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Now that spring weather has graced us with its mild temperatures, daylight has been saved, and the vaccine will soon be available to all adults in Massachusetts, there are plenty of reasons for your mood to be on the sunnier side. This past year has provided plenty of opportunities for intense personal reflections, so these 10 books by New England authors are fitting food for thought as you’re waiting for the lucky ticket on the vaccine scheduling website. With topics ranging from magical cults to internal superhuman strength, from the many faces of grief to hopeful self-discoveries in the midst of burnout, there are many ways these authors remind us of how much we all have in common, whether we’re still at home or finally re-emerging in the world with the first bloom of spring.
By Kerrin McCadden
Many Boston area residents are probably familiar with the term “Irish goodbye” (aka when someone leaves a party without telling anyone), but the Irish have their own term for a farewell party in honor of someone emigrating to the United States, and that saying is the title of Kerrin McCadden’s latest collection of poetry — “American Wake.” McCadden’s sparse yet vibrant poetry spans those two geographies she finds home in, New England and Ireland. The vastness of loss, grief and family parallel only mountainous terrains and the waving sea.
'White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing'
By Jennifer De Leon
Jennifer De Leon — author of “Don't Ask Me Where I'm From,” 2015-2016 writer-in-residence at the Boston Public Library and a 2016-2017 City of Boston artist-in-residence — is now publishing a collection of lyrical essays that explores everything from helping her father with his resume, to her family’s Guatemalan roots, to birth control and “The Vagina Monologues.” De Leon waited over 30 years to return to Guatemala. This collection is divided into experiences “Before” that trip, her interactions with the Guatemalan culture she has been largely removed from while living in New England, and “After” she starts to navigate between these two worlds.
'First, Become Ashes'
By K.M. Szpara
Lark has trained his whole life with the Fellowship of the Anointed to summon innate magic to rid the world of monsters. When an FBI raid reveals that magic is not real and Lark has been indoctrinated into a secluded cult, he runs away, determined to prove them wrong and fulfill his destiny. Through a thrilling chase, Lark gains allies who believe in his powers, but Lark must confront the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Fellowship of the Anointed to determine what is the truth. This fantasy novel comes from Harvard Divinity School alum K.M. Szpara.
'The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano'
By Donna Freitas
Do you ever think about a key conversation in your life and reimagine how things might have gone differently? “The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano” explores the premise of how the cookie crumbles, if the cookie could then get reassembled and re-crumbled in eight other ways. Rose Napolitano and her husband fight over prospective parenthood and prenatal vitamins, and the consequences could range from the end of their marriage to the destruction of the characters’ sense of self. This is Freitas’ first foray into adult fiction after writing several nonfiction books about sex and consent, as well as middle grade novels based on her own history as a competitive gymnast.
'Goodbye, Again: Essays, Reflections, and Illustrations'
By Jonny Sun
After his enormously successful book “everyone's a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” inspired by his out-of-this-world Twitter account, Jonny Sun comes out with a new collection of essays that is no less inspiring and heartwarming than his doodles about an alien who comes to Earth. “Goodbye, Again” focuses on the topic of burnout and the importance of stealing moments for yourself. Coming from a doctoral candidate at MIT and creative researcher at the Harvard metaLAB with writing credits for the Emmy-nominated sixth season of “BoJack Horseman,” “Goodbye, Again” touches upon topics like loneliness, mental illness and family with equally effective poignancy and humor.
'The Secret to Superhuman Strength'
By Alison Bechdel
Author of perhaps two of the most well-known graphic memoirs out there, Vermont cartoonist Alison Bechdel is now welcoming readers into the next installment in the chronicle of her life. Using fitness fads as a device to discuss her self-improvement efforts from the physical to the metaphysical, from spin class to Eastern philosophy, from skiing to Jack Kerouac, this smart memoir once again unabashedly dives into a central relationship in Bechdel’s life that evolves between childhood and adulthood. In “Fun Home,” it’s with her father; in “Are You My Mother?” it’s with her mother, and this time, in “The Secret to Superhuman Strength,” it’s with herself.
'A Master of Djinn'
By P. Djèlí Clark
P. Djèlí Clark — author of “Ring Shout” and finalist for the prestigious Hugo and Nebula Awards of science fiction writing — writes his fantasy debut with "A Master of Djinn." Set in an alternative 1912 Cairo that has recently escaped the destruction of the universe, Fatma el-Sha'arawi is now tasked with solving the mass murder of a secret brotherhood. The identity of the murderer is a mystery, but the murderer claims he’s the ghost of the very person the brotherhood honored — one of the most famous men in history, Al-Jahiz, who had opened up the veil to the magical realm 40 years previously before disappearing. This alleged ghost wants to wreak havoc upon modern society for its oppression. Fatma may not believe that the murderer is really the ghost of Al-Jahiz, but she can’t deny that no matter who is responsible for this violence, their magic is a threat to the city, and possibly the world.
By Steven Rowley
In this novel from the Maine-born author of “Lily and the Octopus,” a former sitcom star suddenly finds himself in custody of his niece and nephew after the children’s mother dies and his brother needs to check into rehab. Patrick had created fun “Guncle Rules” (a portmanteau for “gay uncle”) for when Maisie and Grant visit him in Palm Springs in the past, but he’s out of his depths trying to accommodate the lives of two grieving children full time. But even if Patrick was initially unequipped to be the primary caretaker, his own journey with grief allows the family to bond in this heartwarming story.
By Jesse McCarthy
This coming of age novel from Harvard associate professor Jesse McCarthy traverses continents, reminisces on lost loves and reveals that a public school teacher and a former NBA player may have more in common than you’d think. Jonah is a recent college graduate searching for a career he can be passionate about, one that helps him fulfill his sense of self rather than fulfilling an obligation, and he doesn’t think his current teaching gig in Brooklyn is it. An unexpected friendship forms between Jonah and ex-NBA player Nathaniel when they bond over the former lives they left behind in Paris. The duo spontaneously decides to travel together to Rio de Janeiro, where Jonah has the chance to self-reflect and explore the different ways he can navigate the world as a young Black man.
'The Playwright's House'
By Dariel Suarez
Dariel Suarez, the education director at GrubStreet and 2017 City of Boston artist fellow, makes his novel debut with “The Playwright’s House.” Upwardly mobile Serguey has a bright future ahead of him — his career as a lawyer has poised him with the opportunity to move abroad and leave Cuba behind. However, when his estranged brother lets him know that their father has been arrested for potentially political reasons, he is forced to investigate the titular “Playwright’s House” of his father to discover the truth. Along the way, Serguey and his brother must reckon with the traumatic childhood that led to their estrangement if they want their father, and themselves, to avoid imprisonment.
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