This month, New York Times bestselling author Xochitl Gonzalez shared some of her favorite new releases to dig through this fall. Find your favorite new book to enjoy by the fire as the weather cools. Gonzalez's upcoming book, "Anita de Monte Laughs Last" will publish on March 5, 2024.
"Let Us Descend" by Jesmyn Ward
What book lovers amongst us haven't been waiting with bated breath for Jesmyn Ward's forthcoming historical fiction novel that tracks the life of Annis, a slave in the American South, who must navigate the misery of her fate after her mother is sold. The story is wrenching, but we are in the skilled and delicate hands of a silk weaver and two-time National Book Award winner, Ward—who lifts from the dark past the most elegant and striking prose.
"Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind" by Molly McGhee
This laugh-out-loud debut is a wildly imaginative, tender and piercing critique of the squeeze of capitalism. The titular Jonathan Abernathy—clueless, lonely and desperate for some love and happiness—thinks his ship has come in when he lands a gig crawling into the dreams of the American workforce at night, to sweep for "anxiety and sadness." In McGhee's bleak but somehow hilarious future, a new kind of government employment program provides young people, crushed by loans and out of options, a way to have their debts erased by policing dreams. Because anxiety and sadness, of course, render us less productive. With startling and hilarious hilarious "Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind" is a book I won't soon forget.
Everything about "The List" intrigues me! Its premise takes a "ripped from the headlines" approach to one of the more nuanced stories of the #metoo era, when a British magazine editor discovers her fiancé has landed on a suddenly public list of predatory men. As if that wasn't heat enough, Ola, the protagonist, made her name as a journalist reporting on sexual predators in the music industry. When accusations against her equally high-profile fiancé, Michael, she refuses to believe he's guilty, despite mounting evidence. The book promises a thoughtful tackling of the mounting pressures of an online mob, amidst the public performance of being a Black couple in the public eye. It sounds like the ultimate page-turner!
"Family Meal" by Bryan Washington
Bryan Washington is a writer who creates characters who I always feel are larger than life on the page. Such is how I felt about Cam, who, fresh out of rehab and struggling with an eating disorder, finds himself back in Houston mourning the death of his lover. We also meet TJ, Cam's childhood friend whose family bakery offers Cam a respite in the form of employment and the book draws us compellingly into each of these characters' orbits in a way that makes us feel deeply invested. Washington's portrait of life after loss feels exceptionally real here—particularly Cam's attempts to ease the pain of loss with random hookups and start life anew amidst the old. Washington is a masterful artist at making the reader truly feel.
"Straw Dogs of the Universe" by Ye Chun
This book gripped me in much the same way that the sweeping epic "Pachinko" did—by making historical facts truly come to life in characters we follow over a long period of time and exposing an under-told tale of racism. This against Chinese immigrants in 19th Century California. We open in 1876 on a boat crossing from China—in the midst of a famine—to San Francisco. Amidst a stormy sea, we meet 10-year-old Siaxing, whose mother has sold her to human traffickers. We follow Siaxing and her father—who also immigrated to the United States—through years of hard labor, discrimination and addiction. It's Ye's clear-eyed depictions of the characters' internal struggles that elevate what could be a litany of tragedies into a heroic story of survival. Readers will be moved.
"How to Say Babylon" by Safiya Sinclair
Memoirs of growing up in insular religious communities are somewhat of a genre unto themselves—but Sinclair's story is a true stand out. Sinclair's background as a poet lends clarity and resonance to her upbringing in her father's militant Rastafarian household in Jamaica. Poetry, in fact, becomes Sinclair's lifeline—first to a private school in Jamaica and eventually American university and her linguistic prowess brings the contrast of her childhood and her adult life as a poet into dramatic chiaroscuro—not so much a kind where things are seen in black and white, but where everyone—including her father—are given the shades of nuance only true humanity (and wonderful prose) can grant.
"The Woman in Me" by Britney Spears
Given the swath of Americans who have come to know some portion or version of Britney Spears over her decades of fame and controversy, I suspect I'm hardly alone in eagerly anticipating getting my hands on "The Woman in Me." The memoir, written since her emancipation from the conservatorship, is a tale of her rise to global pop stardom and all that came in the aftermath of that fame. But perhaps most importantly, it is Spears' story told on no terms other than her own.
"A Year and A Day: An Experiment in Essays" by Phillip Lopate
Phillip Lopate is one of the maestros of the American essay. His latest collection of 47 essays emerged from his weekly blog for American Scholar and take on the kind of delightful randomness that only a weekly standing writing appointment can take: musings from his youth in the Jazz Clubs of New York to an essay on the nature of friendships to the consequences of censorship in China. They are a delightful romp through the musings of one of our great literary minds and an invitation to remember that in a world that gives weight to 240 characters, it is often the (longer) thought that counts.