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Our Paperback Picks

A handpicked selection of our favourite recent paperback books.


Palmares

- by Gayl Jones

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2022 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Fiction

A NPR BOOKS WE LOVE 2021 Selection

A New York Times "Biggest New Books Coming Out in September" Selection · A New York Times Book Review Editors Choice Pick · A Guardian "50 Biggest Books of Autumn 2021" Selection · An Esquire "Best Books of Fall 2021" Selection · A Buzzfeed "Best Books Coming Out This Fall" Selection · A Bustle "Most Anticipated Books of September 2021" Selection  · A LitHub "22 Novels You Need to Read This Fall" Selection · A Kirkus Reviews "16 Best Books to Read in September" Selection · A Root September "PageTurner"

"This story shimmers. Shakes. Wails. Moves to rhythms long forgotten . . . in many ways: holy. [A] masterpiece."--The New York Times Book Review

The epic rendering of a Black woman's journey through slavery and liberation, set in 17th-century colonial Brazil; the return of a major voice in American literature.

First discovered and edited by Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones has been described as one of the great literary writers of the 20th century. Now, for the first time in over 20 years, Jones is ready to publish again. Palmares is the first of five new works by Gayl Jones to be published in the next two years, rewarding longtime fans and bringing her talent to a new generation of readers.

Intricate and compelling, Palmares recounts the journey of Almeyda, a Black slave girl who comes of age on Portuguese plantations and escapes to a fugitive slave settlement called Palmares. Following its destruction, Almeyda embarks on a journey across colonial Brazil to find her husband, lost in battle.

Her story brings to life a world impacted by greed, conquest, and colonial desire. She encounters a mad lexicographer, desperate to avoid military service; a village that praises a god living in a nearby cave; and a medicine woman who offers great magic, at a greater price.

Combining the author's mastery of language and voice with her unique brand of mythology and magical realism, Jones reimagines the historical novel. The result is a sweeping saga spanning a quarter century, with vibrant settings and unforgettable characters, steeped in the rich oral tradition of its world. Of Gayl Jones, the New Yorker noted, "[Her] great achievement is to reckon with both history and interiority, and to collapse the boundary between them." Like nothing else before it, Palmares embodies this gift.

Civilizations

- by Laurent Binet

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An ambitious and highly entertaining novel of revisionist history from the author of the international bestseller HHhH, Laurent Binet's Civilizations is nothing less than a strangely believable counterfactual history of the modern world, fizzing with ideas about colonization, empire building, and the eternal human quest for domination. It is an electrifying novel by one of Europe's most exciting writers.

C. 1000 CE: Erik the Red's daughter heads south from Greenland
1492: Columbus does not discover America
1531: The Incas invade Europe


Freydis is the leader of a band of Viking warriors who get as far as Panama. Nobody knows what became of them . . .

Five hundred years later, Christopher Columbus is sailing for the Americas, dreaming of gold and conquest. Even after he is captured by the Taínos, his faith in his superiority and his mission is unshaken.

Thirty-nine years after that, Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, arrives in Europe. What does he find? The Spanish Inquisition, the Reformation, capitalism, the miracle of the printing press, endless warmongering between the ruling monarchies, and constant threat from the Turks. But most of all, downtrodden populations ready for revolution. Fortunately, he has a recent guidebook to acquiring power--Machiavelli's The Prince. It turns out he is very good at it. So, the stage is set for a Europe ruled by Incas and for a great war that will change history forever.

Probably Ruby

- by Lisa Bird-wilson

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A CBC BEST CANADIAN FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR
 
Probably Ruby is an audacious, brave, and beautiful book about an adopted woman's search for her Indigenous identity, for readers of Tommy Orange's There There and Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries.

Relinquished as an infant, Ruby is placed in a foster home and finally adopted by Alice and Mel, a less-than-desirable couple who can't afford to complain too loudly about Ruby's Indigenous roots. But when her new parents' marriage falls apart, Ruby finds herself vulnerable and in compromising situations that lead her to search, in the unlikeliest of places, for her Indigenous identity.

Unabashedly self-destructing on alcohol, drugs, and bad relationships, Ruby grapples with the meaning of the legacy left to her. In a series of expanding narratives, Ruby and the people connected to her tell their stories and help flesh out Ruby's history. Seeking understanding of how we come to know who we are, Probably Ruby explores how we find and invent ourselves in ways as peculiar and varied as the experiences of Indigenous adoptees themselves. Ruby's voice, her devastating honesty and tremendous laugh, will not soon be forgotten.

