Morgan follows up her slim, keening debut (All the Living, 2009) with an epic novel steeped in American history and geography.
As a boy, Henry Forge determines to turn the land his aristocratic Kentucky family has planted with corn for generations into a farm for racehorses. Henry grows into an arrogant, hard man, imbued with the unthinking racism and sexism of his haughty father and unnaturally focused on his only child, Henrietta. Before she leaves him, wife Judith loudly voices the novel’s seething strain of bitterness about the lot of women in this world, but her anger is nothing compared to the rage of Allmon Shaughnessy, an African-American man who enters the story in the early 2000s, when Henrietta and he are both in their 20s. Backtracking to trace Allmon’s past, Morgan’s gothic tale of Southern decadence deepens into a searing investigation of racism’s enduring legacy. Allmon’s ailing, hard-pressed mother and her father, a storefront preacher and veteran civil rights activist, are notable among the teeming cast of brilliantly drawn secondary characters who populate the bleak saga of an intelligent, sensitive boy with zero prospects; by the time he’s 17, Allmon is in jail, where he discovers the knack with horses that gets him hired on the Forges’ farm. A few years go by, Henrietta and Allmon become lovers, but there’s little hope of a happy future for such damaged people. A series of five brilliant riffs called Interludes anchor this modern tale in a vast sweep of geological time and the grim particulars of Allmon’s ancestor, a runaway slave named Scipio. The consequences of the Forges’ brutality and pride come home to roost in an apocalyptic climax just after their extraordinary filly Hellsmouth runs the 2006 Kentucky Derby; it’s entirely appropriate to Morgan’s dark vision that it’s not the guiltiest who pay the highest price.
Vaultingly ambitious, thrillingly well-written, charged with moral fervor and rueful compassion. How will this dazzling writer astonish us next time?
A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist investigates the “fluidity and binaries” of “modern transsexuality.”
In 2004, after hardly any contact with her father for 25 years, Faludi (The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post–9/11 America, 2007, etc.) received an email from her, announcing that she had undergone gender reassignment surgery in Thailand. Steven Faludi was now Stefánie. “I have decided that I have had enough of impersonating a macho aggressive man that I have never been inside,” she explained. Aggression is what her daughter remembered: Steven had been an “imperious patriarch, overbearing and autocratic” during the author's childhood. Now she reached out to her, inviting the author to write her story. The author’s discoveries about her elusive, mysterious, dissembling father are central to this gripping exploration of sexual, national, and ethnic identity. Steven grew up in Hungary in a wealthy Jewish family that owned two apartment houses. After World War I, when the nation lost more than half of its population and landmass in a peace agreement, anti-Semitism surged, intensifying during World War II. To save his parents from extermination, Steven impersonated a member of the violent Arrow Cross and led them to safety. Moving to Brazil and later to the United States, he married and had two children. He was roiled when his wife sued for divorce. “As both European Jew and American Dad,” the author writes, “my father’s manhood had been doubted, distorted, and besmirched.” “Now, as a woman, women like me more,” she said. A professional photographer deft at manipulating images, Stefánie proved just as deft in revising her biography, challenging Faludi to ferret out truths from her many lies. The writer communicated with relatives, her father’s few friends, and surgeon; transgender females, in interviews and memoirs, share their often disturbing life stories.
A moving and penetrating inquiry into manifold struggles for identity, community, and authenticity.
Eleven-year-old Brooklynite Genie has “worry issues,” so when he and his older brother, Ernie, are sent to Virginia to spend a month with their estranged grandparents while their parents “try to figure it all out,” he goes into overdrive.
First, he discovers that Grandpop is blind. Next, there’s no Internet, so the questions he keeps track of in his notebook (over 400 so far) will have to go un-Googled. Then, he breaks the model truck that’s one of the only things Grandma still has of his deceased uncle. And he and Ernie will have to do chores, like picking peas and scooping dog poop. What’s behind the “nunya bidness door”? And is that a gun sticking out from Grandpop’s waistband? Reynolds’ middle-grade debut meanders like the best kind of summer vacation but never loses sense of its throughline. The richly voiced third-person narrative, tightly focused through Genie’s point of view, introduces both brothers and readers to this rural African-American community and allows them to relax and explore even as it delves into the many mysteries that so bedevil Genie, ranging from "Grits? What exactly are they?" to, heartbreakingly, “Why am I so stupid?” Reynolds gives his readers uncommonly well-developed, complex characters, especially the completely believable Genie and Grandpop, whose stubborn self-sufficiency belies his vulnerability and whose flawed love both Genie and readers will cherish.
This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present
. (Fiction. 9-12)