Asale Angel-Ajani’s debut focuses on the fierce love between a mother and teen daughter.
On this week’s episode, Asale Angel-Ajani joins us to discuss A Country You Can Leave (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Feb. 14), a standout novel centering on the peripatetic lives—and loves—of Lara Montoya-Borislava, a Black biracial 16-year-old girl, and her mother, Yevgenia, a Russian immigrant. Readers meet the pair as they relocate to the Oasis Mobile Estates, a California desert trailer park “where Lara begins to confront the question of whether she will follow her mother’s scorched-earth path” (Kirkus).
Angel-Ajani is a writer, scholar, and activist whose areas of expertise include global mass incarceration, the African diaspora, and women’s rights. She has a Ph.D. in anthropology, an MFA in creative writing, and is the author of Strange Trade: The Story of Two Women Who Risked Everything in The International Drug Trade. A Country You Can Leave is her first novel.
Here’s a bit more from Kirkus’ review: “The focus of this sharp, observant debut novel, which deftly blends humor and hard truths while examining economic inequities and the emotional toll they take, is the fraught mother-daughter connection, the push and pull between Yevgenia, who spouts grand ideas about love, men, and casual sex, and Lara, who is taking her first real steps toward adulthood. The women clash on many fronts, Yevgenia arguing that class divisions loom larger in America than racial divides, while Lara bears the brunt of casual racism. When Lara finds herself attracted to a handsome older neighbor, their battles escalate….But Angel-Ajani makes you care about Lara’s tentative steps to a hard-won freedom. Sharp observations and insights about a stormy mother-daughter bond and a bracing examination of poverty in America.”
Angel-Ajani introduces A Country You Can Leave to listeners. Then she and host Megan Labrise talk about the mother-daughter relationship at the heart of the book; the experience of publishing a debut novel; the writing process; working with MCD editor Daphne Durham; the hallmarks of a good story; the epiphany that the examples your parents set don’t have to be the ones you follow; female rage and its expression; and much more.
Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the week.
Chaos Theory by Nic Stone (Crown)
The Indestructible Tom Crean: Heroic Explorer of the Antarctic by Jennifer Thermes (Viking)
Reading the Glass: A Captain’s View of Weather, Water, and Life on Ships by Elliot Rappaport (Dutton)
The Duke Gets Even by Joanna Shupe (Avon/HarperCollins)
Also mentioned on this episode:
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten (Delacorte)
Shackleton: The Biography by Ranulph Fiennes (Pegasus)
The books of Patrick O’Brian
Thanks to our sponsors:
The Glass Witch by Sara Raztresen
Secrets of the Under-Under World: Creatures by P.S. Whatever
To the Front: Grandfathers’ Stories in the Cause of Freedom by Michael M. Van Ness
Family Curse Field Notebooks (1880-2020) by Tenacity Plys
From Scratch: Adventures in Harvesting, Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging on a Fragile Planet by David Moscow & Jon Moscow
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.