Best New Books: Week of 9/14/21

“The world may be mean, but people don’t have to be, not if they refuse.” – Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

The Actual Star by  Monica Byrne

Fiction / Science Fiction / Fantasy.

The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over thousands of years and six continents —collapsing three separate timelines into one cave in the Belizean jungle.

An epic saga of three reincarnated souls, this novel demonstrates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, love and hate. The book jumps forward and backward in time among a pair of twins who ruled a Maya kingdom, a young American on a trip of self-discovery, and two dangerous charismatics in a conflict that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change.

In each era, age-old questions about existence and belonging and identity converge deep underground. Because only in complete darkness can one truly see the stars.

Description from Goodreads.

“Beautifully rendered… moving… a terrific novel.” – Locus

“An indescribable epic saga of three reincarnated souls from the author of The Girl in the RoadThe Actual Star is for those who love complexities and questions that transcend single lives.” – The Millions

“A fascinating and intricately woven piece of speculative fiction… Byrne’s work delves into themes about entropy, destiny, how place affects us as we change the world, and the search for meaning. But it is also a thoroughly human work where ambition, loneliness, love, and the need to belong resonate, no matter the year. Complex and captivating.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Apples Never Fall by  Liane Moriarty

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

The Delaney family love one another dearly—it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other…

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children—Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke—were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure—but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.

Description from Goodreads.

“Do yourself a favor and read this ASAP ’cause it’ll likely be everyone’s next binge-worthy TV obsession by next year. The author of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers returns with another unputdownable book about what it really means to be family.” – E!

“[Liane Moriarty] cements herself as a master of mystery, using every detail in her tangled narrative web to keep the reader guessing until the final shocking twist.” – Vulture

“Combines domestic realism and noirish mystery… The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | Playaway | eBook | eAudiobook

Dark Things I Adore by  Katie Lattari

Fiction / Suspense.

Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.

1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.

2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.

Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.

A searing thriller of trauma, dark academia, complicity, and revenge, Dark Things I Adore unravels the realities behind campfire legends―the horrors that happen in the dark, the girls who become cautionary tales, and the guilty who go unpunished. Until now.

Description from Goodreads.

“This vengeful tale that pits artistic genius against mental health and happiness will captivate fans of dark suspense.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] complex, deeply disturbing tale of vengeance… the plot gains momentum and builds to a chilling conclusion. Those who are comfortable with a cast of morally ambiguous characters will best appreciate this one.” – Publishers Weekly

“…hypnotic. This dark book casts a sinister spell over readers, moving between past and present to tell a tale of brilliantly-executed revenge… both beautifully-written and seriously dark, and readers who love triumphant stories of revenge will adore this lush and deadly tale.” – Crime by the Book

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by  Mary Roach ★

Nonfiction / Science / Nature.

What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. The answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.

Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and “danger tree” faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Indian Himalaya to St. Peter’s Square in the early hours before the pope arrives for Easter Mass, when vandal gulls swoop in to destroy the elaborate floral display. She taste-tests rat bait, learns how to install a vulture effigy, and gets mugged by a macaque.

Combining little-known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and trespassing squirrels, Roach reveals as much about humanity as about nature’s lawbreakers. When it comes to “problem” wildlife, she finds, humans are more often the problem—and the solution. Fascinating, witty, and humane, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.

Description from Goodreads.

“Bestseller Roach sheds light on nature’s malefactors in this often funny, always provocative survey… Roach’s writing is wry, full of heart, and loaded with intriguing facts… This eminently entertaining outing is another winner from Roach.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“From the terrifying to the frustrating, a great starting point for understanding the animal world.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“This book is such a rich stew of anecdotes and lore that it’s best savored slowly, bit by bit… no matter the situation, Roach approaches it with contagious enthusiasm… will open readers’ eyes to a myriad of animal rights issues, and possibly change their attitudes about how to approach them.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“The expert on quirky science writing doesn’t disappoint… A must-read for wildlife enthusiasts, popular science readers, and anyone who has enjoyed Roach’s other books. Her occasionally awkward interactions with people and animals make for the engaging narrative style that Roach is famous for.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South by  Margaret Renkl

Nonfiction / Essays.

