The following books are unlike anything you've ever read in fantasy before. I guarantee that you'll find your next favorite story in one (or all) of these books!
The National Book Foundation has unveiled the finalists for the National Book Awards. Listing five books each in five categories, they’ve given us some recognizable names, but it’s going to be an interesting year considering that none of the authors have taken home a National Book Award in these categories before.
For this article, we’re going to show you what made it into the ‘Fiction’ category.
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Image Via Amazon
Susan Choi brings us a novel that paints a picture of an American suburb in the early 1980s where students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in their pursuit of music, movement, Shakespeare, and their acting classes.
When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall head over heels, but their passion does not go unnoticed—or untoyed with—by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley.
Among its heaps of praise, the words of Sophie Gilbert in the Atlantic ring true, writing: “The students in Choi’s story shape their identities and their imaginations around art, letting its colors seep onto their blank pages”.
Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Image Via Amazon
A collection of short stories that uses Denver, Colorado as a backdrop, we follow three Latina women who must navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force.
The first story, “Sugar Babies,” shows that ancestry and heritage cannot stay buried forever when they come to the forefront of the conversation during a land dispute.
“Any Further West” follows a sex worker and her daughter as they leave their ancestral home in southern Colorado only to find a foreign and hostile land in California.
“Tomi,” has a woman leave prison and finds herself in a city that is a shadow of the one she remembers from her childhood.
The title story, “Sabrina & Corina,” follows a Denver family that falls into a cycle of violence against women, coming together only through ritual.
Kirkus Reviews sums up the collection with these words:
Fajardo-Anstine takes aim at our country’s social injustices and ills without succumbing to pessimism. The result is a nearly perfect collection of stories that is emotionally wrenching but never without glimmers of resistance and hope.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Image Via Amazon
The first in a trilogy, this book draws from African history and mythology, following Tracker, an infamous hunter. Tasked with tracking down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy, but throughout a journey filled with shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard, he wonders who this boy and why he’s been missing for long and, above all, why are many people want to keep Tracker from finding him?
Neil Gaiman said the novel has “[a] fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made.”
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
Image Via Amazon
Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant in California, walks across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car.
Driss Geurraoui’s death brings together a diverse cast of characters:
We have his daughter Nora, a jazz composer who returns to the small town she thought she left for good.
His widow Maryam, who wishes for a return to the old country.
Efrain, an undocumented witness whose fear of deportation prevents him from speaking up.
Jeremy, a former classmate of Nora’s and a veteran of the Iraq war.
Coleman, a detective who is slowly discovering her son’s secrets.
Anderson, a neighbor trying to reconnect with his family.
…and the murdered man himself.
Rayyan Al-Shawaf from the Washington Post sums up the novels as: “Lalami gives us a searching exploration of the lives of several individuals with whom mainstream American society has a vexed relationship”.
Disappearing Earth by Julia Philips
Image Via Amazon
On the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two sisters go missing. Months later the police investigation has turned up nothing.
Now we follow the lives of those connected to the crime—a witness, a neighbor, a detective, a mother—as they try to continue their lives without closure in a land where heaven and hell, from the densely wooded forests, open expanses of tundra and soaring volcanoes, all exist on the same plain.
Bethanne Patrick of NPR noted in her review of the novel that:
Julia Phillips witnessed Kamchatka in transition from its Soviet-era sleepiness into post-Communist Wild West-like corruption. While she says her next novel “is not set on a volcanic Russian peninsula I need to save up for three years to get to,” readers of Disappearing Earth will be willing to follow her to any destination.
From murder mysteries to epic fantasies and from short stories to novels, it’ll be tough this year. Who do you think will win this year’s fiction categories?
Featured Image Via Entertainment Weekly
Man Booker prizewinner Marlon James’s new novel, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, was released this month to great acclaim. Described as “African Game of Thrones‘ by Michael B. Jordan, who has secured the rights for a TV adaptation, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is predicted to “propel James into a new galaxy of literary stardom.”
Image via The Wall Street Journal.
In an interview with The Guardian, James discussed his “frustratingly middle class” upbringing as the son of police detectives in Jamaica. Despite being kept relatively safe from the turbulent social climate in Jamaica at the time, James did not fare too well in school, called names by the other students, and spending much time alone.
“My teenage years before college, I spent pretty much all of my time in my bedroom. I spent so much time there that my neighbours thought I did high school in America. I’d go to class, then I’d disappear. I’d just basically come home to eat dinner, sleep, draw comics.”
Image via Amazon.
His lack of success socially made certain comics, like X-Men, resonate with him. “They’re outcasts,” he says, “they’re outsiders, they’re disliked by a world that they’re still a part of. Even other heroes didn’t trust the X-Men. And that connected with me in a really, really major way.”
