This week’s new release treats include a healthy helping of fiction for the reader who questions everything—art, life, the degeneration of society via social media channels—and non-fiction that probes our past to better understand the present moment. Scroll down for more.
A Bright Ray of Darkness by Ethan Hawke
The blistering story of a young man making his Broadway debut in Henry IV just as his marriage implodes—an utterly transfixing book about art and love, fame and heartbreak from the acclaimed actor/writer/director.
Hawke’s first novel in nearly twenty years is a bracing meditation on fame and celebrity, and the redemptive, healing power of art; a portrait of the ravages of disappointment and divorce; a poignant consideration of the rites of fatherhood and manhood; a novel soaked in rage and sex, longing and despair; and a passionate love letter to the world of theater. A Bright Ray of Darkness showcases Ethan Hawke’s gifts as a novelist as never before.
Hawke’s narrator is a young man in torment, disgusted with himself after the collapse of his marriage, still half-hoping for a reconciliation that would allow him to forgive himself and move on as he clumsily, and sometimes hilariously, tries to manage the wreckage of his personal life with whiskey and sex. What saves him is theater: in particular, the challenge of performing the role of Hotspur in a production of Henry IV under the leadership of a brilliant director, helmed by one of the most electrifying–and narcissistic–Falstaff’s of all time. Searing and raw, A Bright Ray of Darkness is a novel about shame and beauty and faith, and the moral power of art.
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619 – 2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi, Keisha N. Blain
A chorus of extraordinary voices comes together to tell one of history’s great epics: the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present—edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire.
The story begins in 1619—a year before the Mayflower—when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history.
Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.
This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present.
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
From our Booksellers:
“A novel about eating disorders, their corrosive effects on everything from how you spend your time to who you choose to love (or lust), and the freedom that comes when you let your appetite roam where it wants. Rachel is a twenty-something plagued by the fear of weight gain instilled in her from an early age by her anxious and fat-phobic mother. When her therapist challenges her to cut off contact with her mom for 90 days and stop restricting everything else, Rachel’s carefully constructed shell of calories in calories out begins to crack. In Milk Fed, we have change, we have desire, we have mental illness, we have prejudice, and we have liberation. Let the milk and honey flow!”
— Molly M.
“How do you follow up the sheer absurdity of a novel like The Pisces? Melissa Broder’s response: with a very queer, very Jewish fable of physical and spiritual delights.
Milk Fed follows Rachel, a calorie-counting, image obsessed twenty-something working in the Hollywood fame machine. She lives by a strict ascetic code (nicotine gum for breakfast; a protein bar for lunch; and plain yogurt for dinner). A slim waist and approval from an emotionally withholding mommy drive her. By all appearances, she is cultivating an Instagram-worthy product for all to envy and desire. That is, until Miriam–the curvy, daring, eccentric Miriam–appears on the scene to blow it all to pieces, revealing to Rachel the varieties of desire and satisfaction.
What ensues is something that reads like a fabulist sexual awakening—one that prominently features the golem of Jewish lore, all-night food binges, and sage rabbinical advice. If the Coen Brothers knew anything about what its like to be a millennial women, they might write something like this. But I thank little-g god every day for divining unto this earth Melissa Broder and the wise, funny, purifying gift that is Milk Fed.”
— Uriel P.
Bad Habits by Amy Gentry
Claire “Mac” Woods–a professor enjoying her newfound hotshot status at an academic conference–finally has the acceptance and admiration she has long craved. But at the conference’s hotel bar, Mac is surprised to run into a face from a past she’d rather forget: the moneyed, effortlessly perfect Gwendolyn Whitney, Mac’s foil, rival, and former best friend.
When Gwen moved to town in high school, Claire–then known as Mac, a poor kid from a troubled family who had too much on her plate–saw what it meantto have. Money, sophistication, culture, the very blueprints to success. Mac had almost nothing, except the will to change. Change she did, habitually grinding herself to work as hard as straight-A Gwen, even eventually getting admitted into the same elite graduate program as Gwen. But then Mac and Gwen become entangled with the department’s power-couple professors and compete head-to-head for a life changing fellowship. The more twisted the track toward success becomes, the more Mac has to contort herself to stay one step ahead—which deception signals the point of no return?
Jack-knifing between Mac’s world-expanding graduate days and the crucible of the hotel and its unexpected guests, Bad Habits follows Mac’s reckoning between her hardscrabble past and tenuous present. What, exactly, did Mac do to get what she has today? And what will she do to keep it? With taut, powerful prose, Amy Gentry asks how far we’ll go to get what we want–and whether we can ever truly leave the past behind.
Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler
On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, a young woman snoops through her boyfriend’s phone and makes a startling discovery: he’s an anonymous internet conspiracy theorist, and a popular one at that. Already fluent in internet fakery, irony, and outrage, she’s not exactly shocked by the revelation. Actually, she’s relieved–he was always a little distant–and she plots to end their floundering relationship while on a trip to the Women’s March in DC. But this is only the first in a series of bizarre twists that expose a world whose truths are shaped by online lies.
Suddenly left with no reason to stay in New York and increasingly alienated from her friends and colleagues, our unnamed narrator flees to Berlin, embarking on her own cycles of manipulation in the deceptive spaces of her daily life, from dating apps to expat meetups, open-plan offices to bureaucratic waiting rooms. She begins to think she can’t trust anyone–shouldn’t the feeling be mutual?
Narrated with seductive confidence and subversive wit, Fake Accounts challenges the way current conversations about the self and community, delusions and gaslighting, and fiction and reality play out in the internet age.
In her groundbreaking and essential debut The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America’s most pivotal heroes.
Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little were all born at the beginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women. These three extraordinary women passed their knowledge to their children with the hope of helping them to survive in a society that would deny their humanity from the very beginning—from Louise teaching her children about their activist roots, to Berdis encouraging James to express himself through writing, to Alberta basing all of her lessons in faith and social justice. These women used their strength and motherhood to push their children toward greatness, all with a conviction that every human being deserves dignity and respect despite the rampant discrimination they faced.
These three mothers taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America’s racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families’ safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came above all else for the three mothers.
These women, their similarities and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue.
My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee
From the award-winning author of Native Speaker and On Such a Full Sea, an exuberant, provocative story about a young American life transformed by an unusual Asian adventure – and about the human capacities for pleasure, pain, and connection.
Tiller is an average American college student with a good heart but minimal aspirations. Pong Lou is a larger-than-life, wildly creative Chinese American entrepreneur who sees something intriguing in Tiller beyond his bored exterior and takes him under his wing. When Pong brings him along on a boisterous trip across Asia, Tiller is catapulted from ordinary young man to talented protégé, and pulled into a series of ever more extreme and eye-opening experiences that transform his view of the world, of Pong, and of himself.
In the breathtaking, “precise, elliptical prose” that Chang-rae Lee is known for (The New York Times), the narrative alternates between Tiller’s outlandish, mind-boggling year with Pong and the strange, riveting, emotionally complex domestic life that follows it, as Tiller processes what happened to him abroad and what it means for his future. Rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, global trade, mental health, parenthood, mentorship, and more, My Year Abroad is also an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion—on a young American in Asia, on a Chinese man in America, and on an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs. Tinged at once with humor and darkness, electric with its accumulating surprises and suspense, My Year Abroad is a novel that only Chang-rae Lee could have written, and one that will be read and discussed for years to come.
Floating in a Most Peculiar Way: A Memoir by Louis Chude-Sokei
The astonishing journey of a bright, utterly displaced boy, from the short-lived African nation of Biafra, to Jamaica, to the harshest streets of Los Angeles—a searing memoir that adds fascinating depth to the coming-to-America story
The first time Chude-Sokei realizes that he is “first son of the first son” of a renowned leader of the bygone African nation is in Uncle Daddy and Big Auntie’s strict religious household in Jamaica, where he lives with other abandoned children. A visiting African has just fallen to his knees to shake him by the shoulders: “Is this the boy? Is this him?”
Chude-Sokei’s immersion in the politics of race and belonging across the landscape of the African diaspora takes a turn when his traumatized mother, who has her own extraordinary history as the onetime “Jackie O of Biafra,” finally sends for him to come live with her. In Inglewood, Los Angeles, on the eve of gangsta rap and the LA riots, it’s as if he’s fallen to Earth. In this world, anything alien—definitely Chude-Sokei’s secret obsession with science fiction and David Bowie—is a danger, and his yearning to become a Black American gets deeply, sometimes absurdly, complicated. Ultimately, it is a boisterous pan-African family of honorary aunts, uncles, and cousins that becomes his secret society, teaching him the redemptive skill of navigating not just Blackness, but Blacknesses, in his America.
New in Paperback
Deacon King Kong: A Novel by James McBride
My Dark Vanessa: A Novel by Kate Elizabeth Russell
These titles and more are available for purchase in-store or online from BookPeople today.