6-7s Building Study: Progressive Education

Jay's 2019 Summer Reading List for Grown-ups

Jay's 2019 Summer Reading List for Grown-ups

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Lost Children Archive: A Novel by Valeria Luiselli - A family treks south to the U.S.–Mexico border, bearing tales of broken migrant families all the way down. This remarkable, inventive fictional take on this issue captures the anguish of those families through a deliberate piling-up of stories; reading it, you feel yourself slowly coming face to face with a world where masses of children are separated, missing, or dead of exposure in the desert. Luiselli eases into the tale by introducing an unnamed New York couple, both audio documentarians, driving their children, ages 10 and 5, to the Arizona-Mexico border. The father wants to explore the remnants of Apache culture there; the mother, who narrates much of the book, is recording an audio essay on the border crisis and has promised a woman to look into the fates of her two daughters who’ve been detained. As they drive, they alternate listening to news reports about the border and an audiobook of Lord of the Flies, and the opening sections are thick with literary references and social critique; imagine On the Road rewritten by Maggie Nelson. But the story darkens as they witness the plight firsthand and, later, as the couple's children stumble into their own crisis. There’s a slightly bloodless, formal aspect to the novel in the early going: It's structured around “archive boxes” that each character carries in the car’s trunk, and a book of elegies the mother reads to the children is made up of variations on works by Ezra Pound, Joseph Conrad, Juan Rulfo, and more. In the current political moment, one might want a less abstruse approach. But as the novel rises to a ferocious climax in a 20-page-long single sentence, Luiselli thunderously, persuasively insists that reckoning with the border will make deep demands of both our intellectual and emotional reserves.

 Where the Crawdads Sing: A Novel by Delia Smith - For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When her wild beauty intrigues two young men from town, Kya opens herself to a new life--until the unthinkable happens. Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. (Fiction)

 Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi - By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Kwame Onwuachi (winner of the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef of   the Year) had opened—and closed—one of the most talked about restaurants in America. He had launched his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars that he made from selling candy on the   subway, yet he’d been told he would never make it on television because his cooking wasn’t “Southern” enough. In this inspiring memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, he shares the   remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age. Growing up in the Bronx, as a boy Onwuachi was sent to rural Nigeria by his mother to “learn respect.” However, the hard-won knowledge gained in Africa   was not enough to keep him from the temptation and easy money of the streets when he returned home. But through food, he broke out of a dangerous downward spiral, embarking on a new beginning at   the bottom of the culinary food chain as a chef on board a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship, before going on to train in the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country and appearing as a contestant on Top Chef. Onwuachi’s love of food and cooking remained a constant throughout, even when he found the road to success riddled with potholes. As a young chef, he was forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the world of fine dining can be for people of color, and his first restaurant, the culmination of years of planning, shuttered just months after opening. A powerful, heartfelt, and shockingly honest story of chasing your dreams—even when they don’t turn out as you expected—Notes from a Young Black Chef is one man’s pursuit of his passions, despite the odds.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel by Ocean Vuong - On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard. With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

Is, Is Not: New Poems by Tess Gallagher - Tess Gallagher's new poems are suspended between contradiction and beauty. Is, Is Not upends our notions of linear time, evokes the spirit and sanctity of place, and journeys toward discovering the full capacity of language. Gallagher's poems reverberate with the inward clarity of a bell struck on a mountaintop and hover daringly at the threshold of what language can nearly deliver while offering alternative corollaries as gifts of its failures. Guided by humor, grace, and a deep inquiry into the natural world, every poem nudges us toward moments of awe. How else except by delight and velocity would we discover the miracle within the ordinary? Gallagher claims many Wests - the Northwest of America, the north-west of Ireland, and a West even further to the edge, beyond the physical. These landscapes are charged with invisible energies and inhabited by the people, living and dead, who shape Gallagher's poems and life. Restorative in every sense, Is, Is Not is the kind of book that takes a lifetime to write - a book of the spirit made manifest by the poet's unrelenting gaze and her intimate engagement with the mysteries that keep us reaching.