Probably Ruby is a perfectly crafted novel, with effortless, nearly imperceptible shifts in time and perspective, exquisitely chosen detail, natural dialogue and emotional control that results in breathtaking levels of tension and points of revelation.

The Wrong End of the Telescope

- by Rabih Alameddine

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WINNER OF THE 2022 PEN/FAULKNER AWARD FOR FICTION


By National Book Award and the National Book Critics' Circle Award finalist for An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine, comes a transporting new novel about an Arab American trans woman's journey among Syrian refugees on Lesbos island. Mina Simpson, a Lebanese doctor, arrives at the infamous Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, after being urgently summoned for help by her friend who runs an NGO there. Alienated from her family except for her beloved brother, Mina has avoided being so close to her homeland for decades. But with a week off work and apart from her wife of thirty years, Mina hopes to accomplish something meaningful, among the abundance of Western volunteers who pose for selfies with beached dinghies and the camp's children. Soon, a boat crosses bringing Sumaiya, a fiercely resolute Syrian matriarch with terminal liver cancer. Determined to protect her children and husband at all costs, Sumaiya refuses to alert her family to her diagnosis. Bonded together by Sumaiya's secret, a deep connection sparks between the two women, and as Mina prepares a course of treatment with the limited resources on hand, she confronts the circumstances of the migrants' displacement, as well as her own constraints in helping them. Not since the inimitable Aaliya of An Unnecessary Woman has Rabih Alameddine conjured such a winsome heroine to lead us to one of the most wrenching conflicts of our time. Cunningly weaving in stories of other refugees into Mina's singular own, The Wrong End of the Telescope is a bedazzling tapestry of both tragic and amusing portraits of indomitable spirits facing a humanitarian crisis.

Something New Under the Sun

- by Alexandra Kleeman

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NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE o A novelist discovers the dark side of Hollywood and reckons with ambition, corruption, and environmental collapse in "a darkly satirical reflection of ecological reality" (Time)

LONGLISTED FOR THE JOYCE CAROL OATES PRIZE o ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, Time, Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Vulture, Thrillist, Literary Hub


"An urgent novel about our very near future, and a deeply addictive pleasure."--Katie Kitamura, author of Intimacies


Novelist Patrick Hamlin has come to Los Angeles to oversee the film adaptation of one of his books and try to impress his wife and daughter back home with this last-ditch attempt at professional success. But California is not as he imagined. Drought, wildfire, and corporate corruption are everywhere, and the company behind a mysterious new brand of synthetic water seems to be at the root of it all. Patrick finds an unlikely partner in Cassidy Carter--the cynical starlet of his film--and the two investigate the sun-scorched city, where they discover the darker side of all that glitters in Hollywood.

Something New Under the Sun is an unmissable novel for our present moment--a bold exploration of environmental catastrophe in the age of alternative facts, and "a ghost story not of the past but of the near future" (The New York Times).

Radiant Fugitives

- by Nawaaz Ahmed

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FINALIST FOR THE 2022 PEN/FAULKNER AWARD FOR FICTION
FINALIST FOR PUBLISHING TRIANGLE'S EDMUND WHITE DEBUT FICTION AWARD

In the last weeks of her pregnancy, a Muslim Indian lesbian living in San Francisco receives a visit from her estranged mother and sister that surfaces long held secrets and betrayals in this "sweeping family saga . . . with the beautiful specificity of real lives lived, loved, and fought for" (Entertainment Weekly)


Working as a consultant for Kamala Harris's attorney general campaign in Obama-era San Francisco, Seema has constructed a successful life for herself in the West, despite still struggling with her father's long-ago decision to exile her from the family after she came out as lesbian. Now, nine months pregnant and estranged from the Black father of her unborn son, Seema seeks solace in the company of those she once thought lost to her: her ailing mother, Nafeesa, traveling alone to California from Chennai, and her devoutly religious sister, Tahera, a doctor living in Texas with her husband and children. 
 
But instead of a joyful reconciliation anticipating the birth of a child, the events of this fateful week unearth years of betrayal, misunderstanding, and complicated layers of love--a tapestry of emotions as riveting and disparate as the era itself.
 
Told from the point of view of Seema's child at the moment of his birth, and infused with the poetry of Wordsworth and Keats and verses from the Quran, Radiant Fugitives is a moving tale of a family and a country grappling with acceptance, forgiveness, and enduring love.

Build Your House Around My Body

- by Violet Kupersmith

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Part puzzle, part revenge tale, part ghost story, this ingenious novel spins half a century of Vietnamese history and folklore into "a thrilling read, acrobatic and filled with verve" (The New York Times Editors' Choice).
 
