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Loving, losing, growing and regressing are all part of what it means to be alive, but this week’s releases not only explore those themes, they embrace them. For me, it’s hard to imagine the type of bravery and strength it takes to put these words on a page, but authors, and these authors in particular, do it with such grace. We gather information and influence from the experiences described in nonfiction, but when we look closely—and I mean really look close, those same messages and influence can be just as powerful in fiction.
Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie explores a world in which the color of a young girl’s skin is bleached daily; where she is hidden away and left with only her thoughts, yet finds strength and allyship in fighting, questioning and resisting. Paul Mendez’s release, Rainbow Milk, explores sexuality and revelation in London through the connection two men have and find together.
Dear Senthuran goes into Akwaeke Emezi’s relationship with their gender identity and how spirituality and spiritual guidance can be found in even the darkest corners. And circling back to London, Gina Yashere is talking about her experiences as the “reincarnation” of her grandmother, building a successful career in engineering and running from skinheads through the dingiest alleys of London.
Suffice to say, there’s no end in sight for powerful messages coming through powerful words, but this week...this week is something else.
Cack-Handed: A Memoir – Gina Yashere (Memoir)
In a hilarious collection of stories, Gina Yashere (CBS) tells the stories of her upbringing as a child of Nigerian immigrants in London. Yashere’s family followed a very strict superstition—that Gina was the reincarnation of her grandmother, Patience, and meant to do all of the great things she was never able to. Cack-Handed takes us through recollections of her strict parents, running from skinheads in the streets of London, an especially overprotective mother and the journey Yashere went on to become the first female engineer with the UK branch of the largest elevatory company in the world—before moving to the US to go to school and live out the wild dreams she crafted as a child.
You may wonder what a degree in engineering, running from skinheads and dreams of riding cool bicycles have to do with being an internationally known comedian, but Gina Yashere does a brilliant job of answering all of those questions… and more.
June 8, 2021, Amistad
Changes: An Oral History of Tupac Shakur – Sheldon Pearce (Biography)
The summer of 2020 saw hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd and the violence against Black Americans. In 1998, Tupac Shakur released “Changes,” and over twenty years later, the song became an anthem of the #BlackLivesMatter protests that swept the nation. Music has had a way of changing people’s lives and Sheldon Pearce wanted to give people a real and honest history of Tupac—with the book’s release coinciding with the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death and celebrating what would have been his fiftieth year alive. Changes focuses on the people in Tupac’s life who weren’t always in the spotlight and who have never-before-heard stories to share. From the actor who costarred with him in a middle school production of A Raisin in the Sun, to his high school drama teacher, who was the first to really nurture his talent, to the industry veteran who helped him develop a nonprofit designed to help young artists.
“Meticulously woven together by Pearce…this remarkable book illustrates not only how he changed during his brief twenty-five years on this planet, but how he forever changed the world.”
June 8, 2021, Simon and Schuster
Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir – Akwaeke Emezi (Memoir)
Readers have been able to lose themselves in the fictional worlds Akwaeke Emezi’s three previous novels have created, but now we get a brilliant insight into the harrowing life and childhood Emezi has endured. Riddled with brutal honesty and a new view of their life, Emezi tells their story through different types of conversation between friends, family and lovers, drawing a map of themselves and laying it out for readers to view.
Understandings of their gender and body as a young person are brought to light and Emezi goes into their experiences with relationships, success and spirituality in a book that is as “tender as it is brutal.”
June 8, 2021, Riverhead Books
Fifty Words for Rain: A Novel – Asha Lemmie (Fiction)
“Do not question. Do not fight. Do not resist.”
Noriko “Nori” Kamiza held onto these lessons for as long as she could remember. She never questioned why her mother abandoned her, never fought her grandparents and their insistence on keeping her in the attic, never resisting the burning, toxic chemical baths she was subjected to daily in order to lighten her skin.
In Kyoto, Japan, Nori is an outsider from birth. She is the daughter of a Japanese aristocrat and her Black lover and though she is taken in by her grandparents, they do everything in their power to keep her hidden.
However, an unlikely ally arrives—a half-brother she never knew of and with whom she forms a powerful bond. A bond her grandparents forbid; a bond that changes everything; a bond that makes her reject the three important rules her mother instilled upon her before she left.
June 8, 2021, Dutton
Luster – Raven Leilani (Fiction)
Raven Leilani’s delightfully dangerous, sinfully salacious and artfully radical novel, Luster, is now available as a paperback. The novel follows Edie, a woman lost in her twenties, as she navigates a boring admin job, a handful of bad decisions and the ever-present need to support her art. The boring repetition of her life comes to a halt when she meets Eric, a New Jersey dwelling, open-relationship-having digital archivist with a newly adopted daughter, Akila. Unemployed, curious and still hell-bent on making bad decisions, Edie accepts an invitation to spend time in Eric’s home—sent by his wife, becoming a tentative ally with her and an automatic role model for their daughter.
Raven Leilani’s Luster is a hilarious and brutally honest look at a young women’s art, her understanding of self and the decisions she makes—all while grappling with the difficulties and strains of believing in one’s own talent.
June 8, 2021 (Paperback Release), Straus and Giroux
Our Time is Now: Power, Purpose and the Fight for a Fair America – Stacey Abrams (Nonfiction)
Now available as a paperback, Stacey Abrams’s Our Time Now exposes the toxicity behind some ideals of the right to vote and how democracy, despite all of its advancements, is under attack. Memorably, her massively important and empowering efforts in Georgia during the 2020 election were crucial in securing a Democratic win.
Abrams’s book “draws on extensive research from national organizations and renowned scholars, as well as anecdotes from her life and others who have fought throughout our country’s history for the power to be heard.”
June 8, 2021 (Paperback Release), Picador
Rainbow Milk: A Novel – Paul Mendez (Fiction)
Norman Alonso—dedicated father and husband, respectful Jamaican man and 1950s ex-boxer—immigrates to Britain with his family to secure what he hopes to be a brighter future. Norman and his family are quickly thrown into a cycle of racist behaviors from the locals but remain strong. But when he is faced with an unexpected illness, Norman becomes aware that more than just hope is needed to make it in their new country.
Jesse is seeking out a fresh start in London—desperately trying to get away from his broken, immediate family, their repressive religious values and crumbling, depressed hometown in the industry Black Country. However, arriving in London isn’t all Jesse wants it to be, and he turns to art, music and sex work to find himself, coming to terms with his own ideas of spirituality, masculinity and love.
June 8, 2021, Doubleday
The Marvelous – Claire Kann (Young Adult)
One year after her disappearance, Jewel Van Hanen—heiress turned actress turned social media influencer—has come back with a new challenge for the few lucky winners of her wildly popular video-sharing app, Golden Rule. The winners were told they would be spending a weekend on Jewel’s lavish estate, but when they get there the tables turn. Now the players, Nicole, Luna and Stella, are forced into a wild estate-wide challenge tailored to test every challenge and insecurity they’ve ever faced to see if they have what it takes to win.
Told from the perspectives of the players, Nicole, Luna and Stella will keep you guessing at every move they make—especially considering money isn’t the only thing at stake.
June 8, 2021, Swoon Reads