Just Kids: A Memoir by Patti Smith - It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation. Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-Second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max’s Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous, the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years. Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists’ ascent, a prelude to fame.

Paris, 7 A.M.: A Novel by Liza Wieland - June 1937. Elizabeth Bishop, still only a young woman and not yet one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century, arrives in France with her college roommates. They are in search of an escape, and inspiration, far from the protective world of Vassar College where they were expected to find an impressive husband, a quiet life, and act accordingly. But the world is changing, and as they explore the City of Light, the larger threats of fascism and occupation are looming. There, they meet a community of upper-crust expatriates who not only bring them along on a life-changing adventure, but also into an underground world of rebellion that will quietly alter the course of Elizabeth’s life forever. Paris, 7 A.M. imagines 1937—the only year Elizabeth, a meticulous keeper of journals, didn’t fully chronicle—in vivid detail and brings us from Paris to Normandy where Elizabeth becomes involved with a group rescuing Jewish “orphans” and delivering them to convents where they will be baptized as Catholics and saved from the impending horror their parents will face.
Poignant and captivating, Liza Wieland’s Paris, 7 A.M. is a beautifully rendered take on the formative years of one of America’s most celebrated—and mythologized—female poets. (Fiction)

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob - A bold, wry, and intimate graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us, from the acclaimed author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing. “How brown is too brown?” “Can Indians be racist?” “What does real love between really different people look like?” Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love. Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.

We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina Love - Drawing on her life’s work of teaching and researching in urban schools, Bettina Love persuasively argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities through radical civic initiatives and movements. She argues that the US educational system is maintained by and profits from the suffering of children of color. Instead of trying to repair a flawed system, educational reformers offer survival tactics in the forms of test-taking skills, acronyms, grit labs, and character education, which Love calls the educational survival complex. To dismantle the educational survival complex and to achieve educational freedom—not merely reform—teachers, parents, and community leaders must approach education with the imagination, determination, boldness, and urgency of an abolitionist. Following in the tradition of activists like Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, and Fannie Lou Hamer, We Want to Do More Than Survive introduces an alternative to traditional modes of educational reform and expands our ideas of civic engagement and intersectional justice.

The House of Impossible Beauties: A Novel by Joseph Cassara - It’s 1980 in New York City, and nowhere is the city’s glamour and energy better reflected than in the burgeoning Harlem ball scene, where seventeen-year-old Angel first comes into her own. Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world, new to ball culture, and has a yearning inside of her to help create family for those without. When she falls in love with Hector, a beautiful young man who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, the two decide to form the House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the Harlem ball circuit. But when Hector dies of AIDS-related complications; Angel must bear the responsibility of tending to their house alone. As mother of the house, Angel recruits Venus, a whip-fast trans girl who dreams of finding a rich man to take care of her; Juanito, a quiet boy who loves fabrics and design; and Daniel, a butch queen who accidentally saves Venus’s life. The Xtravaganzas must learn to navigate sex work, addiction, and persistent abuse, leaning on each other as bulwarks against a world that resists them. All are ambitious, resilient, and determined to control their own fates, even as they hurtle toward devastating consequences. Told in a voice that brims with wit, rage, tenderness, and fierce yearning, The House of Impossible Beauties is a tragic story of love, family, and the dynamism of the human spirit. 

The Night Tiger: A Novel by Yangsze Choo - Quick-witted, ambitious Ji Lin is stuck as an apprentice dressmaker, moonlighting as a dancehall girl to help pay off her mother's Mahjong debts. But when one of her dance partners accidentally leaves behind a gruesome souvenir, Ji Lin plunges into a dark adventure: a mirror world of secrets and superstitions. Eleven-year-old houseboy Ren is also on a mission, racing to fulfill his former master's dying wish: that Ren find the man's finger, lost years ago in an accident, and bury it with his body. Ren has 49 days to do so, or his master's soul will wander the earth forever. As the days tick relentlessly by, a series of unexplained deaths racks the district, along with whispers of men who turn into tigers. Ji Lin and Ren's increasingly dangerous paths crisscross through lush plantations, hospital storage rooms, and ghostly dreamscapes. Yangsze Choo's The Night Tiger pulls us into a world of servants and masters, age-old superstition and modern idealism, sibling rivalry and forbidden love. But anchoring this dazzling, propulsive novel is the intimate coming-of-age of a child and a young woman, each searching for their place in a society that would rather they stay invisible.

