The provocative author of The White Boy Shuffle (1996) and Slumberland (2008) is back with his most penetratingly satirical novel yet.
Beatty has never been afraid to stir the pot when it comes to racial and socioeconomic issues, and his latest is no different. In fact, this novel is his most incendiary, and readers unprepared for streams of racial slurs (and hilarious vignettes about nearly every black stereotype imaginable) in the service of satire should take a pass. The protagonist lives in Dickens, “a ghetto community” in Los Angeles, and works the land in an area called “The Farms,” where he grows vegetables, raises small livestock and smokes a ton of “good weed.” After being raised by a controversial sociologist father who subjected him to all manner of psychological and social experiments, the narrator is both intellectually gifted and extremely street-wise. When Dickens is removed from the map of California, he goes on a quest to have it reinstated with the help of Hominy Jenkins, the last surviving Little Rascal, who hangs around the neighborhood regaling everyone with tales of the ridiculously racist skits he used to perform with the rest of the gang. It’s clear that Hominy has more than a few screws loose, and he volunteers to serve as the narrator’s slave—yes, slave—on his journey. Another part of the narrator’s plan involves segregating the local school so that it allows only black, Latino and other nonwhite students. Eventually, he faces criminal charges and appears in front of the Supreme Court in what becomes “the latest in a long line of landmark race-related cases.” Readers turned off by excessive use of the N-word or those who are easily offended by stereotypes may find the book tough going, but fans of satire and blatantly honest—and often laugh-out-loud funny—discussions of race and class will be rewarded on each page. Beatty never backs down, and readers are the beneficiaries.
Another daring, razor-sharp novel from a writer with talent to burn.
A remarkable journalistic achievement from a Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Fellowship winner that crystalizes the last 10 years of global war and strife while candidly portraying the intimate life of a female photojournalist.
Over the last decade, Addario has been periodically beaten, robbed, kidnapped, shot at and sexually assaulted from one end of the Middle East and North Africa to the other. Risking her life for images that might change public policy, she ran into Taliban fighters who fired on her in the Korengal Valley, Gadhafi loyalists who imprisoned her in Libya and Israeli soldiers who abused her outside the Gaza Strip. A deadly car accident in Pakistan nearly claimed her life. Many of Addario's friends and colleagues did die during that time, while lovers faded away and family members freaked out. But such was the cost of the author’s life’s work. Told with unflinching candor, the award-winning photographer brings an incredible sense of humanity to all the battlefields of her life. Especially affecting is the way in which Addario conveys the role of gender and how being a woman has impacted every aspect of her personal and professional lives. Whether dealing with ultrareligious zealots or overly demanding editors, being a woman with a camera has never been an easy task. Somewhere amid Addario’s dizzying odyssey, she also became a mother. However, instead of slowing her down, it only deepened the battle-hardened correspondent’s insight into the lives of those she so courageously sought to photograph. “Just as in Somalia,” she writes, “when I had felt my baby moving inside me as I witnessed the suffering of other infants, I could suddenly understand, in a new, profound, and enraging way, the way most people in the world lived.”
A brutally real and unrelentingly raw memoir that is as inspiring as it is horrific.
A fast-paced fantasy adventure that takes readers into a series of interconnected worlds ruled by magic—or the lack of it.
Long ago, the doors between worlds were open, and anyone with magic could travel from one to the next. Now the doors are closed, and only a chosen few have the power to travel between Grey London, a world without magic, Red London, a world suffused with it, and White London, a world where magic is scarce, coveted and jealously guarded. As for Black London, the city consumed, no one would be so foolish as to risk a trip—not even Kell. Officially, he’s a royal messenger, carrying letters among the rulers of the three Londons. Unofficially, he’s a smuggler who collects artifacts from other worlds. It’s that habit that leads him to accept a dangerous relic, something that shouldn’t exist. And it’s when a wanted Grey London thief named Lila steals the artifact that the real trouble starts—for both of them. Schwab (Vicious, 2013, etc.) creates a memorable world—actually, three memorable worlds—and even more memorable characters. Lila in particular is a winningly unconventional heroine who, as she declares, would “rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” The brisk plot makes this a page-turner that confronts darkness but is never overwhelmed by it.
