Uchenna Awoke

A Nigerian Catcher in the Rye, Uchenna Awoke’s masterful debut breaks the silence about a hidden and dangerous contemporary caste system

Fifteen-year-old Dimkpa dreams of the day his father will be made village head. He will return to school and maybe even go on to university; his mother will no longer have to break her back foraging wild food to sell at market; they will have the money to build a fine tomb for his aunt Okike; and his family’s status as ohu ma, the lowest Igbo caste, won’t matter anymore. But when his father is passed over for a younger man, breaking tradition, Dimkpa realizes that he must make his own fate.

Journeying from his small village in rural Nigeria, to Lagos, Awka, and home again, Dimkpa learns that no money is easy money, that superstition runs deep, that knowledge is power, and that sometimes it is better to live in the present than to always be chasing a future just out of reach.

The Liquid Eye of a Moon is by turns hilarious and poignant, capturing all the messiness of adolescence, and the difficulty of making your own way in a world that seeks to oppress you.

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Abraham Chang

“Abraham Chang’s novel, packed with pop culture, is wonderfully alive. This is a beautifully tender and funny examination of love, of identity, of making your way in a world that is getting bigger and smaller at the same time.” —Kevin Wilson, bestselling author of Nothing To See Here

Young Wang has received plenty of wisdom from his beloved uncle: don’t take life too seriously, get out on the road when you can, and everyone gets just seven great loves in their life—so don’t blow it. This last one sticks with Young as he is an obsessive cataloger of his life: movies watched, favorite albums . . . all filtered through Chinese numerology and superstition. He finds meaning in almost everything, for which his two best friends endlessly tease him. But then, at the end of 1995, when Young is at New York University, he meets Erena. She’s brilliant, charismatic, quick-witted, and crassly funny. They fall in love and, for Young, it feels so real that he’s thrilled and terrified. As Young and Erena’s relationship blossoms, we get flashbacks to Young’s first five loves. That means Erena is “number six.” Was his uncle wrong—is she the one and only? Or are they fated for failure to make room for Young’s final, seventh love?

A love letter to Western pop culture, Eastern traditions, and being a first-generation New Yorker, Abraham Chang’s dazzling debut reminds us that luck only gets us so far when it comes to matters of the heart.

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Maura Cheeks


Clara Drummond

Role Play is a fresh satire narrated by a wealthy young woman in Rio on the verge of a class-consciousness awakening.

Vivian’s gallery gig in Rio de Janeiro is more than a job. She’s a curator, not just at work but in every aspect of her life. Her apartment has designer armchairs. Her wallet is Comme des Garçons. Everything is selected and arranged, even her friends, culled from Brazil’s richest families, who play the supporting cast in Vivian’s ongoing performance of self.

In Vivian’s world, everything comes in excess, including her own caustic self-awareness. As she informs us, “I’m a misandrist and a misogynist,” but she is fond of gay men, “the one type of human you can get along with as equals.”

The gravity of real life breaks through Vivian’s ongoing act when she’s confronted with an unexpected and awful proximity to police violence. Can she pause long enough to recast herself in a new role, one that fits her highly staged world and can account for the dangerous and unpredictable?

Role Play examines the superabundances of Brazilian elites, their art and ethics, and their monied ambivalence in the face of social inequality, machismo, and violence. As sharp and sparkling as broken champagne flutes, Clara Drummond’s prose is seductively frank and unflinching in its depiction of wealth’s warping effects. Her third novel and her English-language debut, Role Play is a bold and hilarious book that places everything that affirms and informs the performance of self under a harsh spotlight.

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Oisín McKenna


Clyo Mendoza


Sarah Ruiz-Grossman

With the emotional echoes of Little Fires Everywhere and the lush atmosphere of Disappearing Earth, a riveting debut novel in which a wildfire creeps toward Berkeley, California, igniting tensions as characters from all walks of life confront the injustices lying beneath the city’s surface.

As a wildfire threatens Berkeley, the city’s inhabitants are forced to reckon with the cracks in the lives they’ve built.

Abigail, a wealthy homeowner, decides to throw a lavish birthday in a hillside mansion to raise money for the city’s newest affordable housing project—and prove to her family that she’s made something worthwhile of her life. Sunny, a construction worker who sleeps in a van along the bay’s shore, is in the running for an apartment—but only if enough funds are raised at the party.

As the heat and smoke from the approaching blaze descend upon the town, tensions rise and residents—young and old, haves and have nots—confront the inequities laid bare, and the fragility of building a life in a world on fire.

Alternating among a colorful cast of characters, A Fire So Wild is a timely, tautly paced novel that questions why when everything burns, not everyone is left with scars.

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Rachel Stark

In this unforgettable debut novel, twenty-seven-year-old Tessa, pregnant with her third child and living in a trailer on her mother-in-law’s property, encounters the woman she used to love—leading Tessa to question the very foundations of the life she’s built

Abandoned first by her father and then her mother, as a girl Tessa is left to live with her abusive stepfather and stepbrother. She survives by finding reserves of strength in herself, and by the surprising, transformative love of another teenage girl, Mel, who sees through Tessa’s tough exterior to the vulnerable, scarred, loving woman inside. When she suddenly loses Mel, too, Tessa stumbles into a saving grace of a different kind with Henry and his mama, Angie, becoming a mother and finding herself in a familial existence that somehow carries her into adulthood—until the day she runs into Mel, who has just returned to Perris after years away.

Filled with violence, tragedy, tenderness, longing, and the unvarnished courage of women living in a mostly unseen America, Perris, California is the utterly gripping story of Tessa’s journey from trauma to healing, and it introduces us to one of the most indelible female characters since Bone Boatwright in Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina or Ruth Langmore in Ozark.

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Alexandra Tanner


Zach Williams

From New Yorker and Paris Review contributor and Wallace Stegner Fellow Zach Williams comes a staggering debut story collection that confronts parenthood, mortality, and life’s broken promises.

Parents awaken in a home in the woods, again and again, to find themselves aging as their infant remains unchanged. An employee is menaced by a conspiracy-minded security guard and accused of sending a sinister viral email. An aging tour guide leads a troublesome group to the site of a UFO, witnessing the slow social deterioration as the rules of decorum go out the window.

In each of Williams’ ten stories, time is as fallible as the characters, and reality is witnessed through the gauzy folds of a dream—or a nightmare. Bucolic scenes devolve into harrowing exercises in abandonment; the quotidian nature of office life raises serious questions of existential fortitude. Williams is keenly aware of the insidiousness lurking in the shadows of the everyday, ably spiking it with humor. He depicts the divided self of the parent, the distances necessary to protect our children, and the fallout of our deepest relationships. Williams sees the perversity in the mundane and dares readers to recognize the impact—and beauty—of time’s relentless movement.

With exquisite prose and a lacerating wit, Beautiful Days holds a mirror to the many absurdities of being human and refuses to let us look away.

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