A vividly drawn period piece about violence and race in America.

TRUTH IS IN THE HOUSE

Two kids living in the Bronx grow up in an era dominated by drugs, racial tension, and the Vietnam War in this novel.

Jaylen Jackson and his brother, Jamani, are swept out of the Jim Crow South by their mother, Tyra, after their father disappears. Jimmy O’Farrell’s father, Matthew, moves his family to New York City from Ireland, hoping to become part of America’s immigration legacy. Both Jaylen and Jimmy find a home in the Bronx, yet outside their passion for basketball, they have remarkably different experiences there and only cross paths on “The Courts.” Jimmy feels comfortable in the heavily Irish community, but after a violent gang attack takes a friend’s life, he is ill at ease around the Black and Hispanic families in New York’s melting pot. Jaylen, meanwhile, discovers that while the “Whites Only” signs of Mississippi are long gone, his skin color still matters, and he eventually leaves college to join the Marines, an institution that promises a life beyond such prejudice. But this is the 1960s, and the Vietnam War rages, and even for an accomplished soldier, there is no real equality to be unearthed in the Asian jungles. What he does find, surprisingly, is Jimmy, now a Marine himself and happy to see a familiar face from the Bronx. When both are wounded, a chance encounter on the USS Sanctuary gives Jaylen a blunt moment to peel back the racial facade that separates them, a revelation that will shape the two men’s decisions after returning home. Coffino employs an understandable language in the novel’s action scenes, particularly on the basketball court and with other team sports. Even Jimmy and his family’s listening to the 1960s World Series is exciting and high stakes. New York comes alive in the book, a place of great history and infinite possibility, with people of all races and creeds constantly in both cooperation and conflict. Vietnam is deftly captured as a carnal, violent place, and the only setting that comes up short in the story is its portrayal of Jim Crow Mississippi, its communities, perhaps rightfully, taking a back seat to its vile politics. Dreams, folklore, and Bible verses foreshadow events and outline characters’ anxieties, connecting them beyond race and through a shared culture and experiences.

A vividly drawn period piece about violence and race in America.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64663-350-0

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Underscores that the stories we tell about our lives and those of others can change hearts, minds, and history.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2022

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

OUR MISSING HEARTS

In a dystopian near future, art battles back against fear.

Ng’s first two novels—her arresting debut, Everything I Never Told You (2014), and devastating follow-up, Little Fires Everywhere (2017)—provided an insightful, empathetic perspective on America as it is. Her equally sensitive, nuanced, and vividly drawn latest effort, set in a dystopian near future in which Asian Americans are regarded with scorn and mistrust by the government and their neighbors, offers a frightening portrait of what it might become. The novel’s young protagonist, Bird, was 9 when his mother—without explanation—left him and his father; his father destroyed every sign of her. Now, when Bird is 12, a letter arrives. Because it is addressed to “Bird,” he knows it's from his mother. For three years, he has had to answer to his given name, Noah; repeat that he and his father no longer have anything to do with his mother; try not to attract attention; and endure classmates calling his mother a traitor. None of it makes sense to Bird until his one friend, Sadie, fills him in: His mother, the child of Chinese immigrants, wrote a poem that had improbably become a rallying cry for those protesting PACT—the Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act—a law that had helped end the Crisis 10 years before, ushering in an era in which violent economic protests had become vanishingly rare, but fear and suspicion, especially for persons of Asian origin, reigned. One of the Pillars of PACT—“Protects children from environments espousing harmful views”—had been the pretext for Sadie’s removal from her parents, who had sought to expose PACT’s cruelties and, Bird begins to understand, had prompted his own mother’s decision to leave. His mother's letter launches him on an odyssey to locate her, to listen and to learn. From the very first page of this thoroughly engrossing and deeply moving novel, Bird’s story takes wing. Taut and terrifying, Ng’s cautionary tale transports us into an American tomorrow that is all too easy to imagine—and persuasively posits that the antidotes to fear and suspicion are empathy and love.

Underscores that the stories we tell about our lives and those of others can change hearts, minds, and history.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-49254-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2022

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEMON COPPERHEAD

Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.

It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-325-1922

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

more