Paperbacks to Look Out For Out for in June 2022: Part Two

Cover image for The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila HarrisThe first part of June’s paperbacks started with a novel hyped to the skies ahead of publication as does the second, although this time it’s a debut. Set in a prestigious New York publishing house, Zakiya Dalila Harris’ The Other Black Girl follows Nella, the only Black employee on the editorial staff until Hazel is installed in the cubicle next to the one she’s occupied for two years. What follows is not what you might expect, as Nella becomes increasingly disconcerted by Hazel’s confidence and ability to slip into her role with ease while facing what seems to be a campaign to oust her from her own position. I enjoyed this sharp satire, entertaining and dismaying at the same time.

Lola Akinmade Akerstrom’s In Every Mirror She’s Black follows three women, all linked to an influential Cover image for In Every Mirror She's Black by Lola Akinmade Akerstromwhite businessman, all trying to establish themselves in Stockholm. One is a successful American marketing executive trying to fix a PR blunder; the second is a flight attendant whose encounter with the businessman results in a life which is not what she’d hoped and the third is a refugee working as a cleaner in the businessman’s office. ‘Told through the perspectives of each of the three women, In Every Mirror She’s Black is a timely, richly nuanced novel that touches on important social issues of racism, classism, fetishization, and tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society’. Very much like the sound of that structure.

Cover image for My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole JohnsonJocelyn Nicole Johnson’s debut, My Monticello, is set against a backdrop of race riots and climate change. It follows Naisha who, with her grandmother, boyfriend and assorted neighbours, flees Charlottesville heading to Monticello, home to her ancestor, Thomas Jefferson and his many slaves. At first, the group stations itself at Monticello’s welcome pavilion, unwilling to breach this bastion of the nation, but as the days wear on they make their way up the hill to the house. The tensions that play out between them resolve themselves into a cooperation which is at first wary then generous. Johnson handles her subject deftly, telling her story in vivid prose against a backdrop of social disintegration, pulling the thread of suspense taut as the novella edges towards its conclusion. Cover image for Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews

Offering a bit of light relief, Alexandra Andrews’ Who is Maud Dixon? carries on the writing theme several novels I’ve read this year feature but this time with a mystery as its title suggests. Florence is determined to become a writer, thrilled when she gets a job as reclusive bestselling novelist Maud Dixon’s assistant, accompanying her on a research trip to Morocco. They get on like a house on fire until Florence wakes up in a hospital bed after a car crash. ‘How did it happen – and where is Maud Dixon, who was in the car with her? Florence feels she may have been played, but wait, if Maud is no longer around, maybe Florence can make her mark as a writer after all…’ says the blurb which sounds promising to me.

Cover image for Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch by Rivka GalchenRivka Galchen’s Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch takes us back to 1618, a step or two outside my usual literary territory but I very much like the sound of it. Katherina’s pride in her skills as a herbalist and in her eldest son, awarded the title of Imperial Mathematician, has put a few of her neighbours’ backs up. When she’s accused of making a villager ill, Johannes must abandon his work and defend her. ‘Provocative and entertaining, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch draws on real historical documents to touchingly illuminate a society, and a family, undone by superstition the state, and the mortal convulsions of history. It is a story of our time – of a community implicated in collective aggression and hysterical fear’ says the blurb reminding me a little of Daniel Kehlmann’s Tyll.

Fast forward a few centuries for Jonathan Lee’s The Great Mistake which reimagines the life of Andrew Haswell Green, largelyCover image for The Great Mistake by Jonathan Lee forgotten despite being credited as ‘The Father of Greater New York’ during his lifetime. By the end of his long career, he’d been the driving force behind many of the city’s landmark institutions, from Central Park to Brooklyn Bridge. The violent death of this self-effacing public figure at the hands of a bowler-hatted gunman leaves the detective investigating it bemused at its lack of motive until he experiences an epiphany. Lee’s novel is an enjoyable reconstruction of a fascinating life, which left me wondering if a twentieth-first-century public figure of such stature would sink so easily into near oblivion.

Cover image for Things We Do Not Tell the People We Love by Huma QureshiJune’s paperback short story collection is Huma Qureshi’s Things We Do Not Tell the People We Love. Underpinned by recurrent themes of cultural differences and expectations, the navigation of mixed-race relationships, marriage, love and family, Qureshi’s brief stories are quietly insightful and reflective. She has a knack for conveying a great deal in a few carefully chosen words, leaving her readers with much to think about. Highly recommended

That’s it for the second part of June’s paperback preview. As ever, a click on a title will take you either to my review or to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more, and if you’d like to catch up with part one it’s here. New fiction is here.

18 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For Out for in June 2022: Part Two”

  1. Added Who is Maud Dixon to my list. From your description I think I can predict the twists but the journey sounds fun! And who knows, I may be pleasantly surprised.

  2. These all sound great, what a fantastic selection for June. In Every Mirror she’s Black and Everyone knows your Mother is a Witch especially appeal to me.

  3. The Great Mistake is the one that appeals most. I’ve come across Andrew Haswell Green in another book, but I’ve forgotten what one at the moment – not even if it was factual or fiction! So if I’ve gone insane by the end of the day trying to remember, it’ll be your fault… 😉

    1. Well, I hope it comes to mind before my name’s mud! It’s a fascinating story. Hard to imagine such an influential, if reclusive, figure sinking into obscurity these days.

  4. I liked The Other Black Girl to an extent but felt it had some weird issues (why did the “thing” do that and why that way around; what happened to the boyfriend?). I have In Every Mirror She’s Black TBR …

  5. I recall your enthusiasm for My Monticello when it was hardback, so that’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind for book subscriptions now that it’s available in p/b. The Oher Black Girl sounds interesting too…

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