Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Seven titles featuring ghost children

Joel H. Morris is the author of All Our Yesterdays, his debut novel. He has worked most recently as an English teacher and, for the past twenty years, has taught language and literature. Prior to earning a doctorate in comparative literature, he spent several years as a bookseller before joining a small maritime expedition company as a sailor.

At Electric Lit Morris tagged "seven novels involving literal and metaphorical ghost children." One title on the list:
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

The child ghost in Ward’s haunting generational novel is Richie, sent to Parchman prison farm for stealing for his family when he was twelve. While 13-year-old Jojo and his mother, Leonie, drive the narrative, it is Richie who haunts the family through its patriarch, Pop. As a youth, Pop was responsible for killing Richie—a mercy to spare the boy a brutal beating and death. Richie has haunted Parchman for decades, an embodiment of injustice and racist cruelty. When he hitches a ride with Jojo and Leonie to find Pop again, Jojo can see him, speak to him. He becomes a haunting figure of generational trauma, the past made present. In his transition to the afterlife, “home,” he joins a multitude of tormented souls, singers of the history of brutality.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is among Sarah Bernstein's top ten grudge holders in fiction, James Yorkston's top ten road novels, Stacey Swann's seven novels about very dysfunctional families, Una Mannion’s top ten books about children fending for themselves, Sahar Mustafah's seven novels about grieving a family member and LitHub's ten books we'll be reading in ten years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 27, 2024

Six notable books featuring families

Paul Murray was born in 1975 in Dublin. His novels include An Evening of Long Goodbyes, short-listed for the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award; Skippy Dies, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Mark and the Void, joint winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and one of Time’s Top 10 Fiction Books of the year; and The Bee Sting, one of The New York Times Top 10 Books of the Year.

At the Waterstones blog Murray tagged six favorite books featuring families. One title on the list:
The Fraud by Zadie Smith

Smith’s ingenious historical box of tricks refuses to be categorised, but one way to read it is as the story of two families. Set in Victorian England and flipping back and forth between the 1830s and 1870s, it’s mostly seen through the eyes of Eliza Touchet, who lives with her cousin William Ainsworth. Ainsworth in the 1830s is a famous novelist who outsells his good friend Charles Dickens; by the 1870s, though, he’s fallen very much out of fashion. Eliza and Ainsworth have a romance of sorts, but then he marries his maid, much to the dismay of his three grown-up daughters, who see their inheritance disappearing. Smith sets the conventional stuff of the nineteenth-century novel – marriage, servants, finagling over property – against a much darker, less familiar story. Andrew Bogle is an enslaved man born and raised in a sugar plantation in Jamaica. His family life exists – or not – at the whim of his masters. After the death of his wife, he throws in his lot with a fraudster (or is he?) claiming to be an aristocrat long thought drowned. That well-meaning Eliza is herself the beneficiary of a slave plantation is just one of the multiple ironies abounding in this novel, as Smith gleefully upends the Victorian image of family as inherently virtuous, showing it instead as a mechanism for laundering the profits of Empire while whitewashing its horrors.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Eight dead characters with something to say

Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) is an award-winning screenwriter, director, and author whose films have been selections at major festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, and New York. He is the author of the crime novel Better the Blood and the nonfiction book In Dark Places, both of which won Ngaio Marsh awards, making him the first writer to win the award for both fiction and nonfiction. He is also the author of the young adult graphic novel Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas which, along with Better the Blood, was a finalist for the New Zealand Book Award.