Fantasy fans will love this fast-paced adventure, with its complex magic system, thoughtful hero and bold heroine.
Knocked unconscious and kidnapped, 16-year-old Linus wakes alone in a small, windowless, concrete building.
The only way in or out is a lift that comes, empty, twice a day. With no food and no contact with his captor, Linus begins a journal. On the third day, a 9-year-old girl named Jenny appears, and food is finally delivered. Over several days, four more captives arrive, all adults, including a big, burly junkie, an uptight young businesswoman and a middle-aged businessman. Last to arrive is Russell, a famous philosopher who’s dying of a brain tumor. In a setting reminiscent of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, this suspenseful, riveting winner of the 2014 Carnegie Medal explores existentialism through the different stages of life embodied by the six characters. Jenny wonders what they’re being punished for and why their captor is so bad. Linus wonders why they are there and what their captor wants. He notices that the clocks are being manipulated and ponders what past, present and future mean when you’re captive and dependent on an all-powerful “Man Upstairs” for life’s essentials. Wise Russell, the only character of color, calmly works out where they must be and helps the others see the humanity in themselves and each other. Brooks’ latest is not an easy novel, but it’s one that begs for rereading to suss the intricacies of its construction of plot, character development and insight into the human condition.
Not for everyone, this heady novel is worthy of study alongside existentialist works of the 20th century.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
Los Angeles Times reporter and editor Leovy looks at the thinly veiled racist origins of violence in South Central LA.
In her debut, the author journeys where most fear to tread: the perennially mean streets of South Central LA, where she uses the senseless murder of a policeman’s progeny as a jumping-off point to investigate broader issues of why, even as violent crime as a whole in America continues to drop, that urban area sees so many of its people dying by tragically violent means. Leovy’s big-picture thesis is that whether you’re talking about the “rough justice” of vigilante revenge killings in Ghana, Northern Ireland or South Central LA, the one underlying cause is the same: a vacuum left by a legal system that fails to serve everyone equally. Leovy posits that the gang violence in LA is the result of the local police simply not doing their jobs. On a microcosmic level, the author follows the lives of two LAPD officers, John Skaggs and Wally Tennelle, the former investigating the murder of the latter’s son. Tennelle’s decision to buck the trend among LA cops and live within the city limits furthered his career as a police officer but had deadly consequences for his son. Intertwined with Leovy’s swiftly paced true-crime narrative involving Skaggs’ methodical tracking down of Tennelle’s killer is some probing sociological research into how blacks in LA got the short end of the socioeconomic straw: Hispanics may have been treated unfairly in the jobs they worked, but as Leovy points out, African-Americans were, even as far back as the 1920s, often excluded from even the lowest-skilled jobs in the city. Unfortunately, however deftly the author interweaves the more personal angle of officers Skaggs and Tennelle with broader sociological “root cause” investigations, there is little to suggest that real change will arrive soon in South Central LA.
A sobering and informative look at the realities of criminality in the inner city.
In this witty take on 1980s Philadelphia, a young girl comes of age and learns to navigate love, loss, school and family.
