In Every Mirror She's Black by Lola Akinmade ÅkerströmWhat it's about: An influential white man in Stockholm involves himself in the lives of three Black women from wildly different backgrounds -- a Somali refugee, a business executive, and a former model (now a flight attendant). The results are toxic.
Why you should read it: It offers nuanced depictions of racism, feminism, and power dynamics from multiple (and international) perspectives. Booklist praises it as "a guaranteed favorite for fans of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah."
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne AllenWhat happens: Thirty-something Tabitha has reached a stage in life where she must choose between her ambitions and her desire for children; guided by her two closest friends, she confronts challenging components in her life -- and within herself.
Read it for: a sympathetic protagonist whose struggle between vulnerability and ambition poses insightful perspectives on femininity, race, and family ties.
L.A. Weather by María Amparo EscandónWhat happens: Amidst the burning heat of a drought, the Alvardo family is drawn together under one roof. Close quarters soon reveal layers of betrayal and deception that bring their relationships to a boil.
Read it for: telenovela-levels of high drama, a strong sense of place, and a surprisingly heartwarming tone overall.
Try this next: What a Happy Family by Saumya Dave, the story of a tightly knit East Indian family living in Atlanta, Georgia, and plagued by its own secrets. Family tensions run similarly high.
Several People Are Typing by Calvin KasulkeThe setup: PR firm employee Gerald boosts his productivity after his consciousness is uploaded into his company's internal Slack channels. As his reality becomes more absurd, Gerald enlists a co-worker's help to escape -- and to find out what exactly has happened to his body.
Reviewers say: "In this gloriously inventive debut, Kasulke has constructed a funny, tender, and compelling novel that consists entirely of messages on the workplace app Slack" (Booklist).
Dark, Creepy, or Ghostly Reads
Universal Harvester by John DarnielleWhat it's about: Jeremy, an employee at a 1990s video rental store, discovers chilling footage that has been captured on one of the store's VHS tapes. Soon he's in over his head with the knowledge of what it contains.
Why you might like it: Film becomes the launching point for a journey into creepy, unconventional horror with a rural noir vibe.
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate RacculiaStarring: an eclectic cast of characters, all sent on an inventive treasure hunt across Boston by an unconventional billionaire's final request.
For fans of: literary and pop culture references; ghost stories; inheritance drama; loners; bankers who used to be theater kids; Edgar Allan Poe; cape-wearing gentlemen; scavenger hunts; camp, whimsy, and eccentricity. And, of course, Ellen Raskin's classic kids' book The Westing Game.
Read this next: Ernest Cline's nostalgic sci-fi scavenger hunt Ready Player One.
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig RiceThe situation: Power outages aren't uncommon in this close-knit northern Ontario Anishinaabe community, but this one goes on far too long...and then a food shipment fails to arrive, and a newcomer brings news of chaos in the south.
What happens next: Community relations splinter as the food supply dwindles, the winter gets harsher, and the newcomer fosters discord.
Read it for: the escalating tension, the own voices depiction of Anishinaabe culture, and the realization that the end of the "civilized" world doesn't necessarily mean the end of the world for everyone.
Sorrowland by Rivers SolomonWhat it's about: Fifteen-year-old Vern, a young Black woman fleeing the confines of a religious compound where she has grown up, takes refuge in the nearby forest. There she gives birth to twins -- and her fierce desire to protect them knows no bounds, earthly or otherwise.
Who it's for: fans of speculative fiction with diverse characters and touches of magical realism that turn the sinister dial all the way up.
Try this next: Megan Giddings' Lakewood, another own voices mash-up of speculative fiction, horror, and magical realism.
Creatures of Passage by Morowa YejideWhat happens: Taxi driver Nephthys Kinwell ferries passengers around a city resembling 1970s Washington, D.C. in her 1967 Plymouth Belvedere -- which, by the way, has a ghost in the trunk.
Is it for you? Fans of magical realism will enjoy this haunting, bleak story of the Kinwell family, who must unite to save the youngest of their clan. The writing is lyrical and stylistically complex, and a well-developed cast of secondary characters make this an immersive, intense read.
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