A typical twentieth-century complaint: “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we do X?” If we can put boots on a heavenly body, why can’t the first few squares of toilet paper rip clean? Why can’t we stop M. Night Shyamalan from making movies?
Plenty of musicians write memoirs. A few publish poetry collections. But not many write novels aside from Rita Indiana, lead singer of the Dominican Republic’s Rita Indiana y Los Misterios. Fusing traditional merengue music with alternative rock, Indiana’s band is as fresh and original as her newly translated novel, Papi. Originally published in Spanish in 2005, the University of Chicago Press’s English release was translated by Achy Objeas, who also translated Junot Díaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Robert Morgan—the North Carolina poet and author of Gap Creek—adds “slave narrative” to his sub-genre toolkit with Chasing the North Star, his new historical novel from Algonquin Books. While his depiction of slavery isn’t grounded in the same realism as, say, 12 Years a Slave, and he too-often commits the narrative sin of convenience, it’s still a gorgeous book full of lush prose, compelling characters, and an epic journey across America ten years before the Civil War.
The brutal Middle Passage across the Atlantic is one of the most painful chapters in the history of forced African American migration. Thus Aracelis Girmay’s new poetry collection, The Black Maria—a haunting, blistering, vital examination of the African diaspora from 15th-century slave ships to Neil deGrasse Tyson—is a book of memories and seas.
There’s a fugitive hiding somewhere in the tiny rust-belt town of Lomath, Pennsylvania. The FBI wants to find him, and they’re not just, like, looking around. They’ve shut down every road in and out of town, turned off electricity and phone lines, and searched houses without warrants. Believe it or not, this is not everybody’s favorite thing.
In 2011, Saudi Arabian novelist Raja Alem became the first woman to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for The Dove’s Necklace. However, the news was met with controversy and skepticism, since Alem was also the first co-winner of the award, along with Moroccan writer Achaari.
On a visit to India, award-winning novelist and editor Githa Hariharan met a local man who, despite living his entire life in the village of Hampi, didn’t know any of the traditional stories immortalized by local statues and shrines to Ganesha, Narasimha, or any of the other gods. He didn’t know about the 16th-century warrior king, Rama Raya, or how the village was built on the site of the ancient city of Vijayanagar. Hariharan did.
At first glance, Stork Mountain sounds like a typical, coming-of-age immigrant narrative, when a young Bulgarian in America returns to his homeland to escape student loan debt. But Miroslav Penkov—author of the acclaimed short story collection, East of the West—uses classic narrative forms as a springboard for a dark, dreamlike debut novel steeped in Balkan history and legend.
The Confidence Game is a revealing and engrossing primer on how con artists work and why we’re such suckers. But for all the insights Konnikova offers, fraudsters will continue to separate fools from their money (she refers to the confidence game as “the (real) oldest profession”) because our ingrained trust and gullibility make us easy prey for the right scam.