With all the big-name authors publishing books in September and October, it can be hard for an unknown to get attention (and readers). Here are a few less-heralded titles coming out this month, all from small presses, all of which got starred reviews.
The Loved Ones by Sonya Chung (Relegation Books): Charles Lee, the African-American father of a biracial Washington, D.C., family, forms a powerful relationship with Hannah Lee (no relation), his children’s 13-year-old babysitter, the daughter of Korean immigrants. But then tragedy strikes, and both Lee families are “forced to renegotiate their relationships with each other and with themselves.” Our reviewer says, “Every last one of Chung’s characters is wholly alive and breathtakingly human, but it’s her portrait of teenage Hannah—always complicated, never romanticized—that makes the novel such a heart-wrenching pleasure.”
We Show What We Have Learned by Clare Beams (Lookout Books): “Nine stories that reveal the strangeness underpinning even the most ordinary of lives,” as our review describes it. “In the title story of Beams’ debut collection, an elementary school teacher shocks her students by falling apart—quite literally—in front of the class. At eight pages, it’s the book’s smallest story, but it’s emblematic of Beams’ approach, in which ordinary characters are transformed, often in extraordinary, otherworldly ways.”
Iza’s Ballad by Magda Szabo (New York Review Books): Originally published in Hungary in 1963, this newly translated novel “explores the clash of cultures between the country’s rural villages, mired in tradition, and its capital city, Budapest, uneasily sloughing off personal and collective memory,” our reviewer says. When a judge dies, his daughter insists that her mother move from her rustic home to the city. “Ghosts, angels, and demons hover in this quiet meditation on grief, love, and history.”
Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.