For the past four years, Margaret Renkl’s columns have offered readers of The New York Times a weekly dose of natural beauty, human decency, and persistent hope from her home in Nashville. Now more than sixty of those pieces have been brought together in this sparkling new collection.

“People have often asked me how it feels to be the ‘voice of the South,'” writes Renkl in her introduction. “But I’m not the voice of the South, and no one else is, either.” There are many Souths–red and blue, rural and urban, mountain and coast, Black and white and brown–and no one writer could possibly represent all of them. In Graceland, At Last, Renkl writes instead from her own experience about the complexities of her homeland, demonstrating along the way how much more there is to this tangled region than many people understand.

In a patchwork quilt of personal and reported essays, Renkl also highlights some other voices of the South, people who are fighting for a better future for the region. A group of teenagers who organized a youth march for Black Lives Matter. An urban shepherd whose sheep remove invasive vegetation. Church parishioners sheltering the homeless. Throughout, readers will find the generosity of spirit and deep attention to the world, human and nonhuman, that keep readers returning to her columns each Monday morning.

From a writer who “makes one of all the world’s beings” (NPR), Graceland, At Last is a book full of gifts for Southerners and non-Southerners alike.

Description from Goodreads.

“Like nothing else in the newspaper, [Renkl’s columns] burst with awareness of the things of nature, awareness that our lives are led in that midst, permeated with and part of the natural world. All is written with an open, joyful, yet steady voice of wonder.” – Philadelphia Inquirer

New York Times columnist Renkl effectively lifts the lid on the Southern culture and challenges its stereotypes in this versatile compendium. Renkl’s essays cover the natural world, local politics, Southern-fried art and culture, and social justice issues from a Nashvillian perspective. Her nature writing shows an impressive predilection for botany and ornithology… [Graceland, At Last] serves as a well-written collection for anyone interested in everyday life below the Mason-Dixon Line.” – Publishers Weekly

“From her home in Nashville―’a blue dot in the red sea of Tennessee’―[Renkl] writes perceptively of the region where she was born and raised (in Alabama), educated (in South Carolina), and settled… Renkl vividly evokes the lush natural beauty of the rivers, old-growth forests, ‘red-dirt pineywoods,’ marshes, and coastal plains that she deeply loves… A wide-ranging look at the realities of the South.”- Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

Harlem Shuffle by  Colson Whitehead ★

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Suspense.

“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…” To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.

Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either.

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the “Waldorf of Harlem”—and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?

Harlem Shuffle’s ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.

But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] sizzling heist novel… It’s a superlative story, but the most impressive achievement is Whitehead’s loving depiction of a Harlem 60 years gone—‘that rustling, keening thing of people and concrete’—which lands as detailed and vivid as Joyce’s Dublin. Don’t be surprised if this one wins Whitehead another major award.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Whitehead adds another genre to an ever-diversifying portfolio with his first crime novel, and it’s a corker… Whitehead delivers a portrait of Harlem in the early ’60s, culminating with the Harlem Riot of 1964, that is brushed with lovingly etched detail and features a wonderful panoply of characters who spring to full-bodied life, blending joy, humor, and tragedy. A triumph on every level.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…dazzling… the language here is wiseguy crisp, zinging with street vernacular… Whitehead flexes his literary muscles further, extending the boundaries and expectations of crime writing… Part of the book’s pleasure is that it keeps you guessing. By the end, I felt, as Ray does of Harlem: ‘Its effect was unmeasurable until it was gone.'” – The Guardian

“In his eminently enjoyable new novel, Mr. Whitehead’s various powers have attained something like equilibrium. The humor and flashes of the old word-wizardry are there, as is the philosophical subtext; race, while not foregrounded the way it is in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, is woven inextricably into the background, like subtle but effective film music; and we are made to care about, and root for, the main character.” – Wall Street Journal