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl - When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America’s oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone’s boss. Yet Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?
This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl’s leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media—the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down. Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of a woman coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams—even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be.

The House of Mr. Biswas: A Novel by V.S. Naipul - In his forty-six short years, Mr. Mohun Biswas has been fighting against destiny to achieve some semblance of independence, only to face a lifetime of calamity. Shuttled from one residence to another after the drowning death of his father, for which he is inadvertently responsible, Mr. Biswas yearns for a place he can call home. But when he marries into the domineering Tulsi family on whom he indignantly becomes dependent, Mr. Biswas embarks on an arduous– and endless–struggle to weaken their hold over him and purchase a house of his own. A heartrending, dark comedy of manners, A House for Mr. Biswas masterfully evokes a man’s quest for autonomy against an emblematic post-colonial canvas.

Is This How You See Me?: A Graphic Novel by Jaime Hernandez - In the follow-up to the LA Book Prize-winning The Love Bunglers, the Locas get the band back together―literally. Maggie and Hopey leave their significant others at home and take a weekend road trip to go to a punk scene reunion in their old neighborhood. Threaded throughout are flashbacks to 1979, during the formative stages in their lifelong relationship, as the perceived invincibility of youth is juxtaposed against all of the love, heartbreak, and self-awareness that comes with lives actually lived. Serialized over the past four years in Love and Rockets: New Stories and the new comic book series, Is This How You See Me? collects Hernandez’s unsentimental, long-form masterpiece together for the first time. Black & white illustrations throughout.

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell - From the Pulitzer Finalist and universally beloved author of the New York Times best sellers Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, a stunning new collection of short fiction that showcases Karen Russell’s extraordinary, irresistible gifts of language and imagination. Russell’s comedic genius and mesmerizing talent for creating outlandish predicaments that uncannily mirror our inner in lives is on full display in these eight exuberant, arrestingly vivid, unforgettable stories.  In“Bog Girl”, a revelatory story about first love, a young man falls in love with a two thousand year old girl that he’s extracted from a mass of peat in a Northern European bog.  In “The Prospectors,” two opportunistic young women fleeing the depression strike out for new territory, and find themselves fighting for their lives.  In the brilliant, hilarious title story, a new mother desperate to ensure her infant’s safety strikes a diabolical deal, agreeing to breastfeed the devil in exchange for his protection. The landscape in which these stories unfold is a feral, slippery, purgatorial space, bracketed by the void—yet within it Russell captures the exquisite beauty and tenderness of ordinary life. Orange World is a miracle of storytelling from a true modern master.

New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing By Women of African Descent by Margaret Busby - Twenty-five years ago, Margaret Busby’s Daughters of Africa was published to international acclaim. New Daughters of Africa continues that tradition for a new generation. This magnificent follow-up to the original landmark anthology brings together fresh and vibrant voices that have emerged from across the globe in the past two decades, from Antigua to Zimbabwe and Angola to the United States. Key figures, including Margo Jefferson, Nawal El Saadawi, Edwidge Danticat, and Zadie Smith, join popular contemporaries such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Imbolo Mbue, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Taiye Selasi, and Chinelo Okparanta in celebrating the heritage that unites them. Each of the pieces in this remarkable collection demonstrates an uplifting sense of sisterhood, honors the strong links that endure from generation to generation, and addresses the common obstacles female writers of color face as they negotiate issues of race, gender, and class and address vital matters of independence, freedom, and oppression. A glorious portrayal of the richness, magnitude, and range of these visionary writers, New Daughters of Africa spans a range of genres—autobiography, memoir, oral history, letters, diaries, short stories, novels, poetry, drama, humor, politics, journalism, essays, and speeches—demonstrating the diversity and extraordinary literary achievements of black women who remain underrepresented, and whose contributions continue to be underrated in world culture today.

