There’s always a certain sense of disbelief that comes with the arrival of June: have we really gotten halfway through the year already? Many of us might be finding that harder to believe than usual with all the strange and singular challenges 2021 has already brought us. But the good news is there’s no shortage of great books to absorb you during the lingering daylight hours. Below you’ll find twelve new titles coming out this month that will have you turning the pages through even the longest days of the summer.
Black Snake: Standing Rock, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Environmental Justice
By Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys
It can be easy to forget, after all that’s happened since, that the demonstrations against DAPL at Standing Rock were less than five years ago. Human rights lawyer Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys takes an on-the-ground view of the events, building this study around interviews with four Native leaders of the activist movement. It’s a timely reminder of what resources still need protecting and the next generation of young people putting their lives on the line to do so.
By Chet’la Sebree
Winner of the 2020 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, Chet’la Sebree presents this ravishing and deeply personal new hybrid work, part prose poem and part scientific study, exploding the concepts of genre in the process. Messy in structure but precise in its storytelling, Sebree grapples with the insufficiency of data to fully capture a self, and a people. Fans of Claudia Rankine and Maggie Nelson shouldn’t miss it.
Walking on Cowrie Shells
By Nana Nkweti
Caine Prize finalist and Iowa Writers Workshop alum Nana Nkweti makes an auspicious debut with this story collection, whose roving, voracious energy is sure to dazzle readers. Plucking from such genres as mystery, horror, satire, myth, realism, and even graphic novels to spin her tales, Nkweti’s sure hand on her characters never falters, traversing over the lands of Cameroon and America with the aplomb of a writer well into a celebrated career.
By Karen Tucker
Fans of Julie Buntin’s Marlena should take note of this debut from Karen Tucker, an immersive and raw examination of America’s opioid crisis told through the eyes of two teenage girls in rural North Carolina. As seductive and heartbreaking as such intense friendships can be, Bewilderness‘ diptych structure hurls the reader between past and present, demonstrating with remarkable clarity how the pull of an addictive past can disrupt and complicate the present.
By Jesse McCarthy
Jesse McCarthy is already having quite the year with the publication of his essay collection Who Will Pay Reparations For My Soul? back in March. Readers who enjoy his insightful and rigorous nonfiction work will definitely want to check out his debut novel out this month. Formally inventive and lyrically ecstatic, this complex portrait of the artist as a Black man is as rich in intellectual musings as it is in flights of fancy, demonstrating the full range of McCarthy’s literary prowess.
All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake
By Tiya Miles
Harvard historian and 2011 MacArthur “Genius” fellow Tiya Miles is renowned for her ability to spin touchingly personal stories out of deeply researched material. Her latest tour de force centers on Ashley’s Sack, which is on display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. From this single piece of history, Miles traces three generations of Black women from 1850’s South Carolina to the recent past, crafting her own indispensable artifact in the process.
By Mohamed Kheir; Translated by Robin Moger
Two Lines Press
Award-winning author Mohamed Kheir is a prolific novelist, poet, short story writer, journalist, and lyricist in his native Egypt so American readers have good reason to rejoice in Slipping, his first work to be translated in English. Set in the uncertain post-Arab Spring haze, Kheir’s enchanting fable is brought to brilliant life by Robin Moger. Fans of Haruki Murakami and Gabriel Garcia Marquez should make room on their shelves for this one!
Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir
By Akwaeke Emezi
The mind-blowingly talented Akwaeke Emezi has been a finalist for a boatload of awards with their three previous novels. Now they bring their candid and visionary eye to the memoir with this revelatory new work, constructed as a series of letters with friends, lovers, and family as Emezi pieces together their identity as a non-binary trans human. Steeped in the Igbo traditions that Emezi has explored in their fiction, it’s a harrowing but ultimately inspiring look at an artist coming into their own.
By Lisa Taddeo
Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster
Lisa Taddeo’s 2019 book Three Women was a genuine phenomenon all too rare these days: a serious examination of female desire that drew comparisons to such classics of embedded journalism as In Cold Blood and Random Family. Thus expectations are high for her first foray into literary fiction. Luckily Animal seems poised to engage fearlessly with the same topics that make her reportage so riveting and is sure to be starting conversations for months to come.
The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood
By Krys Malcolm Belc
Krys Malcolm Belc has long been a frank and warm presence on social media, and in this memoir he invites readers into his experiences of conceiving, birthing, and breastfeeding his son as a nonbinary, transmasculine parent with a similar generosity of spirit. Supplemented with photographs, documents, and illustrations, Belc’s impressionistic and vulnerable book proves that there is no one way to make a family, or be a caregiver, bringing nuance to a conversation that can feel too rigidly formed.
By Mariana Oliver; Translated by Julia Sanches
Mexican-born essayist Mariana Oliver makes her stateside debut with Migratory Birds, already a prize-winner in her home country. Gracefully translated by Julia Sanches, it’s an intimate and thoughtful meditation on movement of all kinds, as roving and brimming with curiosity as the topic demands. Blending criticism and reportage with travel writing to initiate a genre all her own, Oliver’s work will appeal greatly to fans of Valeria Luiselli’s nonfiction.
Leaving Breezy Street
By Brenda Myers-Powell
Henry Holt & Co.
Hometown hero Brenda Myers-Powell, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago and co-founded the Dreamcatcher Foundation in 2008, shares the story of the beautiful and brutal life that led to over twenty years of advocacy for victims of sex trafficking. Myers-Powell has done decades of vital work to allow others to be heard. Now she adds her voice to the growing chorus she helped make possible. This is a soul-expanding book.