AApril is stacked with an almost overwhelming number of exciting new releases from treasured authors. Among the highlights: Jennifer Egan delivers a long-awaited sisterly novel to A visit from the Goon Squad, and Emily St. John Mandel is once again turning a pandemic into fodder for fiction. Ocean Vuong’s second book of poetry will leave readers breathless, while comedian Jessi Klein’s essays promise laughter to stressed parents. Other titles celebrate deaf culture and feature fiery, determined nuns.
Here, the 12 best novelties to read in April.
The candy houseJennifer Egan (April 5)
Jennifer Egan’s 2010 novel A visit from the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and captivated readers with his imagination and intellect. Now, more than a decade later, many of his characters return to candy house, which is billed as a sibling novel but also works on its own. It centers around a new technology, “Own Your Unknown”, which allows people to save and share all of their memories. Egan uses tweets and emails from the future to illustrate what happens when we have access to each other’s innermost thoughts.
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Blood and Sweat: Black Lives Matter and the Creation of White Power and WealthClyde W. Ford (April 5)
Black Americans have long helped white people become – and stay – wealthy, but instead of their fair share, they have received brutality in return. This is the central argument that Clyde W. Ford, psychotherapist and author of think black, done in this deeply documented book. Ford chronicles the period from the arrival of enslaved Africans in Virginia in 1619 until the end of Reconstruction in 1877. It illustrates the many ways in which black labor was essential in fields such as agriculture, politics, medicine and law enforcement, and clarifies that reparations are still due.
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Let’s not do this againGrant Ginder (April 5)
Nancy Harrison is a Senate candidate and her biggest obstacles are her adult children, Greta and Nick. Greta is making headlines for throwing a bottle of champagne through a Parisian restaurant window during a political riot, which doesn’t really help Nancy’s image. Nick, floundering in his own way, writing a musical based on the works of Joan Didion, accompanies his mother to France to bring Greta home and save the countryside. Ginder—author of People we hate at marriage— has inhabited the world he writes about: He spent time as a congressional intern and White House speechwriter, experiences that help this big-hearted family comedy shine.
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sea of tranquilityEmily St. John Mandel (April 5)
sea of tranquility introduces readers to Olive, the author of a best-selling pandemic novel – a rather meta-plot point, given that Emily St. John Mandel herself is the author of a wildly popular (and prescient) pandemic novel , station eleven. We get to know Olive by jumping from a Vancouver forest in 1912 to the lunar colony she inhabits in 2203. Mandel plays with the idea of parallel worlds and presents a puzzle about the nature of time and reality that surprises again and again. Longtime fans will appreciate the Easter Eggs teasing his previous work.
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True BizSara Novic (April 5)
Sara Nović’s second novel, after girl at war, takes place in a school for the deaf, where the lives of a director and two students intersect. One of the teenagers, Charlie, is forced by her parents to have a cochlear implant, a controversial device that helps some deaf people perceive sounds. His hearing family never allowed him to learn American Sign Language, which is quite the opposite of the experience of his classmate, Austin, who grew up with deaf parents. When Charlie and Austin go missing, their community is tested in this coming-of-age story about love, friendship, protest and justice.
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MemphisTara M. Stringfellow (April 5)
Tara M. Stringfellow’s moving debut novel follows three generations of a black Southern family from the 1930s to the early 2000s. When Joan is 10, she, her mother, and her sister flee her abusive father and take refuge in a family home in Memphis. It’s the same place where, 50 years earlier, Joan’s grandfather was lynched after becoming the city’s first black detective. Stringfellow introduces characters worth rooting for and jumps between years and voices to reveal how we convey trauma, anger, and love.
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time is a motherOcean Vuong (April 5)
It’s been six years since Ocean Vuong’s first collection of poetry, Night sky with exit wounds, has been published. In the meantime, he has published a spellbinding lyrical novel, On Earth, we are briefly magnificent. Now, finally, he returns with 27 new poems. Many are steeped in grief, as Vuong grapples with the death of his mother. Others examine race, sexual orientation and identity. time is a mother is a poignant and beautiful collection.
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Building a nervous systemMargo Jefferson (April 12)
Margo Jefferson, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, whose memoir Negroland was published in 2015 – reflects some of his most intimate memories in Building a nervous system. She combines memoir and critique by examining how black artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Ike Turner, Nat King Cole, and Bud Powell helped shape her, and how they had a broader impact on race and class. Jefferson excels at deconstructing American culture, and his raw self-examination makes his work fascinating.
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Mokama Sisters: Pioneering Women Who Brought Hope and Healing to IndiaJyoti Thottam (April 12)
Sisters of Mokama is the inspiring story of six Kentucky nuns who built a hospital in a destitute part of India in 1947, when diseases like cholera were rampant. Soon the nuns opened a nursing school and New York’s mother Times Editor-in-chief Jyoti Thottam (who previously worked at TIME) was one of the women who studied there. At the time, Indian women rarely left home without a man, so the opportunity to train in the hospital changed their lives. Thottam interviewed over 60 people to recreate the determination displayed by the doctors and nurses who worked at the hospital in its early years, as well as the women who founded it.
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The Problem of Happiness: and Other StoriesTove Ditlevsen, translated by Michael FavalaGoldman (April 19)
Danish writer Tove Ditlevsen died in 1976, but her legacy lives on with this collection of short stories. Like its title, The problem of happiness, suggests, this is not a happy read; it mainly focuses on relationship disorders. In one story, a husband drives away his wife’s pet cat because he feels threatened by her love for him; in another, a tyrannical mother oppresses her children. Manipulation and alienation are frequent themes. Readers who enjoyed Ditlevsen’s autobiography The Copenhagen Trilogy enjoy these stories – they are unsettling, yet beautifully crafted.
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forgotten cityVanessa Hua (April 19)
In 1960s China, during the violent Cultural Revolution, a fictional teenage girl named Mei is recruited by the Communist Party and drawn into the inner life of the president leading the upheaval. She becomes his confidante and his loving companion, constantly pushing away the jealous young women who would like to take his place, including the president’s wife. But when Mei is given an important political mission, she is disillusioned and must make heartbreaking decisions. forgotten city is a compelling and deeply researched novel that offers a new perspective on a tumultuous time.
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I’ll Show Myself: Essays on Quarantine and MotherhoodJessi Klein (April 26)
Comedian Jessi Klein offers a needed laugh to parents who are just beginning to emerge from the dumpster fire otherwise known as pandemic parenting. In her second collection of essays, the Inside Amy Schumer The writer grapples with the humiliations and possibilities of midlife and motherhood, from impossible car seats to equally confusing “Mama” necklaces. Even the titles of the essays are funny. Among the headlines: “Eulogy for My Feet”, “Your Husband Will Remarry Five Minutes After You Die” and “Listening to Beyoncé in the Parking Lot of Party City”.
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