, but until then, enjoy their opening lines below.
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
March 1, Graywolf Press
Barrett’s satirical debut novel is an African twist on Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, as a young Nigerian mysteriously transforms into a red-haired, green-eyed white man overnight.
Furo Wariboko awoke this morning to find that dreams can lose their way and turn up on the wrong side of sleep. He was lying nude in bed, and when he raised his head a fraction he could see his alabaster belly, and his pale legs beyond, covered with fuzz that glinted bronze in the cold daylight pouring in through the open window. He sat up with a sudden motion that swilled the panic in his stomach and spilled his hands into his lap. He stared at his hands, the pink life lines in his palms, the shellfish-coloured cuticles, the network of blue veins that ran from knuckle to wrist, more veins than he had ever noticed before. His hands were not black but white… same as his legs, his belly, all of him. He clenched his fists, squeezed his eyes shut, and sank on to the bed. Outside, a bird chirruped short piercing cries, like mocking laughter.
The Face: Cartography of the Void by Chris Abani
March 1, Restless Books
A unique, concise memoir—one of the first in an ongoing series—where authors use the contours of their own faces as a narrative springboard to tell their stories. In Abani’s case, from a childhood in West Africa to London, California, and Chicago.
There are no easy ways to speak these words. No way to honor love and truth without something getting lost in translation. It is made even more complex when one party is dead, silent to this world. And how do you tell a story that is commonplace and felt by all without giving in to sentimentality? But the thing is that, in the end, we each must decide how comfortable we are with how much we hurt other people.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours: Stories by Helen Oyeyemi
March 8, Riverhead Books
A collection of short stories from the author of Boy, Snow, Bird.
Once upon a time in Catalonia a baby was found in a chapel. This was over at Santa Maria de Montserrat. It was an April morning. And the baby was so wriggly and minuscule that the basket she was found in looked empty at first glance. The child had got lost in a corner of it, but courageously wriggled her way back up to the top fold of the blanket in order to peep out. The monk who found this basket searched desperately for an explanation.
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
March 8, Saga Press
From the author of last year’s acclaimed The Grace of KingsThe Grace of Kings comes a collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories, including the eponymous Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-winning tale.
One of my earliest memories starts with me sobbing. I refused to be soothed no matter what Mom and Dad tried.
Baho! by Roland Rugero (Translated by Chris Schaefer)
March 15, Phoneme Media
The first Burundian novel ever translated into English, about a mute boy whose innocent gestures are mistaken for an attempted rape.
By the time the sun’s luminous fingers had come to rest on Hariho’s fields, his neck was already sore. Undeniably, nights are cold in these parts. This morning he had come down to this trickle of water to rest, like a mosquito sated after a night pumping blood from the depths of fatigued and world-weary veins. He was calm, brimming with images from last night and the mouthfuls he had swiped here and there during his social calls.
Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar
March 15, Small Beer Press
Samatar’s highly anticipated follow-up to A Stranger in Olondria.
The swordmaiden will discover the secrets of men. She will discover that men at war are not as men at peace. She will discover an unforeseen comradeship. Take care: this comradeship is a Dueman shield. It does not extend all the way to the ground.
Whitefly by Abdelilah Hamdouchi (Translated by Jonathan Smolin)
March 15, The American University in Cairo Press
A Moroccan noir from one of the first Arabic writers of police fiction.
No excerpt available.
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation by Natalie Y. Moore
March 22, St. Martin’s Press
A powerful, no-holds-barred look at the lasting effects of segregation and redlining in Chicago, written by WBEZ Chicago’s South Side reporter.
Chicago is one of the most segregated yet diverse cities in America. Chicagoans typically don’t live, work or play together. Unlike many other major U.S. cities, no one race dominates. We are about equal parts black, white and Latino, each group clustered in various enclaves. Chicago is a city in which black people sue over segregation and discrimination, whether it concerns disparities in public schools or not being admitted into hot downtown spots. Some people shrug off segregation because they say racism and white supremacy will still exist. I concur. But segregation amplifies racial inequalities. It’s deliberate, ugly and harmful. The legacy of segregation and its ongoing policies keep Chicago divided.
The Dove’s Necklace by Raja Alem
March 22, Overlook Press
A murder mystery in Mecca from the first female winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
No excerpt available.
Almost Home: Finding A Place In The World From Kashmir To New York by Githa Hariharan
March 22, Restless Books
A world-spanning collection of essays from a prolific Indian novelist and journalist.
In the early months of 2005, a burglar broke into the small flat in Delhi I then used as a workplace. I didn’t chase the police about following up my complaint. Instead I wasted time speculating on what the burglar made of the place. (I don’t know that it was only one man, but that seemed neater for purposes of speculation.) I imagined his disappointment at the rows and rows of books, not dusted as often as they should be. Perhaps he noticed, with disgust, how many unfinished manuscripts sat forlorn on the tables and in the cabinets. At any rate, he only trashed some of them.
Adam Morgan is the founding editor of the Chicago Review of Books and the Southern Review of Books. His essays and criticism have appeared in The Paris Review, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, and elsewhere.