Publications

    Friday Black
    Adjei-Brenyah, Nana Kwame. Friday Black. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract

     "An excitement and a wonder: strange, crazed, urgent and funny...The wildly talented Adjei-Brenyah has made these edgy tales immensely charming, via his resolute, heartful, immensely likeable narrators, capable of seeing the world as blessed and cursed at once." -- George Saunders

    "This book is dark and captivating and essential...A call to arms and a condemnation. Adjei-Brenyah offers powerful prose as parable. The writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope. Read this book." -- Roxane Gay

    A piercingly raw debut story collection from a young writer with an explosive voice; a treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it's like to be young and black in America. From the start of this extraordinary debut, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In "The Finkelstein Five," Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In "Zimmer Land," we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And "Friday Black" and "How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King" show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all. Entirely fresh in its style and perspective, and sure to appeal to fans of Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, and George Saunders, Friday Black confronts readers with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope.

    A treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it's like to be young and black in America. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country. Readers are left with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope." -- adapted from info provided

    Spit Baths
    Downs, Greg. Spit Baths. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006. eBook @ Harvard Library [HarvardKey required]Abstract
    "With a reporter's eye for the inside story and a historian's grasp of the ironies in our collective past, Greg Downs affectionately observes some of the last survivors of what Greil Marcus has called the old, weird America. Living off the map and out of sight, folks like Embee, Rudy, Peg, and Branch define themselves by where they are, not by what they eat, drink, or wear.

    The man who is soon to abandon his family in "Ain't I a King, Too?" is mistaken for the populist autocrat of Louisiana, Huey P. Long--on the day after Long's assassination. In "Hope Chests," a history teacher marries his student and takes her away from a place she hated, only to find that neither one of them can fully leave it behind. An elderly man in "Snack Cakes" enlists his grandson to help distribute his belongings among his many ex-wives, living and dead. In the title story, another intergenerational family tale, a young boy is caught in a feud between his mother and grandmother. The older woman uses the language of baseball to convey her view of religion and nobility to her grandson before the boy's mother takes him away, maybe forever.

    Caught up in pasts both personal and epic, Downs's characters struggle to maintain their peculiar, grounded manners in an increasingly detached world."

    Echo Tree: The Collected Short Fiction of Henry Dumas
    Dumas, Henry. Echo Tree: The Collected Short Fiction of Henry Dumas. Second edition. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2021. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
     "Championed by Toni Morrison and Walter Mosley, Dumas's fabulist fiction is a masterful synthesis of myth and religion, culture and nature, mask and identity. From the Deep South to the simmering streets of Harlem, his characters embark on real, magical, and mythic quests. Humming with life, Dumas's stories create a collage of midcentury Black experiences, interweaving religious metaphor, African cosmologies, diasporic folklore, and America's history of slavery and systemic racism. Henry Dumas was born in Sweet Home, Arkansas, in 1934 and moved to Harlem at the age of ten. He joined the air force in 1953 and spent a year on the Arabian Peninsula. Upon his return, Dumas became active in the civil rights movement, married, had two sons, attended Rutgers University, worked for IBM, and taught at Hiram College in Ohio and at Southern Illinois University. In 1968, at the age of thirty-three, he was shot and killed by a New York City Transit Authority police officer."--Amazon.com.
    Celestial Bodies: A Novel
    Hārithī, Jūkhah, and Marilyn Booth. Celestial Bodies: A Novel. New York: Catapult, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool ... against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present"– provided by publisher.
    Bright Lines
    Islam, Tanwi Nandini. Bright Lines. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2015. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "A Bangladeshi orphan haunted by her parents' murders moves in with family members in Brooklyn until a fateful coming-of-age summer when her Islamic runaway cousin and she confront painful family secrets."
    The Prophets: A Novel
    Jones, Robert. The Prophets: A Novel. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2021. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
     "A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence"-- Provided by publisher.

