Joseph likes books that make him feel sad, even though he doesn't necessarily feel like a sad person. He loves when he's reading a sad book and suddenly there's a moment that makes him laugh so hard that he drops the book. Most mornings, he writes, primarily short stories and poetry. These are sometimes funny, but mostly sad. He lives in Tempe with his wife, Harmony, and two cats.
Sayaka Murata's novel tells the story of a woman finding her place in the world and learning to navigate the pressures and expectations of society, but unlike most novels that tell this kind of story, this one is from the perspective of someone with little comprehension of how human emotions work. Murata uses her protagonist's unique perspective to hold a mirror up to ourselves, revealing the complicated relationship we have with our own rules and the people who do and don't follow them. She displays a tremendous amount of empathy for Keiko, a character utterly incapable of feeling any herself. You'll see yourself on both sides of Keiko's experience, which is just one of the novel's impressive feats. Definitely check it out. For fans of The Incendiaries or Heads of the Colored People.
R.O. Kwon lets you know where this is going from the opening of the novel, but the road there is utterly absorbing. The Incendiaries is an impressive and haunting debut novel, a story of loss, anger, regret, and the extremes to which we might go to soothe our own pain. Kwon makes certain choices in the presentation of this story that are at first curious, but eventually reveal themselves to be essential to her exploration of cult behavior, leadership, and persuasion. It's a fascinating puzzle to sort through, one that may or may not be solvable.
It's an oversimplification to call this a love triangle story. It is that, but it's also much more. Lucy Tan's debut novel is an illuminating exploration of the pressures put on us by familial and cultural expectations, and the ways in which those expectations are complicated by exposure to other ways of life. Tan presents a network of juxtapositions--contrasts of class, culture, and desire--that make this story of missed connection, of love potentially lost, one you'll be thinking about, and feeling, for a while after the last page.
Nguyen's poems are vibrant and mischievous, astoundingly witty and deeply intimate. To read this collection is to not only see the work of a keenly intelligent and clever mind, but to see that mind working as it examines the ways, and the costs, of carving out spaces for ourselves and our identities.
I urge you to read this book, but I'm telling you right now - you're not prepared for it. The worlds of Friday Black aren't exactly ours, but they are certainly, and disturbingly, familiar. One of the great accomplishments of these stories is their ability to contain together shocking brutality and enduring hope. At times darkly funny, at others deeply unsettling, Adjei-Brenyah has crafted a visceral collection of stories, each brimming with humanity that demands to be recognized and acknowledged. Please read.