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LA BASTARDA

This is a unique contribution to LBGTQ literature and the first book by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into...

A young woman chooses to be her true self rather than conform in Equatorial Guinea.

Okomo is an orphan. Her mother died during childbirth, and no one will tell the teenager who her father is. She lives with her maternal grandparents, both of whom are eager for her to get married. The only member of her family who truly loves her for herself is her uncle Marcelo. Both Okomo and Marcelo feel repressed by village life and the strict requirements of Fang culture. Marcelo is expected to impregnate a woman of their tribe cursed with an infertile husband. Okomo is expected to enrich her family by finding a wealthy husband. But Marcelo is attracted to men, and Okomo loves a girl named Dina. The Fang call Marcelo a “man-woman,” and he is finally exiled to the forest for his sexuality. As for Okomo, there is no Fang word for her. “It’s like you don’t exist,” Marcelo tells her. The setting sets this apart from most gay fiction published in the United States. Okomo is growing up in the 2000s, but her sexual coming-of-age echoes similar stories from much earlier American eras. Okomo isn’t just an oppressed minority; she is something that most of the people around her have never imagined. She doesn’t even understand herself until she meets others like her. Obono’s storytelling style is straightforward and her language is unadorned. This gives her slender novel the feel of a folktale, but an inverted one. While folktales most often reinforce social norms, this novel subverts them. The forest here is not a place of danger; it is a place of refuge for those who have no place in their community. The heroine’s true family is, ultimately, her family of choice, and she doesn’t embrace her true nature by claiming her birthright or fulfilling her prescribed role but rather by accepting herself fully: as a bastarda—the child of an unmarried woman—and as a lesbian.

This is a unique contribution to LBGTQ literature and the first book by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into English.

Pub Date: April 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-936932-23-8

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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