Well folks, T.S. Eliot’s so-called “cruelest month” is upon us once again. Writing from another post-pandemic wasteland, Eliot was cautious of the hope the spring rains and regrowth signaled after the unsparing cold of winter. But while there will certainly be disappointments and setbacks in the weeks ahead, there will be abundance too. Just as flower buds are slowly opening up again, the speedier distribution of vaccines means our cities soon will too—even if it will, for a while, continue to look a little bit different than we might want. In the meantime, there are plenty of great books to keep us company. Below are twelve new releases we’re particularly looking forward to here at the CHIRB.
By Morgan Jerkins
Already a celebrated cultural critic and essayist, the multi-talented Morgan Jerkins is set to take the fiction world by storm with her debut novel Caul Baby. Building on the themes of inheritance and identity explored in her nonfiction work, Jerkins spins a page-turning tale of familial intrigue that’s sure to appeal to fans of Jacqueline Woodson and Isabel Allende.
By Jeff VanderMeer
We’re big fans of VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy here at the CHIRB, so any new book from the author is sure to draw our notice. Urgent and chaotic in the best sense, this speculative eco-thriller demonstrates VanderMeer’s keen ability to spin terrifying futures out of the anxieties of our present. A can’t-miss for genre readers, and anyone who fears for our planet.
The Wild Fox of Yemen
By Threa Almontaser
Winner of the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award, Threa Almontaser makes her auspicious debut with this boldly unruly collection. At once a love letter to her homeland and a searing portrait of modern Muslim womanhood, The Wild Fox of Yemen continually pushes against the boundaries of countries and cultures, expanding the possibilities of the poetic form as it goes.
Blow Your House Down
By Gina Frangello
Chicago-based author Gina Frangello lays bare her experiences as a wife, mother, and adulterer with an honesty and generosity that feels downright radical. Broadening her own story to examine all the ways our culture entraps women in narratives of “goodness,” Frangello transgresses both societal expectations and genre bounds: this is not merely a memoir, but a call to arms.
You Made Me Love You: Selected Stories, 1981-2018
By John Edgar Wideman
John Edgar Wideman has been putting out excellent work for over fifty years and this indispensable career-spanning collection of short stories is poised to introduce him to a whole new generation of readers. As Publishers Weekly wrote in its starred review, “If there were any doubts Wideman belongs to the American canon, this puts them to bed.”
By Rikki Ducornet
Coffee House Press
Rikki Ducornet is something of a Renaissance woman, described in her bio as a poet, fiction writer, essayist, and interdisciplinary artist. She’s been called a “mad maestro,” “magic sensualist,” and “linguistically explosive,” and her latest novel expands on that reputation—a winsome mix of surrealism and space opera that’s impossible to pin down, not that you’d want to.
By Caleb Azumah Nelson
Grove Press, Black Cat
Twenty-six year old British-Ghanian writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson makes his literary debut with this stunning and soulful novel of two young Black artists finding and losing love in London, which Yaa Gyasi calls “tender poetry.” Sally Rooney fans in search of their next stirring, socially-conscious romance, look no further.
The Man Who Lived Underground
By Richard Wright
Library of America
The legendary Richard Wright published several classics during his lifetime, but this incendiary novel of police brutality and violence in America is only now seeing the light of day in its intended form, almost eighty years after it was first written. Accompanied by Wright’s companion essay “Memories of My Grandmother” and an afterword by the author’s grandson, this is a literary event that’s not to be missed.
Crying in H Mart
By Michelle Zauner
If, like us here at the CHIRB, you’re a fan of indie rock band Japanese Breakfast, you’ll be pleased to learn that the woman behind the group, Michelle Zauner, is also a considerably talented prose writer. As delicately balanced as the plates of Korean food Zauner and her mother bond over, this memoir is a book that, as Rachel Syme puts it, “you experience with all your senses.”
By Izumi Suzuki; Translated by Polly Barton, Sam Bett, David Boyd, Daniel Joseph, Aiko Masubuchi, and Helen O’Horan
Izumi Suzuki was a punk pioneer and countercultural icon in Japan, whose wildly speculative works continue to influence science fiction writers thirty-five years after her untimely passing. This collection marks the first translation of her stories in English, and it’s sure to be a treat for fans of Haruki Murakami, George Saunders, and the twisty genre experimentation of Black Mirror.
By Emmanuel Mbolela; Translated by Charlotte Collins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Congolese-born activist and writer Emmanuel Mbolela offers a harrowing and courageous account of his refugee journey, starting with his arrest in 2002 and enforced emigration from his homeland and the six years of migration he endured to find asylum. First published in Germany in 2014, this galvanizing book puts a personal face on a global crisis, advocating for humanity above all.
Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America
By Nicole Eustace
A long overdue addition to the canon of early American history, this deeply researched and exquisitely crafted account of a deadly attack on an Indigenous hunter by white fur traders unearths a long forgotten chapter in our country’s founding. Eustace centers the voices of Natives in her reconstruction of the crime and its aftermath, challenging our conceptions of the past and its echoes in our present.