Daisy Jones & the Six: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Everyone knows DAISY JONES & THE SIX, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now. Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road. Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution by Helen Zia - Shanghai has historically been China’s jewel, its richest, most modern and westernized city. The bustling metropolis was home to sophisticated intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and a thriving middle class when Mao’s proletarian revolution emerged victorious from the long civil war. Terrified of the horrors the Communists would wreak upon their lives, citizens of Shanghai who could afford to fled in every direction. Seventy years later, members of the last generation to fully recall this massive exodus have revealed their stories to Chinese American journalist Helen Zia, who interviewed hundreds of exiles about their journey through one of the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. From these moving accounts, Zia weaves together the stories of four young Shanghai residents who wrestled with the decision to abandon everything for an uncertain life as refugees in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United States. Benny, who as a teenager became the unwilling heir to his father’s dark wartime legacy, must decide either to escape to Hong Kong or navigate the intricacies of a newly Communist China. The resolute Annuo, forced to flee her home with her father, a defeated Nationalist official, becomes an unwelcome exile in Taiwan. The financially strapped Ho fights deportation from the U.S. in order to continue his studies while his family struggles at home. And Bing, given away by her poor parents, faces the prospect of a new life among strangers in America. The lives of these men and women are marvelously portrayed, revealing the dignity and triumph of personal survival. Herself the daughter of immigrants from China, Zia is uniquely equipped to explain how crises like the Shanghai transition affect children and their families, students and their futures, and, ultimately, the way we see ourselves and those around us. Last Boat Out of Shanghai brings a poignant personal angle to the experiences of refugees then and, by extension, today.

A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers Edited by Victor LaValle and Charlie Jane Anders - A glittering landscape of twenty-five speculative stories that challenge oppression and envision new futures for America—from N. K. Jemisin, Charles Yu, Jamie Ford, G. Willow Wilson, Charlie Jane Anders, Hugh Howey, and more. In these tumultuous times, in our deeply divided country, many people are angry, frightened, and hurting. Knowing that imagining a brighter tomorrow has always been an act of resistance, editors Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams invited an extraordinarily talented group of writers to share stories that explore new forms of freedom, love, and justice. They asked for narratives that would challenge oppressive American myths, release us from the chokehold of our history, and give us new futures to believe in. They also asked that the stories be badass. The result is this spectacular collection of twenty-five tales that blend the dark and the light, the dystopian and the utopian. These tales are vivid with struggle and hardship—whether it’s the othered and the terrorized, or dragonriders and covert commandos—but these characters don’t flee, they fight. Thrilling, inspiring, and a sheer joy to read, A People’s Future of the United States is a gift for anyone who believes in our power to dream a just world.

Monk!: Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship Behind a Musical Revolution: A Graphic Representation by Youssef Daoudi - She is Kathleen Annie Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a free-spirited baroness of the Rothschild family. He is Thelonious Sphere Monk, a musical genius fighting against the whims of his troubled mind. Their enduring friendship begins in 1954 and ends only with Monk’s death in 1982. Set against the backdrop of New York during the heyday of jazz, Monk! explores the rare alchemy between two brilliant beings separated by an ocean of social status, race, and culture, but united by an infinite love of music. This breathtaking graphic novel by Youssef Daoudi beautifully captures the life of the “the high priest of bop” in spontaneous, evocative pen and ink that seems to make visible jazz itself.