At CrimeReads Bennett tagged eight "favourite dead characters from crime fiction, film and television, who come back through the misty veil, and who have something to say (usually, quite a lot)." One book on the list:
THE TREES (novel) by Percival Everett

This book reads like the most maddening, unsolvable of locked-room crime novels, for a long time. Until it doesn’t. There is a breathtaking moment when we realise, at the heart of this fiction is a very real character: 14-year-old Emmett Till who was lynched in Money, Mississippi in 1955, after he was falsely accused by a young white woman of making salacious comments towards her. The murders happening today are vengeance, the lynched dead rising up and returning to put right the things that history failed to, by killing the descendants of the original lynch mobs who literally got away with murder. As one character says: “Less than 1 percent of lynchers were ever convicted of a crime. Only a fraction of those ever served a sentence.” In this comic-horror metaphor for the historic and ongoing brutality of the African-American experience, the Dead are coming back to say: “Time to pay up”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Six books featuring superstitions

Jessie Rosen got her start with the award-winning blog 20-Nothings and has sold original television projects to ABC, CBS, Warner Bros., and Netflix. Her live storytelling show Sunday Night Sex Talks was featured on The Bachelorette. She lives in Los Angeles.

Rosen's new novel is The Heirloom.

At Lit Hub she tagged six books that explore superstitions "from every angle. In some an omen defines the character’s struggle, in others its used as a thematic point, and in one the belief runs so deep it’s presented as fact." One title on the list:
Toni Morrison, Sula

Omens abound for Sula in Toni Morrison’s rich, fictional world, but interestingly only after she returns to her home after a decade away. Here it is as if Sula herself is the manifestation of a superstition about what happens when you break free from the rules of your upbringing to chart a life of your own. Sula is plagued by birds, a harbinger of evil and develops a birthmark that many believe looks like a snake.

Ultimately bad luck follows, as Sula continues to live her life in an uncompromising manner, paving her own way through the consequences.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Sula is among Nikita Lalwani's top ten platonic friendships in fiction, Lucy Jago's five best female friendships, and John Green's six favorite coming-of-age books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 24, 2024

Five top books about west African cities

At the Guardian Eromo Egbejule tagged five of the best books about west African cities, including:
Nearly All the Men in Lagos are Mad by Damilare Kuku

Damilare Kuku’s collection of short stories reads like a flick from Nollywood, the film industry where she has worked as an actor and producer. The book is a hilarious compilation of sappy sex scandals as women in contemporary Lagos end up being shortchanged in matters of love by their romantic interests. Kuku’s second book, Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow – a novel about how family secrets and a woman’s decision to get a Brazilian butt lift upends her life – is out in July.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Seven titles about Black people who pass as white

Kuchenga Shenjé is a writer, journalist, and speaker with work on media platforms including Stylist, British Vogue, and Netflix. She has contributed short stories and essays to several anthologies, most notably It's Not OK to Feel Blue (And Other Lies), Who's Loving You, and Loud Black Girls. Owing to a lifelong obsession with books and the written word, Kuchenga studied Creative Writing at The Open University. Her work is focused on the perils of loving, being loved, and women living out loud throughout the ages. Her debut The Library Thief, is the ultimate marriage of her passions for history, mystery, and rebels. Kuchenga lives in Manchester, where she is determined to continue living a life worth writing about.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven "stories that delve into race and identity in the U.S. and U.K." One title on the list:
We Cast A Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Things will only get better? Will a skin lightening procedure that’s less dermatologically dangerous than our current skin bleaching practices cause more or less harm? Penning provocative satirical prose in one of the boldest debuts of recent years, Ruffin’s warning of a potential future is nowhere near as ridiculous as one wants it to be. How should one deal with discomfort, desperation and longing? Is a father’s desire to help his biracial son escape the racial reality his own bourgeois accomplishments prove is doggedly inescapable, an act of love or madness? Some readers will feel more lanced than others but unfortunately it’s a story that implicates us all.
Read about the other entries on the list.

We Cast A Shadow is among J.R. Ramakrishnan's seven books set in New Orleans that go beyond Mardi Gras.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Eight novels about destructive women

Alana B. Lytle is a screenwriter whose recent credits include Netflix’s Brand New Cherry and Peacock’s A Friend of the Family. Her short fiction has been published in Guernica. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and sausage-shaped dog. Man’s Best Friend is her debut novel.

