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The Best New Books of April 2019

It's National Poetry Month, y'all.

April is National Poetry Month, and boy are there some great poetry books coming out over the next four weeks. New works by Jericho Brown, Franny Choi, Michael Earl Craig, Camonghne Felix, Gala Mukomolova, and Emily Skaja are forthcoming, along with a third BreakBeat Poets anthology, this time edited by Fatimah Asghar and Safia Elhillo. Whew!

Women Talking
By Miriam Toews
Bloomsbury, April 2

“Based on real events, Women Talking is the story of eight women in a remote Mennonite colony who face an agonizing decision in the aftermath of a series of unspeakable sexual crimes.”

Sabrina & Corina
By Kali Fajardo-Anstine
One World, April 2

“Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Indigenous Latina characters and the land they inhabit. Set against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado—a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite—these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force.”

I Miss You When I Blink
By Mary Laura Philpott
Atria Books, April 2

“In this memoir-in-essays full of spot-on observations about home, work, and creative life, Philpott takes on the conflicting pressures of modern adulthood with wit and heart. She offers up her own stories to show that identity crises don’t happen just once or only at midlife; reassures us that small, recurring personal re-inventions are both normal and necessary; and advises that if you’re going to faint, you should get low to the ground first.” 

The Light Years
By Chris Rush
FSG, April 2

“The Light Years is a prayer for vanished friends, an odyssey signposted with broken and extraordinary people. It transcends one boy’s story to perfectly illustrate the slow slide from the optimism of the 1960s into the darker and more sinister 1970s. This is a riveting, heart-stopping journey of discovery and reconciliation, as Rush faces his lost childhood and, finally, himself.”

The Tradition
By Jericho Brown
Copper Canyon Press, April 2

“The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive.”

Woods and Clouds Interchangeable
By Michael Earl Craig
Wave Books, April 2

“Dexterously constructed, the scenes, conversations, letters, instructions, stories, bios, and little fables of Woods and Clouds Interchangeable twist the comedic into shapes of startling seriousness, making us laugh at the same time they widen the dimensions of the world we live in.”

Soft Science
By Franny Choi
Alice James Books, April 2

Soft Science explores queer, Asian American femininity. A series of Turing Test-inspired poems grounds its exploration of questions not just of identity, but of consciousness—how to be tender and feeling and still survive a violent world filled with artificial intelligence and automation. We are dropped straight into the tangled intersections of technology, violence, erasure, agency, gender, and loneliness.”

Meander Spiral Explode
By Jane Alison
Catapult, April 2

“Novelist and writing teacher Jane Alison illuminates the many shapes other than the usual wavelike “narrative arc” that can move fiction forward. The stories she loves most follow other organic patterns found in nature—spirals, meanders, and explosions, among others. Alison’s manifesto for new modes of narrative will appeal to serious readers and writers alike.”

Brute
By Emily Skaja
Graywolf Press, April 2

“Emily Skaja’s debut collection is a fiery, hypnotic book that confronts the dark questions and menacing silences around gender, sexuality, and violence. Brute arises, brave and furious, from the dissolution of a relationship, showing how such endings necessitate self-discovery and reinvention.” 

Wounds
By Nathan Ballingrud
Saga Press, April 9

“In Wounds, Ballingrud follows up with an even more confounding, strange, and utterly entrancing collection of six stories, including one new novella. From the eerie dread descending upon a New Orleans dive bartender after a cell phone is left behind in a rollicking bar fight in “The Visible Filth” to the search for the map of hell in “The Butcher’s Table,” Ballingrud’s beautifully crafted stories are riveting in their quietly terrifying depictions of the murky line between the known and the unknown.”

We Are Mayhem
By Michael Moreci
St. Martin’s Press, April 9

“The second entry in the Star Wars-inspired series that Nerdist calls “the next big thing.”

Naamah
By Sarah Blake
Riverhead Books, April 9

“With the coming of the Great Flood—the mother of all disasters—only one family was spared, drifting on an endless sea, waiting for the waters to subside. We know the story of Noah, moved by divine vision to launch their escape. Now, in a work of astounding invention, acclaimed writer Sarah Blake reclaims the story of his wife, Naamah, the matriarch who kept them alive.”

Trust Exercise
By Susan Choi
Henry Holt, April 9

“As captivating and tender as it is surprising, Trust Exercise will incite heated conversations about fiction and truth, and about friendships and loyalties, and will leave readers with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and of the powers and responsibilities of adults.”

The Magnetic Girl
By Jessica Handler
Hub City Press, April 9

“Gorgeously envisioned, The Magnetic Girl is set at a time when the emerging presence of electricity raised suspicions about the other-worldly gospel of Spiritualism, and when women’s desire for political, cultural, and sexual presence electrified the country. Squarely in the realm of Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder and Leslie Parry’s Church of Marvels, The Magnetic Girl is a unique portrait of a forgotten period in history, seen through the story of one young woman’s power over her family, her community, and ultimately, herself.”

Phantoms
By Christian Kiefer
Liveright, April 9

“Torn apart by war and bigotry, two families confront long-buried secrets in this haunting American novel of World War II and Vietnam. In prose recalling Thomas Wolfe, Phantoms is a stunning exploration of the ghosts of American exceptionalism that haunt us today.”

Without Protection
By Gala Mukomolova
Coffee House Press, April 9

“In poems rich with sensuality and discord, Mukomolova explores her complex identity—Russian, Jewish, refugee, New Yorker, lesbian— through the Russian tale of Vasilyssa, a young girl left to fend for herself against the witch Baba Yaga. Heavy with family and fable, these poems are a beautiful articulation of difference under duress.”

Down from the Mountain: The Life and Death of a Grizzly Bear
By Bryce Andrews
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 16

“In searing detail, award-winning writer, Montana rancher, and conservationist Bryce Andrews tells us about one such grizzly. Millie is a typical mother: strong, cunning, fiercely protective of her cubs. But raising those cubs—a challenging task in the best of times—becomes ever harder as the mountains change, the climate warms and people crowd the valleys. There are obvious dangers, like poachers, and subtle ones as well, like the corn field that draws her out of the foothills and sets her on a path toward trouble and ruin.”

Normal People
By Sally Rooney
Hogarth, April 16

“At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.”

Miracle Creek
By Angie Kim
Sarah Crichton Books, April 16

“In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine—a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic “dives” with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.”

The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3: Halal If You Hear Me
Edited by Fatimah Asghar and Safia Elhillo
Haymarket Books, April 16

“The collected poems dispel the notion that there is one correct way to be a Muslim by holding space for multiple, intersecting identities while celebrating and protecting those identities.”

Build Yourself a Boat
By Camonghne Felix
Haymarket Books, April 23

“This is about what grows through the wreckage. This is an anthem of survival and a look at what might come after. A view of what floats and what, ultimately, sustains. Build Yourself a Boat redefines the language of collective and individual trauma through lyric and memory.”

The Besieged City
By Clarice Lispector
Edited by Benjamin Moser
Translated by Johnny Lorenz
New Directions, April 30

“Civilization is on its way to this place, where wild horses still roam. As Lucrécia is tamed by marriage, Sao Geraldo gradually expels its horses; and as the town strives for the highest attainment it can conceive—a viaduct—it takes on the progressively more metropolitan manners that Lucrécia, with her vulgar ambitions, desires too. Yet it is precisely through this woman’s superficiality—her identification with the porcelain knickknacks in her mother’s parlor—that Clarice Lispector creates a profound and enigmatic meditation on ‘the mystery of the thing.'”

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