Kenya, whom we meet at age 7 and watch graduate from high school into womanhood, is the daughter of Afrocentric parents. Their politics and yearly celebration of Kwanzaa, which entails “sporting an orange, yellow and brown dashiki and a forehead-straining vertical braided hairstyle,” make Kenya a social pariah even at her all-black school. In Kenya, Solomon has crafted a character of irrepressible verve and voice who carries us joyously through the novel—even after she witnesses her parents’ breakup, when her father is imprisoned for injuring her mother with a gun. With the separation, Kenya is propelled from her safe black Philly world into the white world of an elite private school—the very world her father fled, traumatized and bitter. Here, she becomes a master of code-switching to fit in, all while knowing that her classmates will never truly accept her. After a chance meeting with a black boy from her old neighborhood turns into a failed love affair, Kenya seeks comfort in a visit to her father, newly released from prison. The scenes with Kenya’s father, who's enjoying a bigamous life with two new wives and two new sets of kids, are razor-sharp on the contradictions of identity—here, for example, we see Kenya’s father, a staunch activist for African-American rights, unable to make the link to respect women’s rights. Kenya has a palpable need for her father to become a solid, guiding force as she steps into womanhood, but he can’t do it. And when her stepfather loses all her mother’s money, Kenya’s future college education doesn't quite go as planned. In this debut novel, Solomon (Get Down, 2008) examines the confusing moments on the verge of adulthood within the ever shifting makeup of family and society.
Blackness, feminism and the loss of virginity have never been analyzed by a more astute and witty main character.
In his second collection of short stories, Bradford (Dogwalker, 2001, etc.) delights with surprising tales of young men and women struggling to connect.
The title story sets the tone in just a few pages: While trying to impress friends with an ill-advised dive into a river, Otto badly injures himself when he collides with a turtle. Absurd enough, yes, but Bradford doesn’t stop there, and the story morphs into one of rehabilitation—not only Otto’s, but also the injured turtle’s. These stories move quickly and turn strange corners: Each one is like a guy who's torn off his clothes and decided to run through an office building. A story about a man taking a one-armed woman on a date becomes the story of a dead cat. A story about two strangers on a drive becomes the story of a burned kitchen and incinerated eyebrows. You get the idea. Underpinning each piece, though, however chaotic its construction may seem, is Bradford’s sensitivity to his characters. He loves these people, even as they make horrible decisions and form complicated (and sometimes self-destructive) bonds. The collection’s best story might be “Snakebite,” in which a man with the titular affliction nearly dies at a stranger’s wedding only to find Jesus and become the life of the party. The story moves swiftly and has a lot of action, but it’s the quiet moments that resonate: a misplaced kiss, a borrowed tie. Bradford has a great sense of the ways in which people reach out for one another. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the stories occasionally feel overly busy, and this busyness drowns out the heartbeats of the characters—but then there’s another crisis, another laugh, and any complaints get swallowed up by the messiness of life.
A best-selling memoirist tells the story of how he survived—and came to terms with—the traumatic near-deaths of his youngest brother and former fiancee.
Martinez’s (The Boy Kings of Texas, 2012) youngest brother, Derek, was born to parents whose marriage was “crippled by rot.” Spoiled with attention as a child, Derek hero-worshipped his hard-living, hard-drinking older brother. But he also suffered deeply when his parents divorced and the mother he adored shunted him off to live with one relative after another. So when Martinez, who went to live in Seattle, learned that his brother was in a coma as a result of an alcohol-related blackout and fall, he felt profound guilt. His misery was compounded by the fact he chose not to return to Texas due to a feud with another brother. But Martinez could not escape his own conscience and found himself “collecting little brothers” in his neighborhood. Then he met Stephanie, a troubled bisexual woman whose “anguish…brokenness…and misfit qualit[ies]” mirrored his own. The pair hurried into a dysfunctional engagement. At the same time, Martinez befriended an older woman named Sarah, with whom he fell deeply in love. The author eventually broke off his relationship with Stephanie, but not long afterward, she drove her car off a cliff. Like Derek, she suffered brain injury, went into a coma and survived; unlike him, she had the shocked and bewildered Martinez by her side until she recovered. At Sarah’s insistence, Martinez began to write because “it was going to be [his] only way out” and the way he could finally align the “drunken compass” of his broken heart. This tragicomic memoir is not just about the complications of family, but also about the power of narrative to heal and make whole.
A passionate, occasionally convoluted account of personal redemption.
Etta, self-described “rich black was-ballerina,” is blessed with a strong will and personality to match and an enviable gift for achieving her goals—if only she knew what they were.