    Isaiah was Samuel's and Samuel was Isaiah's. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. When an older fellow slave seeks to gain favor by preaching the master's gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel's love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation's harmony. -- adapted from jacket
    The Time between Places: Stories That Weave In and Out of Egypt and America
    Kaldas, Pauline. The Time between Places: Stories That Weave In and Out of Egypt and America. University of Arkansas Press, 2010. eBook @ Harvard Library [HarvardKey required]Abstract
    "This collection of twenty stories delves into the lives of Egyptian characters, from those living in Egypt to those who have immigrated to the United States. With subtle and eloquent prose, the complexities of these characters are revealed, opening a door into their intimate struggles with identity and place. We meet people who are tempted by the possibilities of America and others who are tempted by the desire to return home. Some are in the throes of re-creating themselves in the new world while others seem to be embedded in the loss of their homeland. Many of these characters, although physically located in either the United States or Egypt, have lives that embrace both cultures."
    The Cotillion, or, One Good Bull is Half the Herd
    Killens, John Oliver. The Cotillion, or, One Good Bull is Half the Herd. The Coffee House Press black arts movement series. St. Paul, MN: Coffee House Press, 2002. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "Beautiful, high-stepping Yoruba of Harlem is invited to the annual cotillion thrown by African American high society of Queens. Caught between the indifference of her father, the excitement of her social-climbing mother, and her prodigal boyfriend's militancy, Yoruba persuades her sister debutantes to challenge the aging doyennes in one of the most sidesplitting scenes in American literature."
    Pachinko
    Lee, Min Jin. Pachinko. First trade paperback edition. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2018. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone. PACHINKO follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity"– provided by publisher.
    What We Are: A Novel
    Malae, Peter Nathaniel. What We Are: A Novel. New York: Grove/Atlantic, 2011. eBook @ Harvard Library [HarvardKey required]Abstract
    "This novel of a young Samoan-American’s search for authenticity is “a rollercoaster ride inside the haunted house of American multi-cultural sin and shame” (Sherman Alexie). The twenty-eight-year-old mixed-race son of a Samoan immigrant, Paul Tusifale is desperate to find his place in an American culture that barely acknowledges his existence. Within the Silicon Valley landscape of grass-roots activists and dotcom headquarters, where the plight of migrant workers is ever-present, Paul drifts on and off the radar. An unemployed drifter who defiantly—even violently—defends those in need, Paul soon discovers that life as an urban Robin Hood will never provide the answers he seeks. So he decides to try the straight-and-narrow: getting a job, obeying the law, and reconnecting with his family. Along the way, Paul moves through the lives of sinister old friends, suburban cranksters, and septuagenarian swingers. A dynamic addition to America’s diverse literature of the outsider, What We Are brings to life the pull of a departed father’s homeland, the anger of class divisions, the noise of the evening news, and the pathos of the disengaged."
    A Place for Us
    Mirza, Fatima Farheen. A Place for Us. First US edition. New York: SJP for Hogarth, 2018. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "A story of family identity and belonging follows an Indian family through the marriage of their daughter, from the parents' arrival in the United States to the return of their estranged son. As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister's footsteps. And their estranged son, Amar, returns to the family for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture?" -- adapted from jacket.
    Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories
    Morales, Jennifer. Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2015. eBook @ Harvard Library [HarvardKey required]Abstract
    "When Johnquell, an African American teen, suffers a serious accident in the home of his white neighbor, Mrs. Czernicki, his community must find ways to bridge divisions between black and white, gay and straight, old and young. Set in one of the nation’s most highly segregated cities—Milwaukee, Wisconsin—Meet Me Halfway tells stories of connections in a community with a tumultuous and divided past. In nine stories told from diverse perspectives, Jennifer Morales captures a Rust Belt city’s struggle to establish a common ground and a collective vision of the future.

    Morales gives life to multifaceted characters—white schoolteachers and senior citizens, Latino landlords, black and Puerto Rican teens, political activists, and Vietnam vets. As their lives unfold in these stories, we learn about Johnquell’s family—his grandparents’ involvement in the local Black Panther Party, his sister’s on-again, off-again friendship with a white classmate, and his aunt’s identity crisis as she finds herself falling in love with a woman. We also meet Johnquell’s mother, Gloria, and his school friend Taquan, who is struggling to chart his own future.