FINALIST FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION'S FIRST NOVEL PRIZE o LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION o ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, NPR, Good Housekeeping, Kirkus Reviews

"Fiction as daring and accomplished as Violet Kupersmith's first novel reignites my love of the form and its kaleidoscopic possibilities."--David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas

Two young women go missing decades apart. Both are fearless, both are lost. And both will have their revenge.

1986
: The teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family loses her way in an abandoned rubber plantation while fleeing her angry father and is forever changed. 

2011
: A young, unhappy Vietnamese American woman disappears from her new home in Saigon without a trace. 

The fates of these two women are inescapably linked, bound together by past generations, by ghosts and ancestors, by the history of possessed bodies and possessed lands. Alongside them, we meet a young boy who is sent to a boarding school for the métis children of French expatriates, just before Vietnam declares its independence from colonial rule; two Frenchmen who are trying to start a business with the Vietnam War on the horizon; and the employees of the Saigon Spirit Eradication Co., who find themselves investigating strange occurrences in a farmhouse on the edge of a forest. Each new character and timeline brings us one step closer to understanding what binds them all. 

Build Your House Around My Body takes us from colonial mansions to ramshackle zoos, from sweaty nightclubs to the jostling seats of motorbikes, from ex-pat flats to sizzling back-alley street carts. Spanning more than fifty years of Vietnamese history and barreling toward an unforgettable conclusion, this is a time-traveling, heart-pounding, border-crossing fever dream of a novel that will haunt you long after the last page.

The Vixen

- by Francine Prose

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Named one of the best books of 2021 by NPR, The Washington Post, and Financial Times

"No one states problems more correctly, more astutely, more amusingly and more uncomfortably than Francine Prose . . . The gift of her work to a reader is to create for us what she creates for her protagonist: the subtle unfolding, the moment-by-moment process of discovery as we read and change, from not knowing and even not wanting to know or care, to seeing what we had not seen and finding our way to the light of the ending."--Amy Bloom, New York Times Book Review

"Depending on the light, it's either a very funny serious story or a very serious funny story. But no matter how you turn it, The Vixen offers an illuminating reflection on the slippery nature of truth in America, then and now."--Washington Post

Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Francine Prose returns with a dazzling new novel set in the glamorous world of 1950s New York publishing, the story of a young man tasked with editing a steamy bodice-ripper based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg--an assignment that will reveal the true cost of entering that seductive, dangerous new world. 

It's 1953, and Simon Putnam, a recent Harvard graduate newly hired by a distinguished New York publishing firm, has entered a glittering world of three-martini lunches, exclusive literary parties, and old-money aristocrats in exquisitely tailored suits, a far cry from his loving, middle-class Jewish family in Coney Island.

But Simon's first assignment--editing The Vixen, the Patriot and the Fanatic, a lurid bodice-ripper improbably based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a potboiler intended to shore up the firm's failing finances--makes him question the cost of admission. Because Simon has a secret that, at the height of the Red Scare and the McCarthy hearings, he cannot reveal: his beloved mother was a childhood friend of Ethel Rosenberg's. His parents mourn Ethel's death.

Simon's dilemma grows thornier when he meets The Vixen's author, the startlingly beautiful, reckless, seductive Anya Partridge, ensconced in her opium-scented boudoir in a luxury Hudson River mental asylum. As mysteries deepen, as the confluence of sex, money, politics and power spirals out of Simon's control, he must face what he's lost by exchanging the loving safety of his middle-class Jewish parents' Coney Island apartment for the witty, whiskey-soaked orbit of his charismatic boss, the legendary Warren Landry. Gradually Simon realizes that the people around him are not what they seem, that everyone is keeping secrets, that ordinary events may conceal a diabolical plot--and that these crises may steer him toward a brighter future. 

At once domestic and political, contemporary and historic, funny and heartbreaking, enlivened by surprising plot turns and passages from Anya's hilariously bad novel, The Vixen illuminates a period of history with eerily striking similarities to the current moment. Meanwhile it asks timeless questions: How do we balance ambition and conscience? What do social mobility and cultural assimilation require us to sacrifice? How do we develop an authentic self, discover a vocation, and learn to live with the mysteries of love, family, art, life and loss?

Hell of a Book

- by Jason Mott

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***2021 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER***

***THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER***

Winner of the 2021 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize Finalist, 2022 Chautauqua Prize Finalist, Willie Morris Award for Southern Writing Shortlist, and the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize shortlist

A Read With Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

An Ebony Magazine Publishing Book Club Pick! 