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | Playaway | eBook | eAudiobook

Harrow by  Joy Williams ★


Khristen is a teenager who, her mother believes, was marked by greatness as a baby when she died for a moment and then came back to life. After Khristen’s failing boarding school for gifted teens closes its doors, and she finds that her mother has disappeared, she ranges across the dead landscape and washes up at a resort on the shores of a mysterious, putrid lake the elderly residents there call Big Girl. In a rotting honeycomb of rooms, these old ones plot actions to punish corporations and people they consider culpable in the destruction of the final scraps of nature’s beauty. What will Khristen and Jeffrey, the precocious ten-year-old boy she meets there, learn from this baggy seditious lot, in the worst of health but with kamikaze hearts, determined to refresh, through crackpot violence, a plundered earth?

Rivetingly strange and beautiful, and delivered with Williams’s searing, deadpan wit, Harrow is their intertwined tale of paradise lost and of their reasons–against all reasonableness–to try and recover something of it.

Description from Goodreads.

“A magnificent and moving novel [that excavates] the middle distance between silence and experience… Harrow is a piece of writing in the vein of Samuel Beckett or Franz Kafka, its humor weaponized by rage.” – Los Angeles Times

“Elegantly deranged… A hypnotizing novel, funny in places and chilling in others, filled with wacky and tragic characters, that unspools the absurdity in just one of our many very possible bad futures.” – Literary Hub

Harrow belongs at the front of the pack of recent climate fiction… A crabby, craggy, comfortless, arid, erudite, obtuse, perfect novel, a singular entry in a singular body of work by an artist of uncompromised originality and vision… To read this novel is to know and to be known (Galatians 4:9) by a profound and comfortless alterity, to encounter the cosmic otherness at the very core of the self. What else do you want me to tell you? As I’ve said, it’s also funny. I really did laugh a lot. Five stars.” – Bookforum

“Balancing creeping despair with mordant humor and piquant strangeness… Williams asks if hope and compassion, reason and responsibility can survive once the wonders of wild and flourishing nature have been utterly destroyed. Brilliantly and exquisitely shrewd and unnerving.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Kaya Days by  Carl de Souza


“This isn’t a night for theater. All the drama will be outside.”

In 1999 the Mauritian seggae musician Joseph Réginald Topize, better known as Kaya, was arrested for smoking weed while performing at a concert. Following his mysterious death in police custody just days later, the island nation surged into riotous violence: a long-overdue demand for justice from the colonized peoples of the East African island nation.

In Kaya Days, the spirit of the island and its people is distilled into a young woman’s daylong search through the uproar for her younger brother, who has gone missing. Amidst the burning cars and buildings, opportunists and revolutionaries, Santee witnesses the furious, brilliant birth of another world. An exhilarating journey into night from small Hindu village to the “big city”, Carl de Souza’s surreal English-language debut, artfully translated from French by Jeffrey Zuckerman, is a Book of Revelations-caliber explosion of politics and prose, a humid dream-world of revolutionary fervor where seemingly anything—everything—is possible, if only for the night.

Description from Goodreads.

“An electrifying portrait of a tiny island nation on fire.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Electric… De Souza’s unpredictable, propulsive tale is a rip-roaring trip teeming with beauty, anger, possibility, and helplessness.” – Publishers Weekly

“De Souza gives us a superb portrait of a town in riot… a mythical journey through a sort of hell.” – The Modern Novel

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

The Love Hypothesis by  Ali Hazelwood

Fiction / Romance.

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

Description from Goodreads.

“Pure slow-burning gold with lots of chemistry.” – PopSugar

“Smart, witty dialog and a diverse cast of likable secondary characters… A realistic, amusing novel that readers won’t be able to put down.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“With whip-smart and endearing characters, snappy prose, and a quirky take on a favorite trope, Hazelwood convincingly navigates the fraught shoals of academia… This smart, sexy contemporary should delight a wide swath of romance lovers.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

The Missing Hours by  Julia Dahl

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

From a distance, Claudia Castro has it all: a famous family, a trust fund, thousands of Instagram followers, and a spot in NYU’s freshman class. But look closer, and things are messier: her parents are separating, she’s just been humiliated by a sleazy documentary, and her sister is about to have a baby with a man she barely knows.