Unbecoming: A Memoir of Disobedience by Anuradha Bhagwati - A raw, unflinching memoir by a former US Marine Captain chronicling her journey from dutiful daughter of immigrants to radical activist effecting historic policy reform. After a lifetime of buckling to the demands of her strict Indian parents, Anuradha Bhagwati abandons grad school in the Ivy League to join the Marines—the fiercest, most violent, most masculine branch of the military—determined to prove herself there in ways she couldn’t before. Yet once training begins, Anuradha’s G.I. Jane fantasy is punctured. As a bisexual woman of color in the military, she faces underestimation at every stage, confronting misogyny, racism, sexual violence, and astonishing injustice perpetrated by those in power. Pushing herself beyond her limits, she also wrestles with what drove her to pursue such punishment in the first place. Once her service concludes in 2004, Anuradha courageously vows to take to task the very leaders and traditions that cast such a dark cloud over her time in the Marines. Her efforts result in historic change, including the lifting of the ban on women from pursuing combat roles in the military. A tale of heroic resilience grappling with the timely question of what, exactly, America stands for, Unbecoming is about one woman who learned to believe in herself in spite of everything. It is the kind of story that will light a fire beneath you, and inspire the next generation of indomitable female heroes.

Dual Citizens: A Novel by Alix Ohlin - Lark and Robin are half-sisters whose similarities end at being named for birds. While Lark is shy and studious, Robin is wild and artistic. Raised in Montreal by their disinterested single mother, they form a fierce team in childhood regardless of their differences. As they grow up, Lark excels at school and Robin becomes an extraordinary pianist. At seventeen, Lark flees to America to attend college, where she finds her calling in documentary films, and her sister soon joins her. Later, in New York City, they find themselves tested: Lark struggles with self-doubt, and Robin chafes against the demands of Juilliard. Under pressure, their bond grows strained and ultimately is broken, and their paths abruptly diverge. Years later, Lark's life is in tatters and Robin's is wilder than ever. As Lark tries to take charge of her destiny, she discovers that despite the difficulties of their relationship, there is only one person she can truly rely on: her sister. In this gripping, unforgettable novel about art, ambition, sisterhood, motherhood, and self-knowledge, Alix Ohlin traces the rich and complicated lives of two indelible women. Dazzlingly insightful and beautifully crafted, Dual Citizens captures the unique language of sisters and makes visible the imperceptible strings that bind us to the ones we love for good.

Miracle Creek: A Novel by Angie Kim - 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. Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night―trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges―as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice. Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. Both a compelling page-turner and an excavation of identity and the desire for connection, Miracle Creek is a brilliant, empathetic debut from an exciting new voice.

Black Leopard, Dark Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy): A Novel by Marlon James - In the stunning first novel in Marlon James's Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child. Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: "He has a nose," people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard. As Tracker follows the boy's scent--from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers--he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying? Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.

The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business by Wright Thompson - There is only one Wright Thompson. He is, as they say, famous if you know who he is: his work includes the most read articles in the history of ESPN (and it's not even close) and has been anthologized in the Best American Sports Writing series ten times, and he counts John Grisham and Richard Ford among his ardent admirers (see back of book). But to say his pieces are about sports, while true as far as it goes, is like saying Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove is a book about a cattle drive. Wright Thompson figures people out. He jimmies the lock to the furnaces inside the people he profiles and does an analysis of the fuel that fires their ambition. Whether it be Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods or Pat Riley or Urban Meyer, he strips the away the self-serving myths and fantasies to reveal his characters in full. There are fascinating common denominators: it may not be the case that every single great performer or coach had a complex relationship with his father, but it can sure seem that way. And there is much marvelous local knowledge: about specific sports, and times and places, and people. Ludicrously entertaining and often powerfully moving, The Cost of These Dreams is an ode to the reporter's art, and a celebration of true greatness and the high price that it exacts.

