Spring has finally sprung, dear readers, and along with the rain showers that tend to arrive in April there is a veritable downpour of great reads coming out this month. If you’re in need of a little guidance, never fear — we’ve got you covered here at the CHIRB, at least when it comes to books, though we’d offer an umbrella if we could. Below are twelve excellent new titles to stay dry with.
Khabaar: An Immigrant Journey of Food, Memory, and Family
By Madhushree Ghosh
University of Iowa Press
The food essay becomes a space for innovation in Madhushree Ghosh’s expansive collection Khabaar, which is simultaneously global and intimate in its range. Drawing on her background as a scientist, social justice activist, and daughter of Indian refugees, Ghosh focuses on the chefs and home cooks dealing firsthand with the challenges of maintaining culinary traditions in new worlds. It’s a full meal of a book: layered, warm, and worth savoring.
Little Foxes Took Up Matches
By Katya Kazbek
Tin House Books
Readers in search of a little magic, and who isn’t these days, should make room on their shelves for Katya Kazbek’s bewitching debut novel, Little Foxes Took Up Matches. As sprightly as its title, this story of a precocious young boy coming of age in a collapsing Soviet Union draws on the fairy tales of Kazbek’s childhood to explore how all of us make myths of our own lives, written with an acrobatic delight in the possibilities of language.
By Douglas Stuart
Douglas Stuart’s debut Shuggie Bain was a genuine sensation – not only winning the 2020 Booker Prize but becoming a bestseller in the process, with more than a million copies sold worldwide. He returns two years later with Young Mungo, a tender-hearted page-turner of forbidden young love between two men in working class Glasgow. Featuring his trademark lyricism and sensitivity, it cements Stuart as one of literary fiction’s finest practitioners.
Time is a Mother
By Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong makes his long-awaited return to poetry following the massive success of his debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous with this intimate and propulsive collection that grapples with the death of his mother. Sifting through the shattered pieces of his memory, Vuong makes a fragmented offering of his grief to readers, bending and redefining the elegiac form. It’s an astonishing work, a testament to our shared humanity just when we need it most.
The Unwritten Book: An Investigation
By Samantha Hunt
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Samantha Hunt has proved herself a writer of capacious imagination with her elegant short stories and novels. Now she turns that roving eye to a personal inquiry of haunting with this genre-bending nonfiction work centered around an unfinished manuscript written by her father and found days after his death. Blending literary criticism, history, and memoir, The Unwritten Book is sure to appeal to fans of Maggie Nelson and W.G. Sebald.
Fly Over This: Stories From the New Midwest
By Ryan Elliott Smith
Chicago-based writer Ryan Elliott Smith makes his debut with this bracing short story collection, which is as antagonistic as it is affectionate in its finely honed portraits of life on the Midwestern fringes. The landscapes his characters inhabit may seem flat to those who have only viewed them from above, but Smith gives their emotional geography an immediacy that demands attention, his prose deeply attuned to the vernacular that makes this part of America so distinct.
Paradise Falls: The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe
By Keith O’Brien
Collective memory can feel awfully short these days, which is why it’s so imperative that the investigative work of writers like Keith O’Brien continue bringing our past to light. Here he excavates the story of the women who exposed the chemical polluting of the Love Canal by Hooker Chemical in 1977 and worked tirelessly to save their town from environmental disaster. Paced like a thriller, it’s a remarkable story of perseverance against impossible odds.
If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English
By Noor Naga
Winner of the Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize, If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English marks the auspicious debut of Noor Naga as a voice to watch. Set in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, this sensual and uncompromising novel is at once a sweeping romance and an interrogation of American identity politics, pinging deftly between alternating perspectives to ask big questions about whose stories are privileged in a globalized world.
By Rebecca Roanhorse
Two years after her bestselling epic fantasy Black Sun took the world by storm, Rebecca Roanhorse returns to the Meridian with this highly anticipated sequel to the Hugo, Nebula, Lambda, and Locus finalist. A major Native voice in genre writing, Roanhorse has crafted another stunning, politically-engaged page-turner that proves her Between Earth and Sky series is appointment reading. Get it in your calendar now.
All the Secrets of the World
By Steve Almond
A long-time beloved figure on the literary scene, Steve Almond has already published eleven books and co-hosted the Dear Sugar podcast for four years, which makes it hard to believe that All the Secrets of the World is his first novel. The wait has been well worth it – a cracked satire of Reagan-era American values, this shape-shifting work is part coming of age story, part police procedural, and sure to surprise and enthrall.
A House for the Struggle: The Black Press and the Built Environment in Chicago
By E. James West
University of Illinois Press
Chicago readers with an interest in regional architectural and journalism history will want to take particular note of this new release from research associate E. James West, which examines the city’s Black press through the buildings and neighborhoods that housed such legendary publications as Ebony and the Chicago Defender. It’s a fresh and engaging work that explores how the design of a built environment can often be a destiny.
By Fernanda Melchor; Translated by Sophie Hughes
Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season blew back our collective hair at the CHIRB in 2020, and just about everyone else’s too; it was a finalist for the Booker Prize and longlisted for the National Book Award in Translation. Writing with a brutality and precision that recalls the work of Flannery O’Connor, Melchor continues her project of exhuming the classism, misogyny, and racism buried in Mexican society here with a feverish intensity you can’t turn away from.