One of Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Fiction | One of Philadelphia Inquirer's Best Books of 2021 | One of Shelf Awareness's Top Ten Fiction Titles of the Year | One of TIME Magazine's 100 Must-Read Books | One of NPR.org's "Books We Love" | EW's "Guide to the Biggest and Buzziest Books of 2021" | One of the New York Public Library's Best Books for Adults | San Diego Union Tribune--My Favorite Things from 2021 | Writer's Bone's Best Books of 2021 | Atlanta Journal Constitution--Top 10 Southern Books of the Year | One of the Guardian's (UK) Best Ten 21st Century Comic Novels | One of Entertainment Weekly's 15 Books You Need to Read This June | On Entertainment Weekly's "Must List" | One of the New York Post's Best Summer Reading books | One of GMA's 27 Books for June | One of USA Today's 5 Books Not to Miss | One of Fortune's 21 Most Anticipated Books Coming Out in the Second Half of 2021 | One of The Root's PageTurners: It's Getting Hot in Here | One of Real Simple's Best New Books to Read in 2021


An astounding work of fiction from New York Times bestselling author Jason Mott, always deeply honest, at times electrically funny, that goes to the heart of racism, police violence, and the hidden costs exacted upon Black Americans and America as a whole

In Jason Mott's Hell of a Book, a Black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and more urgent: Mott's novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.

As these characters' stories build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it's also about the nation's reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America.

Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind?  Unforgettably told, with characters who burn into your mind and an electrifying plot ideal for book club discussion, Hell of a Book is the novel Mott has been writing in his head for the last ten years. And in its final twists, it truly becomes its title.

Afterparties

- by Anthony Veasna So

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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE'S JOHN LEONARD PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST BOOK 

WINNER OF THE FERRO-GRUMLEY AWARD FOR LGBTQ FICTION

Named a Best Book of the Year by: New York Times * NPR * Washington Post * LA Times * Kirkus Reviews * New York Public Library * Chicago Public Library * Harper's Bazaar * TIME * Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air * Boston Globe* The Atlantic

A vibrant story collection about Cambodian-American life--immersive and comic, yet unsparing--that offers profound insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities

Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.

A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle's snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a "safe space" app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.

The stories in Afterparties, "powered by So's skill with the telling detail, are like beams of wry, affectionate light, falling from different directions on a complicated, struggling, beloved American community" (George Saunders).

The Great Mistake

- by Jonathan Lee

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An exultant novel of New York City at the turn of the twentieth century, about one man's rise to fame and fortune, and his mysterious murder--"engrossing" (Wall Street Journal), "immersive" (The New Yorker), and "seriously entertaining" (The Sunday Times, London).

Andrew Haswell Green is dead, shot at the venerable age of eighty-three, when he thought life could hold no more surprises. The killing--on Park Avenue in broad daylight, on Friday the thirteenth--shook the city.

Born to a struggling farmer, Green was a self-made man without whom there would be no Central Park, no Metropolitan Museum of Art, no Museum of Natural History, no New York Public Library. But Green had a secret, a life locked within him that now, in the hour of his death, may finally break free.

A work of tremendous depth and piercing emotion, The Great Mistake is the story of a city transformed, a murder that made a private man infamous, and a portrait of a singular individual who found the world closed off to him--yet enlarged it.

Helgoland

- by Carlo Rovelli

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Named a Best Book of 2021 by the Financial Times and a Best Science Book of 2021 by The Guardian

"Rovelli is a genius and an amazing communicator... This is the place where science comes to life." -Neil Gaiman

"One of the warmest, most elegant and most lucid interpreters to the laity of the dazzling enigmas of his discipline...[a] momentous book" -John Banville, The Wall Street Journal


A startling new look at quantum theory, from the New York Times bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, The Order of Time, and  Anaximander.

One of the world's most renowned theoretical physicists, Carlo Rovelli has entranced millions of readers with his singular perspective on the cosmos. In Helgoland, he examines the enduring enigma of quantum theory. The quantum world Rovelli describes is as beautiful as it is unnerving.

Helgoland is a treeless island in the North Sea where the twenty-three-year-old Werner Heisenberg made the crucial breakthrough for the creation of quantum mechanics, setting off a century of scientific revolution. Full of alarming ideas (ghost waves, distant objects that seem to be magically connected, cats that appear both dead and alive), quantum physics has led to countless discoveries and technological advancements. Today our understanding of the world is based on this theory, yet it is still profoundly mysterious.