Brown: Poems by Kevin Young - Divided into "Home Recordings" and "Field Recordings," Brown speaks to the way personal experience is shaped by culture, while culture is forever affected by the personal, recalling a black Kansas boyhood to comment on our times. From "History"--a song of Kansas high-school fixture Mr. W., who gave his students "the Sixties / minus Malcolm X, or Watts, / barely a march on Washington"--to "Money Road," a sobering pilgrimage to the site of Emmett Till's lynching, the poems engage place and the past and their intertwined power. These thirty-two taut poems and poetic sequences, including an oratorio based on Mississippi "barkeep, activist, waiter" Booker Wright that was performed at Carnegie Hall and the vibrant sonnet cycle "De La Soul Is Dead," about the days when hip-hop was growing up ("we were black then, not yet / African American"), remind us that blackness and brownness tell an ongoing story. A testament to Young's own--and our collective--experience, Brown offers beautiful, sustained harmonies from a poet whose wisdom deepens with time.

Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib - How does one pay homage to A Tribe Called Quest? The seminal rap group brought jazz into the genre, resurrecting timeless rhythms to create masterpieces such as The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders. Seventeen years after their last album, they resurrected themselves with an intense, socially conscious record, We Got It from Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service, which arrived when fans needed it most, in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib digs into the group’s history and draws from his own experience to reflect on how its distinctive sound resonated among fans like himself. The result is as ambitious and genre-bending as the rap group itself. Abdurraqib traces the Tribe's creative career, from their early days as part of the Afrocentric rap collective known as the Native Tongues, through their first three classic albums, to their eventual breakup and long hiatus. Their work is placed in the context of the broader rap landscape of the 1990s, one upended by sampling laws that forced a reinvention in production methods, the East Coast–West Coast rivalry that threatened to destroy the genre, and some record labels’ shift from focusing on groups to individual MCs. Throughout the narrative Abdurraqib connects the music and cultural history to their street-level impact. Whether he’s remembering The Source magazine cover announcing the Tribe’s 1998 breakup or writing personal letters to the group after bandmate Phife Dawg’s death, Abdurraqib seeks the deeper truths of A Tribe Called Quest; truths that—like the low end, the bass—are not simply heard in the head, but felt in the chest.

His Dark Materials Trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman - The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass are available together in a collectible His Dark Materials boxed set perfect for any fan or newcomer to this modern fantasy classic series that has graced the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Book Sense, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.
These thrilling adventures tell the story of Lyra and Will—two ordinary children on a perilous journey through shimmering haunted otherworlds. They will meet witches and armored bears, fallen angels and soul-eating specters. And in the end, the fate of both the living—and the dead—will rely on them. Phillip Pullman’s spellbinding His Dark Materials trilogy has captivated readers for over twenty years and won acclaim at every turn. It will have you questioning everything you know about your world and wondering what really lies just out of reach. (Note from Jay – I know this is supposedly a book for children, but if you haven’t read this, it is a must. Particularly since there is a new series coming out this summer on HBO produced by the BBC that looks amazing!)

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper - So what if it’s true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be. In the Black feminist tradition of Audre Lorde, Brittney Cooper reminds us that anger is a powerful source of energy that can give us the strength to keep on fighting. Far too often, Black women’s anger has been caricatured into an ugly and destructive force that threatens the civility and social fabric of American democracy. But Cooper shows us that there is more to the story than that. Black women’s eloquent rage is what makes Serena Williams such a powerful tennis player. It’s what makes Beyoncé’s girl power anthems resonate so hard. It’s what makes Michelle Obama an icon. Eloquent rage keeps us all honest and accountable. It reminds women that they don’t have to settle for less. When Cooper learned of her grandmother's eloquent rage about love, sex, and marriage in an epic and hilarious front-porch confrontation, her life was changed. And it took another intervention, this time staged by one of her homegirls, to turn Brittney into the fierce feminist she is today. In Brittney Cooper’s world, neither mean girls nor mean boys ever win. But homegirls emerge as heroes. This book argues that ultimately feminism, friendship, and faith in one's own superpowers are all we really need to turn things right side up again.

Mostly Dead Things: A Novel by Kristen Arnett - One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife―and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with―walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates―picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose―and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them. Kristen Arnett’s debut novel is a darkly funny, heart-wrenching, and eccentric look at loss and love.