The second week of August has got some bangers of new releases, a few of which I think are bound to make a couple of the best-of lists at the end of the year. First off, there’s beloved James McBride with a tale of working-class Black and Jewish camaraderie. R. Eric Thomas returns with a collection of essays that are both funny and insightful (and that has a title that maybe comes for my edges, just a bit). Mona Susan Power’s book highlights the atrocities that were residential schools, as well as the resilience and joy of Dakota women, and the true history of American poverty is fleshed out.
Get ready for books that advocate for our most vulnerable populations, grapple with connection, and showcase the magic of Nigerian mythology.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
National Book Award-winner and author of Deacon King Kong is back with a tale of a Black and Jewish community, and the secrets it’s kept. In 1972 in Chicken Hill, a Black and Jewish working-class neighborhood in Pennsylvania, a skeleton is found at the bottom of a well. This unearths a past that goes all the way back to 1925 when Moshe and Chona Ludlow owned the Heaven & Earth Grocery store that welcomed Jewish and Black people alike. When a Black employee of the store and friend to the Ludlows asks for help in keeping his disabled nephew from becoming a ward of the state, a community comes together to defend its most vulnerable from racist “Christians.”
Congratulations, The Best is Over by R. Eric Thomas
So apart from having a title that feels like an absolute attack, this new collection of essays is as funny and thoughtful as we’ve come to expect from Thomas. He explores what it’s like to revisit old parts of yourself as a new person — he moves back to his hometown Baltimore and attends a high school reunion where he sees someone else’s face on his name badge. There’s also a blood-splattered urgent care room and a plague of gay frogs, naturally.
A Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Power
Council of Dolls, by PEN Award-winning Power, follows three generations of Yanktonai Dakota women and the dolls that have guided their lives. Cora, born in 1888 during the “Indian Wars,” gets sent to a school by white men to have her identity stripped from her. The teachers burn her beaded buckskin doll Winona, but the doll’s spirit may live on. In 1925, Lillian is born, and she too will suffer through a residential school but resists the abuse of the nuns there. Her doll, Mae, defends her and her sister Blanche when they need it most. Finally, there’s Sissy, a child of the ’60s, whose doll Ethel may actually save her life.
Tomb Sweeping by Alexandra Chang
These stories span the globe, from Asia to the United States, and follow characters contending with loneliness and the other ways they relate to each other. A Shanghai housewife discovers a new outlet in an underground gambling den, another character, known only as “the Asian recycling lady” in her neighborhood, recounts her past life, and strangers connect over mistaken identity.
The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America by Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer, Timothy J. Nelson
I’ve been loving these recent analyses on poverty in the U.S., and this one adds yet more valuable context to the discussion on how the classes came to be in the U.S. The authors look at the country’s poorest people as well as its poorest places and show how, for one, the most underserved areas are not in big cities but in rural areas. Furthermore, the current hardships these areas face can clearly be traced back to 18th century government policy that looked at these places, even then, as “internal colonies.” These colonies excelled in extracting both physical and human resources, as they were sources of goods like coal and cotton, and had big populations of exploited Black people.
Forged By Blood by Ehigbor Okosun
Y’all see that cover?! This is one I’ve been so excited to talk about. It’s got everything — rebellion, revenge, Nigerian mythology, and even a little magical girl realness. Dèmi is secretly learning to control her blood magic while the nonmagical Ajes are occupying her homeland Ife. She and her mother are trying to escape the genocide of their people the Oluso, but when Dèmi trusts the wrong person, her mother dies. What was once only a desire for survival turns to a thirst for vengeance, and Dèmi jumps at the chance to participate in a kidnapping scheme involving the Aje prince. But spending time with the prince reveals some things — and maybe some feelings — that complicate matters.
Other Book Riot New Releases Resources:
- All the Books, our weekly new book releases podcast, where Liberty and a cast of co-hosts talk about eight books out that week that we’ve read and loved.
- The New Books Newsletter, where we send you an email of the books out this week that are getting buzz.
- Finally, if you want the real inside scoop on new releases, you have to check out Book Riot’s New Release Index! That’s where I find 90% of new releases, and you can filter by trending books, Rioters’ picks, and even LGBTQ new releases!