Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.

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THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES

In a collection of luminous stories populated by deeply moving and multifaceted characters, the Black girls and women who sit in traditional church pews discover their own unique ways to worship.

Though each of these nine stories carries a strong female voice, or voices, from a different region, life experience, and time, the church and its profound influence on Black communities is a complex character in itself. In "Eula," two 40-year-old lifelong friends battle each other in defining the parameters of a relationship that had turned sexual years earlier. Tension mounts between the women on New Year's Eve 1999, the last day of the 20th century, when Caroletta, the narrator, wants Eula to admit they could be more than occasional lovers while Eula refuses to let go of her dream of a traditional churchly life with a husband and child. Meanwhile, in "Jael," a woman raising her orphaned great-granddaughter finds the 14-year-old's diary and reads about her erotic obsession with the preacher's wife, struggling with her own judgment that the child she raised might be an ungodly abomination. In "How To Make Love to a Physicist," a middle school teacher embraces therapy, still taboo in many communities of color, to work her way through fears stoked by her rigid mother and give herself over to an unexpected love. The strongest story in a collection of gems is "Peach Cobbler," which finds a teenage girl reckoning with her mother's coldness and yearslong affair with their pastor. No saints exist in these pages, just full-throated, flesh-and-blood women who embrace and redefine love, and their own selves, in powerfully imperfect renditions.

Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949199-73-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: West Virginia Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A winningly revamped King Midas tale.

GOLD DIGGERS

Young strivers in an Indian American enclave are both boosted and undone by a gold-infused elixir.

Sathian’s debut, a refreshing tweak of the assimilation novel, is narrated by Neil, aka Neeraj, who's surrounded by high-achieving desis while growing up outside Atlanta. In high school, Neil is talented at debate, if only half interested in it; his sister, Prachi, is fixated on winning the local Miss Teen India pageant. His neighbor and friend, Anita, seems the perfect mix of beauty and brains, but her parents are separated, subjecting them to the whispered judgments of the community. The family might be outcasts, except that Anita’s mother, Anjali, has mastered the art of brewing a gold-spiked drink that supposedly helps those who consume it attain their ambitions. Anjali’s sideline is a whispered secret, and because the gold must possess something of the personality of more successful people to work, much pilfering of jewelry boxes is afoot. Just as Sathian artfully and convincingly conjures a world in which such a drink exists, she sensitively exposes how its powers backfire. A tragedy that ensues from the pursuit of the “lemonade” slingshots the novel into its second half, as both Neil and Anita are in their 20s, living in the Bay Area, and struggling with disappointments: Anita is fresh off a breakup and has just left her job at a venture capital firm, and Neil can’t make headway on his history dissertation on the Gilded Age, sidetracked by a story about an Indian man during the gold rush. Sathian’s shifts into romance- and heist-novel tropes in the late going aren’t always graceful, but she does a fine job of showing how the ladder-climbing, Ivy League–or-bust fixations of Neil and Anita’s community lead to hollow grown-up behavior. (Especially when blended with all-American go-getter–ism; Neil acquires robust Adderall and coke habits.) Sathian has a knack for page-turner prose, but the story has plenty of heft.

A winningly revamped King Midas tale.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984882-03-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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