At CrimeReads Lytle tagged eight "excellent novels about destructive women," including:
I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel

In the immortal words of David Fincher, “I like characters who don’t change, who don’t learn from their mistakes.” In her debut, Patel’s first person (unnamed) narrator shares one damning insight after another about the age of social media, white privilege and sexual power dynamics, but while she confesses her personal missteps in full, all her powers of insight don’t save her, in the end, from the kind of delusional thinking that got her into trouble in the first place. Many readers have been and will continue to be hooked by the premise of I’m A Fan—a young woman, infatuated with a married man, online stalks his more prized mistress—but the book is so much more than a pulpy premise. For me, Patel achieves the thing all storytellers aim for, creating the universal within the specific, mirroring back to her reader the prison we create for ourselves when, as creatures of capitalism, we harm ourselves and others in pursuit of a life that only looks Good and Right.
Read about the other entries on the list.

I’m a Fan is among Christine Ma-Kellams's seven titles about unconventional situationships.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Five books with small-town settings

Carolyn Kuebler was a co-founder of the literary magazine Rain Taxi and for the past ten years she has been the editor of the New England Review. Her stories and essays have been published in The Common and Colorado Review, among others, and “Wildflower Season,” published in The Massachusetts Review, won the 2022 John Burroughs Award for Nature Essay.

Kuebler’s debut novel is Liquid, Fragile, Perishable.

At Lit Hub she tagged "five books that, with their small-town settings and multiple points of view, could be placed in the tradition of [Sherwood Anderson's] Winesburg, Ohio—and yet, like my own, are nothing like Anderson’s at all." One title on the list:
Kathryn Davis, The Thin Place

Though her uncategorizable writing is more often associated with Hans Christian than with Sherwood, Kathryn Davis brings all the elements of small-town fiction to her sixth novel, as she playfully presents the bare facts of the town’s police log, the local gripes and gossip, the sensuality of the weather and the nearby lake, and her characters’ inevitable interconnectedness. It’s a marvelously agile book, graced with an omniscient voice that just as easily moves in close to a young girl preening for a pageant as it does to a pack of dogs out for a delicious morning romp with the neighbors’ chickens.

The book also takes the long view, to the four glaciers that covered this town in a time before people, how beautiful it must have been, and how beautiful it will be after people. And as the title implies, there’s very little dividing one world from the other: the living from the dead, the human from the nonhuman.

Which is not to say that the present-day scenes of the book—in the Crockett Home for the Aged, in kitchens and the school auditorium—or the origin stories and preoccupations of her characters, are just backdrop for the book’s metaphysical leanings. Every moment is invested with meticulous noticing, fascination, even affection.

The small New England town of Varennes provides just the right setting for the author to track the movements of a mother beaver, the bacillus she harbors, the handsome young trapper sent to kill her, the shy girl whose knees weaken at his hazel-eyed glance, and the holy holy holy incantations they all share at the town’s church service.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 20, 2024

Eleven books for fans of "The Three-Body Problem"

Neil McRobert is a writer and critic with a Ph.D. in contemporary horror fiction. At Vulture he tagged eleven books for fans of Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem. One title on the list:
Jumpnauts, by Hao Jingfang

Hao Jingfang’s 2020 novel, Vagabonds, was rapturously received, marking her out as perhaps the potential inheritor of Liu Cixin’s crown. However, it’s the just-released Jumpnauts that may well consolidate her position. It’s a gorgeous book, treading similar ground to The Three-Body Problem but with a jaunty, almost cheerful outlook. In key ways, it’s a reversal of Cixin’s trilogy. Rather than humanity working together to face alien adversaries, Jumpnauts has its cast of characters navigate a terrestrial geopolitical crisis, while communicating with benevolent visitors from the afar. Jingfang melds scientific futurism with age-old mythology in the most satisfying of ways, suggesting that human history is not at all what we think and holding out the trembling hope, that maybe … just maybe … our future is one of peace.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Eight books set on fictional islands

Elizabeth O'Connor lives in Birmingham. Her short stories have appeared in The White Review and Granta, and she was the 2020 winner of the White Review Short Story Prize. She holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Birmingham, specialising in the modernist writer H.D. and her writing of coastal landscapes.