Ever since she dated a boy, bisexual Etta’s been on the outs with the few uncloseted lesbians at her Nebraska private school. Refusing to stay on their side of the cultural line has netted her nonstop bullying and the cold shoulder from her best friend, Rachel. What hurt most, though, was being told she’s not ballerina material (i.e., not bird-thin and white). Still, through sheer grit Etta’s battled back from an eating disorder, unlike Bianca, the dangerously thin girl with a gorgeous singing voice in their therapy group. When both girls audition for Brentwood, a New York arts school, Etta’s drawn into Bianca’s orbit, which also includes her closeted gay brother, James, and his straight friend, Mason. Etta may be conflicted about Brentwood (could/should she attend dance school instead?) but not about what matters most: finding a niche where she can thrive. Smart, assertive teens with take-charge personalities turn up more often in fantasy than realistic teen fiction, making Etta stand out. As she figures out what she needs and where to find it, Etta’s stubborn persistence engages readers’ sympathies and sends the bracing message that sisters can (still) do it for themselves.
A smart, insightful love letter to line-crossing individualists.
An American-born financier spins an almost unbelievable tale of the “poisoned” psychology afflicting business life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
By 2000, Browder, founder and CEO of the Hermitage Fund, helmed “the best performing emerging-markets fund in the world.” Taking full advantage of the unprecedented investment opportunities available during post-Soviet Russia’s transition from communism to capitalism, a gangland business atmosphere where oligarchs operated with impunity, Browder’s firm became the biggest investor in Russia’s stock market. He owed his rise in part to his willingness to fight back, to alert Western business contacts, to inform the press and to file complaints with government authorities against those corrupting the business culture. For a while, his interests coincided with those of Putin, still busy consolidating power, doing his own bit to rein in the oligarchs. By 2005, however, secure in his authority, Putin revoked Browder’s visa, branding him “a threat to national security.” There followed a series of moves against Browder and Hermitage, including the raiding of the company’s Moscow offices on trumped-up charges of tax evasion and, most notoriously, the arrest, imprisonment, beating and death of tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who had helped expose government crime. Browder’s unceasing efforts to achieve justice for his murdered friend and employee culminated in the 2012 Magnitsky Act, a human rights landmark that named and shamed the responsible Russian officials. This well-paced, heartfelt narrative covers the author’s personal life—he’s the son of a famed mathematician and the grandson of Earl Browder, former head of the Communist Party USA—his business career, including brushes with the likes of fraudster Robert Maxwell and swashbuckling Ron Burkle; close relationships with billionaires Edmond Safra and Beny Steinmetz; his dealings on the Magnitsky Act with U.S. senators; and Putin’s vindictive retaliatory measures against Browder and the act.
It may be that “Russian stories never have happy endings,” but Browder’s account more than compensates by ferociously unmasking Putin’s thugocracy.
Hallelujah thought that if she kept her head down, pastor’s son Luke, the popular boy she once crushed on, would stop bullying her and spreading humiliating lies about what happened between them.
Instead, her refusing to defend herself has allowed Luke’s lies to go unchallenged and estranged Hallie from her friends. Compounding her isolation, her naïve, deeply religious parents accept Luke’s account of her behavior and enroll her in a church-sponsored, spring-break camp in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, where Luke’s bullying continues. Mistrustful, immobilized by despair, Hallie avoids former close friend Jonah and rebuffs friendly overtures from a new girl, Rachel. When Rachel quits a contentious hike (no cellphones allowed) to return to camp, Hallie and Jonah join her. Inexperienced in the wilderness, they head in the wrong direction, then—in a heavy rain squall—lose the trail altogether. No one’s brought a flashlight; provisions are lunch leftovers, water and a can of soda. They move instead of staying put, fail to recognize poison ivy, freeze at night. The struggle to survive is terrifying but galvanizing, even cleansing. In calmer moments, they ponder life’s unanswerable questions, and faith (there are no atheists in foxholes) is proven a power in its own right. Readers will root for Hallie, a compelling original, to find faith in herself.
Vivid, gripping and believable from beginning to end—a strong debut.