WRC 2020: We Need Diverse Books

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi; translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth – 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 beautifully against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families to those making money through the advent of new wealth.

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders – Reluctant revolutionary Sophie survives exile by forging an unusual, world-changing bond with a family of ice creatures that live outside the human confines of their dying planet.

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha – Two teenagers in Los Angeles, one Korean-American and the other African-American, deal with the ripple effects of a shooting from decades ago after a new incident brings their families’ painful memories hurtling back.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton – A servant and former slave is accused of murdering her employer and his wife in this astonishing historical thriller that moves from a Jamaican sugar plantation to the fetid streets of Georgian London.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz – The award-winning author of Soledad draws on her mother’s story in a tale set in a turbulent 1960s Dominican Republic, where a young teen agrees to marry a man twice her age to help her family’s immigration to America.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – Selling two favorite books to an unexpectedly erudite drug-cartel boss, a bookstore manager is forced to flee Mexico in the wake of her journalist husband’s tell-all profile and finds her family among thousands of migrants seeking hope in America. (Releases in January.)

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis – Enduring the rampant violence against women and the LGBTQ community in the decades of the Uruguayan dictatorship, five women heartbreakingly unite as lovers, friends and family.

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver – Thrown out of their parents’ home and moving in with their estranged sister after coming out as nonbinary, Ben De Backer struggles to endure an anxiety disorder and the last half of senior year while bonding with a charismatic new friend.

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev – Acclaimed neurosurgeon, Dr. Trisha Raje, clashes with the new chef, DJ Caine, over pedigree, pride, and arrogance, but must find a common ground to save DJ’s sister.

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera – For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen — the last thing he needs is a distraction like librarian Jude Fuller.

Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson – After his mother is jailed, a young Cherokee boy, Sequoyah, bonds with another Native American, Rosemary, in the foster home where they both have been placed and experienced deepening feelings for each other while dealing with the scars of their pasts.

IQ by Joe Ide – Isaiah Quintabe, a resident of one of LA’s toughest neighborhoods, solves cases the LAPD ignores investigates threats against a rap mogul, a case that becomes more far reaching and dangerous as he encounters a vengeful ex-wife and a hit man regarded as a lunatic by his peers.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A modern Muslim adaptation of Pride and Prejudice finds a reluctant teacher who would avoid an arranged marriage setting aside her literary ambitions before falling in love with her perpetually single cousin’s infuriatingly conservative fiancé.

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health by Kelly Jensen – Essays, lists, poems and art explore the ways 33 best-selling authors and celebrity contributors have coped with and thrived in the face of mental illness, in an anthology that includes entries by Kristen Bell, Nancy Kerrigan and Libba Bray.

Little Gods by Meng Jin – On the night of June Fourth, a woman gives birth in a Beijing hospital alone. Thus begins the unraveling of Su Lan, a brilliant physicist who until this moment has successfully erased her past, fighting what she calls the mind’s arrow of time. When Su Lan dies unexpectedly seventeen years later, it is her daughter Liya who inherits the silences and contradictions of her life. Liya, who grew up in America, takes her mother’s ashes to China, to her, an unknown country. In a territory inhabited by the ghosts of the living and the dead, Liya&;s memories are joined by those of two others: Zhu Wen, the woman last to know Su Lan before she left China, and Yongzong, the father Liya has never known. In this way a portrait of Su Lan emerges: an ambitious scientist, an ambivalent mother, and a woman whose relationship to her own past shapes and ultimately unmakes Liya’s own sense of displacement. (Releases in mid-January)

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – A lush retelling of Beauty and the Beast finds a cursed prince reliving the same autumn over and over in the form of a dangerous monster, hoping to save his kingdom and win the heart of a girl from the real world.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram – A Persian-American youth who prefers pop culture to the traditions of his mixed family struggles with clinical depression and the misunderstandings of older relatives while bonding with a boy who helps him embrace his Iranian heritage.

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami – The suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant impacts the lives of a diverse cast of characters, including his jazz-composer daughter, an undocumented witness, and an Iraqi War veteran.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado – The award-winning author of Her Body and Other Parties shares the story of her relationship with an abusive partner and how it was shaped by her religious upbringing, her sexual orientation and inaccurate cultural beliefs about psychological trauma.

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste – Tending the wounded when her nation is invaded by Mussolini, an orphaned servant in 1935 Ethiopia helps disguise a gentle peasant as their exiled emperor to rally her fellow women in the fight against fascism.

Little Fish by Casey Plett – Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather—a devout Mennonite farmer—might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives—from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide—Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather’s life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth.

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai – Cynical dating app creator Rhiannon Hunter must decide whether or not to give former pro-football player Samson Lima, who wooed her during one magical night and then disappeared, a second chance despite the fact that he’s in league with a business rival.

Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R. Rendon – When Renee Blackbear, a 19-year-old Ojibwe woman, attends college at Minnesota’s Moorhead State, she realizes that she is unprepared for college or for the hurt that happens in the Twin Cities, especially when a man claiming he’s her brother shows up.

Old Drift by Namwali Serpell – Three generations of a cursed family traverse from India and Italy to England and ultimately a fantastical Zambia of the near future, where an interstitial Greek chorus of mosquitoes traces their vibrant human experiences as children, parents and grandparents.

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith – Louise Wolfe breaks up with her first boyfriend after he makes a racist remark about her Native American heritage, and begins covering the multicultural casting of the new school play and the racial hostilities it has exposed.

A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian – Five young women in contemporary Bangalore support each other through the hardships of a hand-to-mouth existence while protecting their slum community from redevelopment by a city that does not care what happens to them.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – Follows the experiences of two African-American teenagers at an abusive reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.