How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Books 2020)
Review by Lane Berger
C Pam Zhang’s debut novel, How Much of These Hills Is Gold, follows a Chinese-American family without a name. Ma, Ba (father), Lucy, and Sam are immigrant, migrant, and the children thereof.
Divided into four a-chronological sections, the novel spans America’s Gold Rush Era. In Part One, Ba is dead, “And long gone, Ma.” But for Ba’s body and a stolen horse, Lucy and Sam are destitute when they set out to bury their father properly. While Lucy wills every step to take her away from her past, toward a white lace dress and civilization, Sam carries a disparate inheritance and disparate dreams. Begun as a journey to stay a spirit, the siblings take up the mantle of their parents’ search for self and home.
The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir by E.J. Koh (Tin House Books 2020)
Reviewed by Summer A.H. Christiansen
Asian-American literature is finally having its moment in the United States. In the past four years, books such as Min Jin Lee’s, Pachinko and Ocean Vuong’s, On Earth We Are Briefly Beautiful have made their way to the New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year lists and have been nominated for a variety of prestigious awards.
As readers, Americans are hungry for new voices in Asian-American literature. While Amy Tan and Haruki Murakami have been the exception rather than the trend, there has been very little representation of voices in contemporary literature. However, authors like E.J. Koh are finally changing things.
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead Books 2020)
Reviewed by Angela Gualtieri
Tales have passed down between generations for as long as mankind has been alive. These stories helped infuse the foundation of different cultures. Some tell of missing beans and talking animals, while others mention the nightly selection of new brides. And some tell of gingerbread.
Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir by Lauren Slater (Penguin Books 2000)
Reviewed by Patricia Steckler
Lying, a title for a memoir, why? Don’t we read personal chronicles for true, reveal-all accounts of the authors who pen them? Are we to believe what Lauren Slater writes here? Or discount it? What’s the significance of Slater’s subtitle, A Metaphorical Memoir? Before I turned to the first page, my head swirled. Off-balance, dizzy with uncertainty, I wondered what kind of reading adventure awaited.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride (Riverhead Books 2020)
Reviewed by Allison McCausland
During such turbulent times, it is important to have a sense of humor. The juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy has never been as eloquent as in James McBride’s latest novel, Deacon King Kong. McBride’s follow up to his National Book Award winning The Good Lord Bird draws on the same wit and humor as the author observes and records the human condition.
Written by Eliana Perozo
I’ve only ever had two lovers. I think people have loved me in between, and if it were up to me, I’d count my mother and father as lovers as well. Theirs has been the most torturous, beautiful, love of them all. But we are not counting mothers and fathers.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Avon Books 2019)
Reviewed by Katie Centabar
Time for another feature by your friend who always has great romance recommendations that are somehow never smutty and always nuanced! In these tough times, we all need love (*insert a cliche here about how necessary love and romance is – especially now*). But really, it is and we do.
THE UNWINDING OF THE MIRACLE BY JULIE YIP-WILLIAMS (Random House 2019)
Reviewed by Efsane Karayilanoglu Toka
“If you’re here, then I’m not.” (ix) This is how Julie Yip-Williams starts her book. She turns your emotions upside-down. Knowing that the person who wrote those lines is not alive anymore gives you a different perspective as you turn the pages. It’s raw, it’s honest, it’s true. It’s about starting a life and also ending one.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (Akashic: New York 2017)
Reviewed by Tracy Vasquez
Rivers Solomon’s science-fiction novel An Unkindness of Ghosts is masked in a pain. The point of writing on the pain of others is to expose the reader to a point of view; in this instance, Solomon writes from the perspective of Aster, who identifies as gender fluid. Aster is searching for a consistent path in the uncertainty of the cosmos. “She craved clarity, transparency and answers.” (169) She longs for answers from her mother, who died when she was a baby; yet, a mapping of sorts leads her on a path set by her mother. Cutting out the contrivances, we see Aster through her history of loss and survival on the vessel Matilda.