    As an activist mother in the thick of Milwaukee politics, Morales developed a keen ear and a tender heart for the kids who have inherited the city’s troubled racial legacy. With a critical eye on promises unfulfilled, Meet Me Halfway raises questions about the notion of a “postracial” society and, with humor and compassion, lifts up the day-to-day work needed to get there."
    The Rib King
    Hubbard, Ladee. The Rib King. New York, NY: Amistad, 2021. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
     "For fifteen years August Sitwell has worked for the Barclays, a well-to-do white family who plucked him from an orphan asylum and gave him a job. The groundskeeper is part of the household's all-black staff, along with "Miss Mamie," the talented cook, pretty new maid Jennie Williams, and three young kitchen apprentices - the latest orphan boys Mr. Barclay has taken in to "civilize" - boys like August. But the Barclays' fortunes have fallen, and their money is almost gone. When a prospective business associate proposes selling Miss Mamie's delicious rib sauce to local markets under the brand name "The Rib King" - using a caricature of a wildly grinning August on the label - Mr. Barclay, desperate for cash, agrees. Yet neither Miss Mamie nor August will see a dime. Humiliated, August grows increasingly distraught, his anger building to a rage that explodes in shocking tragedy. "--Publisher.
    Karma and Other Stories
    Reddi, Rishi. Karma and Other Stories. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "In this sparkling collection, award-winning writer Rishi Reddi weaves a multigenerational tapestry of interconnected lives, depicting members of an Indian American community struggling to balance the demands of tradition with the allure of Western life"–
    A student of history
    Revoyr, Nina. A student of history. New York: Akashic Books, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "Rick Nagano is a graduate student in the history department at USC, struggling to make rent on his South Los Angeles apartment near the neighborhood where his family once lived. When he lands a job as a research assistant for the elderly Mrs. W--, the heir to an oil fortune, he sees it first simply as a source of extra cash. But as he grows closer to the iconoclastic, charming, and feisty Mrs. W--, he gets drawn into a world of privilege and wealth far different from his racially mixed, blue-collar beginnings. Putting aside his half-finished dissertation, Rick sets up office in Mrs. W--'s grand Bel Air mansion and begins to transcribe her journals - which document an old Los Angeles not described in his history books. He also accompanies Mrs. W-- to venues frequented by the descendants of the land and oil barons who built the city. One evening, at an event, he meets Fiona Morgan - the elegant scion of an old steel family - who takes an interest in his studies. Irresistibly drawn to Fiona, he agrees to help her with a project of questionable merit in the hopes he'll win her favor. A Student of History explores both the beginnings of Los Angeles and the present-day dynamics of race and class. It offers a window into the usually hidden world of high society, and the influence of historic families on current events. Like Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, it features, in Rick Nagano, a young man of modest means who is navigating a world where he doesn't belong." (from dust jacket)
    We Cast a Shadow
    Ruffin, Maurice Carlos. We Cast a Shadow. New York: One World, 2020. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "In a near-future Southern city, everyone is talking about a new experimental medical procedure that boasts unprecedented success rates. In a society plagued by racism, segregation, and private prisons, this operation saves lives with a controversial method–by turning people white. Like any father, our unnamed narrator just wants the best for his son Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is getting bigger by the day. But in order to afford Nigel's whiteness operation, our narrator must make partner as one of the few black associates at his law firm, jumping through a series of increasingly absurd hoops–from diversity committees to plantation tours to equality activist groups–in a tragicomic quest to protect his son. This electrifying, suspenseful novel is, at once, a razor-sharp satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. In the tradition ofRalph Ellison's Invisible Man, We Cast a Shadow fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate things we do for the ones we love"–
    The Revisioners
    Sexton, Margaret Wilkerson. The Revisioners. Berkeley, California: Counterpoint, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    In 1925, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now, her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine's family. Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine's descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays her grandchild to be her companion. But Martha's behavior soon becomes erratic, then even threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine's converge.
    The Voice at the Back Door
    Spencer, Elizabeth. The Voice at the Back Door. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1994. eBook @ Harvard Library [Harvard Key required]Abstract

    In the mid-1950s, the town of Lacey in the Mississippi hill country is a place where the lives of blacks and whites, though seemingly separate, are in fact historically and inevitably intertwined. When Lacey's fair-haired boy, Duncan Harper, is appointed interim sheriff, he makes public his private convictions about the equality of blacks before the law, and the combined threat and promise he represents to the understood order of things in Lacey affects almost every member of the community. In the end, Harper succeeds in pointing the way for individuals, both black and white, to find a more harmonious coexistence, but at a sacrifice all must come to regret.

    In The Voice at the Back Door, Mississippi native Elizabeth Spencer gives form to the many voices that shaped her view of race relations while growing up, and at the same time discovers her own voice -- one of hope. Employing her extraordinary literary powers -- finely honed narrative techniques, insight into a rich, diverse cast of characters, and an unerring ear for dialect -- Spencer makes palpable the psychological milieu of a small southern town hobbled by tradition but lurching toward the dawn of the civil rights movement. First published in 1956, The Voice at the Back Door is Spencer's most highly praised novel yet, and her last to treat small-town life in Mississippi.

    Real Life
    Taylor, Brandon. Real Life. New York: Riverhead Books, 2020. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "A novel of rare emotional power that excavates the social intricacies of a late-summer weekend – and a lifetime of buried pain. Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends – some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community"–
    The Gone Dead
    Benz, Chanelle. The Gone Dead. New York: Ecco, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
    "Billie James' inheritance isn't much: a little money and a shack in the Mississippi Delta. The house once belonged to her father, a renowned black poet who died unexpectedly when Billie was four years old. Though Billie was there when the accident happened, she has no memory of that day, and she hasn't been back to the South since. Thirty years later, Billie returns but her father's home is unnervingly secluded: her only neighbors are the McGees, the family whose history has been entangled with hers since the days of slavery. As Billie encounters the locals, she hears a strange rumor: that she herself went missing on the day her father died. As the mystery intensifies, she finds out that this forgotten piece of her past could put her in danger."--Book cover flap.

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