He goes on to explain that he “never read any of the foundational fantasy novels” as a child. “Those fantasy novels that you might have thought would be everywhere, like Dune and Lord of the Rings, really weren’t [in Jamaica]. I read whatever cheap crap got dumped on the third world. I didn’t have a community telling me, ‘Read this, read that.’ A lot of what I write about in terms of the fantastic I picked up from comics, particularly Marvel comics. And even that idea of a group of people banded together, which people think I got from Fellowship of the Ring, it’s more like X-Men or one of those anti-teams like Doom Patrol or Suicide Squad. Because comics were easier to get hold of than books.” `
It may be reassuring for any aspiring writers out there who feel like they don’t fit in, to know that even Man Booker prize winner and author of an incredible book, comparable to Game of Throne spent his teen years in his bedroom, in his own fantasy world!
Featured Image via Chicago Tribune.
In celebration of Black History month, we’ve put together a list of amazing new books by acclaimed writers of color. These stories are incredibly diverse in genre, and explore everything from coming-of-age, to romance, to fantasy to the human condition.
- On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
This is the highly anticipated second novel by Angie Thomas, the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning The Hate U Give.
Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.
But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.
Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.
Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.
2. The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
The new exhilarating romance from The New York Times bestselling author of The Proposal, a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick!
Maddie and Theo have two things in common:
1. Alexa is their best friend
2. They hate each other
After an “oops, we made a mistake” night together, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking, agreeing they would end it once the wedding is over. When it’s suddenly pushed up and they only have a few months left of secret rendezvouses, they find themselves regretting that the end is near. Two people this different can’t possibly have a connection other than the purely physical, right?
But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love.
3. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.
As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?
Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that’s come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.
4. An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma
A heart-breaking story about a Nigerian poultry farmer who sacrifices everything to win the woman he loves, by Man Booker Finalist and author of The Fishermen, Chigozie Obioma.
Set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria and narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit, AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES tells the story of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer whose soul is ignited when he sees a woman attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his prized chickens into the water below to express the severity of such a fall. The woman, Ndali, is stopped her in her tracks.
Bonded by this night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family and struggles to imagine a future near a chicken coop. When her family objects to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a college in Cyprus. But when he arrives he discovers there is no place at the school for him, and that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements.. Penniless, homeless, and furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further away from his dream, from Ndali and the farm he called home.
Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer’s Odyssey. Written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.
5. Gingerbread: A Novel by Helen Oyeyemi
The prize-winning, bestselling author of Boy, Snow, Bird and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours returns with a bewitching and inventive novel.
Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories, beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.
Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (or, according to many sources, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. The world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread, however, is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend Gretel Kercheval —a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.
Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value. Endlessly surprising and satisfying, written with Helen Oyeyemi’s inimitable style and imagination, it is a true feast for the reader.
6. Survival Math :Notes On An All-American Family by Mitchell Jackson
In a thrillingly alive, candid new work, award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson takes us inside the drug-ravaged neighborhood and struggling family of his youth, while examining the cultural forces—large and small—that led him and his family to this place.
With a poet’s gifted ear, a novelist’s sense of narrative, and a journalist’s unsentimental eye, Mitchell S. Jackson candidly explores his tumultuous youth in the other America. Survival Math takes its name from the calculations Mitchell and his family made to keep safe—to stay alive—in their community, a small black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon blighted by drugs, violence, poverty, and governmental neglect.
Survival Math is both a personal reckoning and a vital addition to the national conversation about race. Mitchell explores the Portland of his childhood, tracing the ways in which his family managed their lives in and around drugs, prostitution, gangs, and imprisonment as members of a tiny black population in one of the country’s whitest cities. He discusses sex work and serial killers, gangs and guns, near-death experiences, composite fathers, the concept of “hustle,” and the destructive power of drugs and addiction on family.
In examining the conflicts within his family and community, Jackson presents a microcosm of struggle and survival in contemporary urban America—an exploration of the forces that shaped his life, his city, and the lives of so many black men like him. As Jackson charts his own path from drug dealer to published novelist, he gives us a heartbreaking, fascinating, lovingly rendered view of the injustices and victories, large and small, that defined his youth.
7. Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington
In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys.
Around him, others live and thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighborhoods: a young woman whose affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, a reluctant chupacabra.
Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world vibrates with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people searching for home. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot explores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.
Featured Image via LitReactor. All Images via Amazon.
The star of Creed 2 and Black Panther is bringing a recently published novel to the big screen.
Michael B. Jordan and Warner Bros. recently acquired the film rights to Marlon James’ fantasy novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which was published on February 5th.
The first in a planned series called the Dark Star trilogy, set against the backdrop of two warring kingdoms in an epic fantasy world, the novel follows a hunter named Tracker who has been hired to find a missing child. The story draws heavily from African history and mythology, with James jokingly describing the novel as an “African ‘Game of Thrones’”.
Image Via Amazon
Jordan will produce the film under his Outlier Society production label, which he founded in order to bring more diverse stories to the big screen.
James is also known for his novel A Brief History Of Seven Killings, which is being adapted into a series by Amazon.
Featured Image Via TheVerge