This Is the One Book You Should Read in April
Whether you’re planning a getaway or staycation, nothing helps unwind like a new read. So try one of April’s fantastic new book releases to help shake off the winter blues and ease into the spring.
A book to take note of this month is “Easy Beauty” by Chloé Cooper Jones. In this elegant and remarkable memoir, the 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalist gives a look into her life as a woman, writer, mother, and human living with a disability. Jones was born with a rare congenital condition called sacral agenesis, which causes her spin to be curved and her hips to be mismatched. It leaves her in not only great physical pain but immense emotional agony thanks to looks of pity and judgment from those around her. However, rather than disability as the main focus of “Easy Beauty,” Jones’ memoir centers on moving through a world that sees you as less than and learning to reclaim one’s body and mind.
“Easy Beauty” sinks its teeth into you from the first sentence; Jones’ razor-sharp prose is drenched in honesty and intellect. She weaves observation, experience, memory, and aesthetic philosophy to share her journey of redefining herself and her perception of real beauty. Spanning the globe from Rome to Brooklyn and California, this necessary — funny, brilliant, moving, and unflinching — read challenges how society views attraction and measures human value. In doing so, Jones drives the reader to do the same.
Other noteworthy releases this month include:
Be prepared to transport to another world of magic and fantasy that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s not. Drawing inspiration from tarot, folklore, death, and more, the short stories in Marytza K. Rubio’s debut collection are fresh and imaginative but feel aching familiar (in a feel-good nostalgic way). Rubio takes readers to a witchcraft class in a community college, vividly captures the feeling of grief when a widow must care for her husband’s remains, and even shows that animals can be powerful magicians too. So pour a glass of wine and lets these rich, immersive stories smolder off the page.
The Booker Prize-winning author of “Shuggie Bain” is back with a novel that’s just as tender, devastating, and hard to pull away from. “Young Mungo” follows a teenager named, you guessed it, Mungo. The youngest of three children, Mungo’s mother is an alcoholic who leaves for long periods, and the father has never been in the picture. His sister Jodie runs their broken household as best she can while Mungo’s older sibling, Hamish, spearheads a local gang. Mungo finds reprieve in a boy named James, and their relationship evolves from best friends to first loves. “Young Mungo” is far from a light read; it touches on abuse, addiction, toxic masculinity, and more and is written in a Scottish dialect that can take a while to become accustomed to. But this queer coming-of-age story is one you’re not going to want to miss — “Young Mungo” is a stunning and powerful book that will stay with you long after the final page.
In “Atomic Anna,” three generations of women come of age in a family marked by a history of persecution they are trying to outrun, both through the silences and secrets passed down to one another and their found ability to travel through time and space to correct the course of history. But “Atomic Anna” is more than a travel story: it explores human fertility and female strength, the powerful bond between mothers and daughters, and the love and safety of chosen family. It may be packed with action and adventure scenes, but the ethical questions the author raises make a pause for reflection.
Hotel Magnifique is known not only for its whimsical enchantments but also for its ability to travel. One step through its magical doors transports you to Elsewhere; every morning, the hotel lands in a different destination. Unable to afford to stay as guests, sisters Jani and Zosa are lucky enough to get hired as Hotel Magnifique staff. Or, at least they think they’re lucky. There’s darkness lurking in this spellbinding YA fantasy.
Part memoir of a failed romance, part fever dream, all tribute to the women whose lives are entwined with hers, “Time Zone J” is a gorgeous book that breathes new life into the comics medium stylistically and narratively. One of Drawn & Quarterly’s first authors and a defining cartoonists of the 1990s, thanks to her comic book series “Dirty Plotte,” Doucet’s fearlessly frank, raw, and often funny stories plumb the female psyche and what it means to walk through the world as a woman while showing the fragility of masculinity. “Time Zone J” is no exception, with a middle-aged Doucet looking back on a flopped love affair with a depressed military recruit, the toxic gender norms of the late 1980s, the brashness of youth, and more. And a word of advice — take Doucet’s guidance seriously: read most pages from the bottom up, just as it was drawn.
You’ve totally asked your girlfriend to move in with you so you can pay off your drug dealer and then realized that you actually can’t stand being around her . No? Well, you can experience the consequences of that decision, and more dysfunctional antics, in Dawn Winter’s “Sedating Elaine.” Starring Frances, a charming debauched heroine, this darkly intoxicating novel is outrageous from the first line to the surprisingly tender last. Oh yeah, and the writer and producer of Little Fires Everywhere already snagged the tv rights for “Sedating Elaine” — read it now so you can be the friend who knew it before it was cool.
Told through the intimate lens of three generations of Arab women, “An Unlasting Home” brings to life the triumphs and failures of these women while tracing Kuwait’s rise from a pearl-diving backwater to its reign as a thriving country to the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion. In this, Al-Nakib has created a vivid, kaleidoscopic generational portrait and geographical map across the country, opening readers’ eyes to the history of Kuwait and its people — similarly to what Min Jin Lee did with Korea in “Pachinko.” Though wide-ranging in scope, “An Unlasting Home” is a character-driven novel with a mother-daughter and family story at its heart.
Not feeling any of the above releases? Here are a few fabulous options:
- “Khabaar” by Madhushree Ghosh: This food memoir discusses how immigrant cuisine morphs in America, the Indian diaspora and food, being a brown woman in science, and more.
- “Arrival Stories” edited by Amy Schumer and Christy Turlington Burns: Serena Williams, Ashley Graham, Alysia Montaño, and more share their experiences of becoming mothers.
- “Sea of Tranquility” by Emily St. John Mandel: The award-winning, best-selling author of “Station Eleven” and “The Glass Hotel” is back — that’s all you need to know.
- “Time Is a Mother” by Ocean Vuong: The highly anticipated collection of poems from the award-winning author of “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” and “Night Sky With Exit Wounds.”
- “Such Big Dreams” by Reema Patel: A former child street fighter reclaims her life in this clever debut.
- “Things They Lost” by Okwiri Oduor: Drenched in magic and mystery, this debut novel explores complicated mother/daughter relationships and the power of friendship.
- “When We Fell Apart” by Soon Wiley: A man’s investigation into the death of his girlfriend leads him down a path of self-discovery into his own bi-cultural identity.
- “A Tiny Upward Shove” by Melissa Chadburn: Inspired by the author’s Filipino heritage and its folklore, this debut novel charts the heartbreaking journeys of two of society’s cast-offs.