Claudia starts the school year resolved to find a path toward something positive, maybe even meaningful – and then one drunken night everything changes. Reeling, her memory hazy, Claudia cuts herself off from her family, seeking solace in a new friendship. But when the rest of school comes back from spring break, Claudia is missing.

Suddenly, the whole city is trying to piece together the hours of that terrible night.

From the critically acclaimed author of Invisible City and Conviction, The Missing Hours is a novel about obsession, privilege, and the explosive consequences of one violent act.

Description from Goodreads.

“Julia Dahl has crafted a satisfying and thought-provoking revenge thriller in The Missing Hours.” – CrimeReads

The Missing Hours is a smart, thoughtful, and gripping book. You’ll find it hard to put this novel down.” – Oxygen

“[Dahl] is known for her fast-paced writing, but this one moves at breakneck speed and stays with you long after the last page.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book

Nice Girls by  Catherine Dang

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

What did you do?

Growing up in Liberty Lake, Minnesota, Mary was chubby, awkward, and smart. Earning a scholarship to an Ivy League school was her ticket out; she was going to do great things and never look back. Three years later, “Ivy League Mary” is back—a thinner, cynical, and restless failure. Kicked out of Cornell at the beginning of senior year, she won’t tell anyone why. Working at the local grocery store, she sees familiar faces from high school and tries to make sense of the past and her life.

When beautiful, magnetic Olivia Willand, a rising social media star, goes missing, Mary—like the rest of Liberty Lake—becomes obsessed. Best friends in childhood, Mary and Olivia haven’t spoken in years. Everyone admired Olivia, but Mary knows better than anyone that behind the Instagram persona hid a willful, manipulative girl with sharp edges. As the world worries for perfect, lovely Olivia, Mary can’t help but hate her. She also believes that her disappearance is tied to another missing person—a nineteen-year-old girl named DeMaria Jackson whose disappearance has gone under the radar.

Who was the true Olivia Willand, and where did she go? What happened to DeMaria? As Mary delves deeper into the lives of the two missing girls, old wounds bleed fresh and painful secrets threaten to destroy everything.

Maybe no one is really a nice girl, after all.

Description from Goodreads.

“If you’re a total true crime addict, Catherine Dang’s debut novel will have you hooked real fast.” – Cosmopolitan

“Dang captures the surface cynicism a young college student like Mary would adopt to mask the flameout of potential, itself the product of simmering rage against multiple forms of alienation, particularly of a class variety… But Dang smartly pivots the novel into a greater reflection of savior complexes and the ways we can be blinded by projected images rather than remaining true to ourselves.” – New York Times Book Review

“Dang has created a thriller that is gripping both in the sense of its genre but also due to its cultural relevance… Both woke and riveting, Nice Girls finds itself among the most haunting of mysteries, those that resonate with our current affairs, like Alyssa Cole’s When No One Is Watching and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind. Perfect for the millennial armchair detective, Nice Girls will satisfy your true crime addiction and intensify your desire for justice.” – Paperback Paris

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Palmares by  Gayl Jones ★

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

This extraordinarily powerful narrative is Gayl Jones’ long-awaited fifth novel. Intricate and compelling, Palmares is set in the 17th century on the last of the seven fugitive slave settlements in colonial Brazil. Combining her mastery of language with her unique brand of mythology and magical realism, Jones reimagines the historical novel.

Gayl Jones has been described as one of the great literary writers of the 20th century; the best American novelist whose name you may not know. Originally discovered & championed by Toni Morrison, Jones published several novels in the 1980s and 1990s before personal tragedy caused her to close herself off from the world. Now, for the first time in 21 years, Jones is ready to publish again.

