If You’re Going to Read One Book In November, Make It This One
Written by Danielle Evans—who authored “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self,” a short story collection that depicts and examines the world of inequality—her latest novel features seven short stories. Each of them look at nuanced moments and interpersonal relationships that speak to larger conversations about race, ever-evolving cultural rules, and U.S. history. And, perhaps most importantly, the book reveals how Black and multiracial characters in its stories grapple with American history, grief, and the complexities of right versus wrong—very much like how they are now.
The stories read much like headlines in today’s news cycle, so much so that you might forget it’s fiction. In one story, a young white woman’s photo of herself in a Confederate flag bikini goes viral, her past wrongdoing and ignorance on full display. Can she escape her past and reinvent herself? In another, a historian stumbles upon a tragedy stemming from racism and hatred, and learns the deep, dark truth about the event.
Each story pushes these fictional characters to their absolute emotional limit, forcing them to confront and reexamine their romantic relationships, friendships, and even their jobs. Evans tackles her characters’ fragility, fear, and bravery with breathtaking nuance and storytelling smarts.
If you’re looking for more recs this month, here are some other new books you should add to your cart:
To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss
Fans of Nicole Krauss will devour “To Be a Man,” the author’s highly-anticipated collection of short fiction that examines the roles we’re given when born into various cultures with petrified rules and stringent expectations. Spanning across popular cities and towns in various countries, Krauss’s characters are complicated. Some are aging parents, while others are partners in relationships who have newly come to terms with their true identities.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama’s newest memoir “A Promised Land,” which he’s been working on since he left office, will be hitting shelves shortly after the election. Those who love political memoir will plough through this 768-page book, which dives into Obama’s early life in politics and later reflects on his time in office.
“There’s no feeling like finishing a book, and I’m proud of this one,” Obama said in a statement, per The New York Times. “I’ve spent the last few years reflecting on my presidency, and in ‘A Promised Land’ I’ve tried to provide an honest accounting of my presidential campaign and my time in office: the key events and people who shaped it, my take on what I got right and the mistakes I made, and the political, economic, and cultural forces that my team and I had to confront then — and that as a nation we are grappling with still.”
Obama’s brutal honesty and self-examination as a former leader of the U.S. is refreshing, enthralling, and delivers us some much-needed hope.
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
“Butter Honey Pig Bread” follows the lives of three Nigerian women, Kambirinachi and her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye. Kambirinachi lives in constant fear that she’s an Ogbanje or Abiku, an other-worldly spirit who curses her family and brings bad luck and sorrow, but goes un with the unnatural choice of staying alive.
She and her daughters grow separated due to a terrible event involving Kehinde, who eventually finds her own path and family. Taiye, filled with guilt, runs away and attempts to fill her tragic void with meaningless relationships with other women. After 10 years of separation, the sisters come back home to Lagos and decide to confront their past traumas and familial wounds.
This gorgeous, powerful family story reveals what binds us together often hurts us the most, but that it’s possible to face these old wounds and even will them to heal.
White Ivy by Susie Yang
In the highly anticipated “White Ivy,” Ivy Lin’s grandmother taught her to commit petty theft. She does so to get the attention of Gideon Speyer, a rich boy with whom Ivy is enamored. But when the pilfering teen is caught by her mom, she’s sent away to live in China, which is much different from her home city of Boston.
Years later, she returns to the States, and runs into Gideon’s sister, Sylvia. Ivy considers it fate and slips back into her con artist ways to win the love of Gideon and achieve everything she’s always wanted. But then, a ghost from her childhood appears and threatens to unveil her truest form to Gideon and his picture-perfect family.