As scientists and philosophers continue to fiercely debate the meaning of the theory, Rovelli argues that its most unsettling contradictions can be explained by seeing the world as fundamentally made of relationships rather than substances. We and everything around us exist only in our interactions with one another. This bold idea suggests new directions for thinking about the structure of reality and even the nature of consciousness.

Rovelli makes learning about quantum mechanics an almost psychedelic experience. Shifting our perspective once again, he takes us on a riveting journey through the universe so we can better comprehend our place in it.

Animal

- by Lisa Taddeo

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From Lisa Taddeo, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon Three Women, comes an "intoxicating" (Entertainment Weekly), "fearless" (Los Angeles Times), and "explosive" (People) novel about "what happens when women are pushed beyond the brink, and what comes after the reckoning" (Esquire).

Joan has spent a lifetime enduring the cruelties of men. But when one of them commits a shocking act of violence in front of her, she flees New York City in search of Alice, the only person alive who can help her make sense of her past. In the sweltering hills above Los Angeles, Joan unravels the horrific event she witnessed as a child--that has haunted her every waking moment--while forging the power to finally strike back.

Animal is a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society.

Mayflies

- by Andrew O'hagan

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An unforgettable coming-of-age novel that becomes a profound mediation on life, death, and lifelong friendship.

Everyone has a Tully Dawson: the friend who defines your life.

In the summer of 1986, in a small Scottish town, James and Tully ignite a brilliant friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit. With school over and the locked world of their fathers before them, they rush towards the climax of their youth: a magical weekend in Manchester, the epicentre of everything that inspires them in working-class Britain. There, against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded, a vow is made: to go at life differently.

Thirty years on, half a life away, the phone rings. Tully has news--news that forces the life-long friends to confront their own mortality head-on. What follows is an incredibly moving examination of the responsibilities and obligations we have to those we love. Mayflies is at once a finely-tuned drama about the delicacy and impermanence of human connection and an urgent inquiry into some of the most important questions of all: Who are we? What do we owe to our friends? And what does it mean to love another person amidst tragedy?

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

- by Honoree F. Jeffers

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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2021

AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB SELECTION

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR FICTION

FINALIST FOR THE PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR DEBUT NOVEL o LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION o A FINALIST FOR THE KIRKUS PRIZE FOR FICTION o SHORTLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE o LONGLISTED FOR THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE o A NOMINEE FOR THE NAACP IMAGE AWARD

A New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year o A Time Must-Read Book of the Year o A Washington Post 10 Best Books of the Year o A Oprah Daily Top 20 Books of the Year o A People 10 Best Books of the Year o A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year o A BookPage Best Fiction Book of the Year o A Booklist 10 Best First Novels of the Year o A Kirkus 100 Best Novels of the Year o An Atlanta Journal-Constitution 10 Best Southern Books of the Year o A Parade Pick o A Chicago Public Library Top 10 Best Books of the Year o A KCRW Top 10 Books of the Year

An Instant Washington Post, USA Today, and Indie Bestseller

"Epic.... I was just enraptured by the lineage and the story of this modern African-American family.... A combination of historical and modern story--I've never read anything quite like it. It just consumed me." --Oprah Winfrey, Oprah Book Club Pick

An Indie Next Pick o A New York Times Book Everyone Will Be Talking About o A People 5 Best Books of the Summer o A Good Morning America 15 Summer Book Club Picks o An Essence Best Book of the Summer o A Washington Post 10 Books of the Month o A CNN Best Book of the Month o A Time 11 Best Books of the Month o A Ms. Most Anticipated Book of the Year o A Goodreads Most Anticipated Book of the Year o A BookPage Writer to Watch o A USA Today Book Not to Miss o A Chicago Tribune Summer Must-Read o An Observer Best Summer Book o A Millions Most Anticipated Book o A Ms. Book of the Month o A Well-Read Black Girl Book Club Pick o A BiblioLifestyle Most Anticipated Literary Book of the Summer o A Deep South Best Book of the Summer o Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award 

The 2020 NAACP Image Award-winning poet makes her fiction debut with this National Book Award-longlisted, magisterial epic--an intimate yet sweeping novel with all the luminescence and force of Homegoing; Sing, Unburied, Sing; and The Water Dancer--that chronicles the journey of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era. 

The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called "Double Consciousness," a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois's words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans--the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers--Ailey carries Du Bois's Problem on her shoulders.

Ailey is reared in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother's family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that's made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women--her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries--that urge Ailey to succeed in their stead.

To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family's past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors--Indigenous, Black, and white--in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story--and the song--of America itself.