Description from Goodreads.

“A remarkable new outing from a major voice in American letters.” – Esquire

“An epic and inventive saga… a triumphant return.” – Publishers Weekly

“In [this] sprawling narrative, set in the 17th century, Jones’s feats of linguistic and historical invention are on ample display… the book unfolds on a plane of consciousness where the things achieved are shifting relationships and states of being.” – The Atlantic

“A legendary African American novelist returns with her first novel in 22 years, an epic adventure of enchantment, enslavement, and the pursuit of knowledge in 17th-century Brazil… Those familiar with Corregidora (1975) and Eva’s Man (1976) will not be surprised by the sustained intensity of both imagery and tone. There is also sheer wonder, insightful compassion, and droll wit to be found among the book’s riches. Jones seems to have come through a life as tumultuous as her heroine’s with her storytelling gifts not only intact, but enhanced and enriching.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Talk to Me by  T.C. Boyle


When animal behaviorist Guy Schermerhorn demonstrates on a TV game show that he has taught Sam, his juvenile chimp, to speak in sign language, Aimee Villard, an undergraduate at Guy’s university, is so taken with the performance that she applies to become his assistant. A romantic and intellectual attachment soon morphs into an interspecies love triangle that pushes hard at the boundaries of consciousness and the question of what we know and how we know it.

What if it were possible to speak to the members of another species—to converse with them, not just give commands or coach them but to really have an exchange of ideas and a meeting of minds? Did apes have God? Did they have souls? Did they know about death and redemption? About prayer? The economy, rockets, space? Did they miss the jungle? Did they even know what the jungle was? Did they dream? Make wishes? Hope for the future?

These are some the questions T.C. Boyle asks in his wide-ranging and hilarious new novel Talk to Me, exploring what it means to be human, to communicate with another, and to truly know another person—or animal…

Description from Goodreads.

“Boyle eloquently lays out the philosophical and ethical debates of raising chimps in a human household… Boyle poignantly exposes our anthropocentric biases while exploring the nature of consciousness and reminds us of the adage about the most dangerous species in the zoo being the humans.” – Booklist

“…equal parts road novel, campus drama, and roundabout love triangle… Chapters from Sam’s perspective make him a captivating creation… a fun ride…” – Publishers Weekly

“Farce meets tragedy and science meets show business in this romantic triangle featuring a student, a professor, and a chimpanzee… There might be a movie here, Planet of the Apes as a rom-com.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by  Tarana Burke

Nonfiction / Memoir / Current Events.

After a long, difficult day working with young Black girls who had suffered the unimaginable, Tarana tossed in her bed, unable to sleep as a fit of memories intruded into her thoughts. How could she help these girls if she couldn’t even be honest with herself and face her own demons. A fitful night led to pages and pages of scribbled notes with two clear words at the top: Me too.

Tarana Burke is the founder and activist behind the largest social movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the me too movement, but first she had to find the strength to say me too herself. Unbound is the story of how she came to those two words, after a childhood growing up in the Bronx with a loving mother that took a terrible turn when she was sexually assaulted. She became withdrawn and her self split, there was the Tarana that was a good student, model kid, and eager to please young girl, and then there was the Tarana that she hid from everyone else, the one she believed to be bad. The one that would take all the love in her life away if she was revealed.

Tarana’s debut memoir explores how to piece back together our fractured selves. How to not just bring the me too movement back to empathy, but how to empathize with our past selves, with out bad selves, and how to begin to love ourselves unabashedly. Healing starts with empowerment, and to Tarana empowerment starts with empathy. This is her story of finding that for herself, and then spreading it to an entire world.

Description from Goodreads.

“An unforgettable page-turner of a life story rendered with endless grace and grit.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Intensely moving and unapologetically frank, Burke’s fearless memoir will uplift and inspire the next generation of survivors, advocates, and truth-tellers.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…important… Painful and personal, yet beautiful and necessary, this book deserves to be read for its political significance and literary merit. Burke’s writing shines when she describes finding her voice as an aspiring activist.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

White Smoke by  Tiffany D. Jackson

Fiction / Young Adult / Horror.

Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.

The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its… secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.

But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?

As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.

Description from Goodreads.

“Jackson conjures horrors both supernatural and otherwise in a masterful juxtaposition of searing social commentary and genuinely creepy haunts, as well as providing an authentic portrayal of tensions within a blended family. Begs to be finished in one sitting, though maybe with the lights kept on.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Jackson delivers multilayered frights in a true horror tradition, peppered with instantly recognizable references to urban legends and internet horror culture.” – Publishers Weekly

“The nuanced depiction of Mari’s struggle with mental health is emotionally resonant; the story of a mostly Black city nearly wiped out by draconian drug laws and gentrification is authentic and timely; and the simmering tension and jump scares make the horror element satisfyingly chilling… Jackson ticks off the best tropes of horror here with enthusiastic glee, and Ms. Suga will have more than a few readers checking their basements before bedtime.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

You Got Anything Stronger?: Stories by  Gabrielle Union

Nonfiction / Memoir.

Remember when we hit it off so well that we decided We’re Going to Need More Wine? Well, this time you and I are going to turn to our friend the bartender and ask, You Got Anything Stronger? I promise to continue to make you laugh, but with this round, the stakes get higher as the conversation goes deeper.

So. Where were we?

Right, you and I left off in October 2017, when my first book came out. The weeks before were filled with dreams of loss. Pets dying. My husband leaving me. Babies not being born. My therapist told me it was my soul preparing for my true self to emerge after letting go of my grief. I had finally spoken openly about my fertility journey. I was having second thoughts—in fact, so many thoughts they were organizing to go on strike. But I knew I had to be honest because I didn’t want other women going through IVF to feel as alone as I did. I had suffered in isolation, having so many miscarriages that I could not give an exact number. Strangers shared their own journeys and heartbreak with me. I had led with the truth, and it opened the door to compassion.

When I released We’re Going to Need More Wine, the response was so great people asked when I would do a sequel. The New York Times even ran a headline reading “We’re Going to Need More Gabrielle Union.” Frankly, after being so open and honest in my writing, I wasn’t sure there was more of me I was ready to share. But life happens with all its plot twists. And new stories demand to be told. This time, I need to be more vulnerable—not so much for me, but anyone who feels alone in what they’re going through.

A lot has changed in four years—I became a mom and I’m raising two amazing girls. My husband retired. My career has expanded so that I have the opportunity to lift up other voices that need to be heard. But the world has also shown us that we have a lot we still have to fight for—as women, as black women, as mothers, as aging women, as human beings, as friends. In You Got Anything Stronger?, I show you how this ever-changing life presents challenges, even as it gives me moments of pure joy. I take you on a girl’s night at Chateau Marmont, and I also talk to Isis, my character from Bring It On. For the first time, I truly open up about my surrogacy journey and the birth of Kaavia James Union Wade. And I take on racist institutions and practices in the entertainment industry, asking for equality and real accountability.

You Got Anything Stronger? is me at my most vulnerable. I have recently found true strength in that vulnerability, and I want to share that power with you here, through this book.

Description from Goodreads.

“Union returns with more wise, intimate personal stories… The respect with which she writes about the people in her life is a true testament to her character. Always smart, inviting, and generous with emotion, Union’s second exquisite memoir reads like a conversation with your most enlightened, thoughtful friend.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“The star actor and producer demonstrates her dedication to empowering young Black women and other marginalized people. As these essays ably show, Union is a dynamic role model for young Black women in all walks of life.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Union deftly writes about the life-changing diagnosis that led her to surrogacy as a path to moth­erhood; the impact of cracking open her family’s life for all to see; and how she discovered who she is beyond others’ projections… She makes you wish she were your best friend, her number saved in your favorites—a kindred spirit always ready to share real talk over a round of shots.” – Essence

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


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