O'Connor's new novel is Whale Fall.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight novels that are
set on unnamed or fictional islands; making them not grounded in a specific geography of place, but in the idea of an island. These unnamed islands have a global reach across Europe, Asia, East Africa, and North America, but the islands’ conditions—of isolation, of insularity, of instability—point to similar underlying ideas of disruption, allegory, colonial legacy and environmental care, forming an archipelago of novels mapping their connections to each other.
One title on O'Connor's list:
How I Won a Nobel Prize by Julius Taranto

Taranto’s fictional island off the coast of Connecticut hosts the Rubin Institute, a millionaire-funded university staffed by the “cancellees and deplorables” of traditional academia.

It’s one of a few books on this list that uses an island setting for a fabular, allegorical narrative, the island setting allowing for a contained mini-society that reads heavy with symbolism. The novel is sharp and funny, skewering the notion of modern cancel culture with exile to a phallic building. Its explorations of academic and free speech are suitably messy and ungratifying; as on the mutable ground of the shore, you never know quite where you stand.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Eight of the best campus novels ever written

Elise Juska’s new novel, Reunion, was named one of People Magazine’s “Best Books to Read in May 2024.” Her previous novels include The Blessings, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and If We Had Known. Juska’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri ReviewPloughshares, The Hudson Review, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize from Ploughshares, and her short fiction has been cited by The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. She teaches creative writing at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

[The Page 69 Test: Reunion; My Book, The Movie: Reunion]

At CrimeReads Juska tagged eight novels "that interrogate the modern college experience or reflect on the past with a knowing eye." One title on the list:
Rebecca Makkai, I Have Some Questions for You

The past is not a place that film professor Bodie Kane is keen to revisit, until she accepts a teaching invitation at her alma mater, a New Hampshire boarding school. Back at Granby, teaching a course on podcasting, she confronts not only conflicting versions of her teenage self but the mysterious circumstances around the murder of her roommate, Thalia Keith. This campus novel is both an entertaining whodunit and a no-pulled-punches reckoning with the past.
Read about the other entries on the list.

I Have Some Questions For You is among Nicole Hackett's six top mysteries about motherhood and crime, Brittany Bunzey's ten books that take you inside their characters’ heads, Anne Burt's four top recent titles with social justice themes, and Heather Darwent's nine best campus thrillers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 17, 2024

Five notable fictional works featuring sisters

Kimberly King Parsons is the author of the new novel We Were the Universe and the short story collection Black Light, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and the Story Prize. A recipient of fellowships from Yaddo and Columbia University, Parsons won the 2020 National Magazine Award for “Foxes,” a story published in The Paris Review. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner and children.

At Lit Hub she tagged five favorite fictional works featuring sisters, including:
Ruth Madievsky, All-Night Pharmacy

The first paragraph of Ruth Madievsky’s All-Night Pharmacy is perfectly emblematic of the sticky toxicity sisters can share:
Spending time with my sister, Debbie, was like buying acid off a guy you met on a bus. You never knew if it would end with you, euphoric, tanning topless on a fishing boat headed for Ensenada, or coming to in a gas station bathroom, the inside of your eyes feeling as though they’d been scraped out with spoons. Often, it was both.
It’s the “both” that captivates me—the way sisters can be so explosively unpredictable, can so suddenly shift their mood and allegiance. When Debbie disappears after a wild night of eating pills at Salvation, a trashy Los Angeles dance club, Madievsky’s unnamed narrator is pulled into a quest to find her sister and—now that their destructive relationship has somewhat dissolved—to find her own identity as well.

These charismatic sisters come through in gorgeous acoustics (Madievsky is also a poet), exuberant dialogue, and a plot so addictive you’ll try to gulp it down all in one go.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue