In this unflinching debut novel, I was quickly swept into the lives of Bibike and Ariyike, twin sisters growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. The twins and their two brothers live a comfortable middle-class life until it is disrupted by the financial failings of their parents. Poverty stricken and abandoned, they are left in the reluctant care of their traditional grandmother. Writing with piercing intimacy, Abraham reveals how the four children’s lives unfold and the divergent pathways the twins choose after their shared childhood. With themes focusing on poverty, family, ambition, sex, love, and faith, I am certain you will find this a compelling read.
-KarnaPurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Tola Rotimi Abraham’s website ›
With beautifully descriptive prose, Atakira conjures such a vivid imagining of Reconstruction-era southern plantation life I felt I was living every twist and turn in the lives of her haunting characters… a healer slave and her precocious daughter. Conjurers both, they were privy to behind-closed-door secrets of their community and the plantation families as they practiced midwifery, healing, and voodoo, along with their other mundane tasks. With its unique perspective on this era, I could hardly lay the book down. I cannot wait to see what this gifted writer’s next book will be!
-AnnePurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Afia Atakora’s website ›
The many layers and characters in this book will not leave you even after you finish it. Twin sisters who grow up in a small, black community where residents pride themselves on their light skin are inseparable as children, but then find themselves in different worlds, one black and one white. I loved how Bennett intricately weaves the major themes of racism and colorism with the concepts of family, love, motherhood, and relationships. The story handles many of today’s current topics with care and compassion. It is no surprise that it is on most Best Books of 2020, including Time magazine’s 2020 novel of the year.
-KiratPurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Brit Bennett’s website ›
In a story that could be ripped from today’s headlines, Your House Will Pay tells of two LA families – one African-American, the other Korean-American – each dealing with their own long-simmering tensions. Told from the perspectives of a son and daughter, a new crime makes these families collide in a way that could be disastrous for all. Steph Cha’s book is potent and important storytelling.Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Steph Cha’s website ›
I was fascinated by Libby Copeland’s account of what happens when you swab your cheek or spit in a vial and send it for DNA testing. Many who participate are interested in their ancestral heritage. Some are looking to see if they have a genetic risk. And then there are other ramifications - a whole new family. Using investigative techniques and following one woman’s experience, Copeland provides an exploration of the science, genealogy and mystery that DNA testing provides.
-KarnaPurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Libby Copeland’s website ›
From the first page of this novel I was rooting for Adunni, the brave Nigerian girl who dreams of having a “louding voice”…..a chance to have a say in her own future. This coming of age story is written in Adunni’s voice and beautifully enriched by its cadence and prose. As this intelligent village girl struggles to reach her dream of becoming a teacher, a sad glimpse of contemporary Nigeria is revealed: a society that does not tolerate choice for young girls. You will enjoy the emotional ride and I guarantee you will not forget the characters you meet along the way.
-KathyPurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Abi Daré’s website ›
I was surprised to learn four million Columbians live outside Columbia. This novel, through a chorus of voices, tells the story of just one young family who face the difficult decision to leave their war-torn homeland to seek a better life in the US. Every day brings regrets and doubts, questioning whether they have made the right choice. This skillfully written novel reminded me of the courage and fortitude it takes to uproot from the familiar. When I closed the cover, I asked myself, “What would I do to protect my family and seek a better way of life?”
-BrookePurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Patricia Engel’s website ›
Once again Gyasi’s transporting prose mesmerized me as it did in her debut work, Homegoing. This intimate work of our contemporary time maps the internal exploration of a post-doctoral candidate conducting experiments on rats in the hope that scientific results will provide answers to losses in her own family, a family beset by mental illness and addiction. The tensions between science and religion undergird this emotional exploration and I found myself pondering the conclusions and choices of the central character for many weeks. This, for me, is the mark of a highly rewarding reading journey and one I recommend.
-BarbaraPurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Yaa Gyasi’s website ›
Once again Nadia Hashimi beautifully blends the history and culture of Afghanistan with a compelling personal story of tragedy and survival reminiscent of her haunting novel from our 2017 Festival, When the Moon is Low. In this recently released novel, 10-year-old Sitara is the only one in her family to escape assassination in the 1978 communist coup. Adopted by an American diplomate, a startling incident thirty years later sparks her desire for answers and a return to Afghanistan.Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Nadia Hashimi’s website ›
In Laurie King’s chilling new work of historical fiction…just released in June… Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are called to the castle of the beautiful queen Marie of Roumania to investigate the “shadowy figures and vague whispers” that abound. Since first meeting this award-winning author at our 1999 Festival of Authors, she has kept our mystery readers in suspense with her absorbing thrillers.Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Laurie King’s website ›
The release of this emotionally rich book of poetry in 2020 marked thirty years since Barbara Kingsolver joined us at our 1990 Festival of Authors. During that span of time her books have garnered many awards. In 2000 she received the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts. This intimate poetry collection offers the reader reflections on the “practical, the spiritual, and the wild. “Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Barbara Kingsolver’s website ›
Lyrical essays, translated letters, and remembrances of studying English literature and competitive hip-hop dancing may not sound like a page turner, but I took in this magnificent memoir in two large gulps. Eun Ji is a young girl of fifteen when her parents move to Korea without her. Left behind with her older brother in California, she learns to navigate her adolescence without a mother’s guidance. Meanwhile, some 6,000 miles away, her mother is writing letters: defending her choices, imploring her daughter for forgiveness, and telling stories of her family’s history. Years later Koh finds these letters, and this resulting memoir exposes the fierce yet delicate love between mothers and daughters.
-JenPurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit E. J. Koh’s website ›
This “satisfyingly twisty thriller” about writers and writing unravels the tangled truth behind third-rate MFA teacher Jacob Finch Bonner’s bestselling novel and the plot he stole to write it. It is a gripping read that propels the reader towards the finale; a journey of discovery that is reminiscent of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s absorbing literary mystery from our 2016 Festival, You Should Have Known.Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Jean Hanff Korelitz’s website ›
My immigrant Father loved books and instilled his love of reading in me. “What are you reading” is our family mantra, sharing books our tradition. Lalami, a Moroccan immigrant, shares her personal story of what it is like to be an immigrant in this country and her book resonated with me. Growing up, I watched my parents being marginalized while encouraging me to be “more American.” Anyone who is an immigrant, or like me, the daughter of immigrant parents, will find this book familiar. Others will appreciate its insightful information regarding the polarization of views in politics, culture, race, class, gender, and religion.
-ReginaPurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Laila Lalami’s website ›
In this beautifully written collection of essays, I found a meditative invitation to explore the important relationships that bind the natural and human worlds. Though written in poetic prose, each essay in this stunning collection can stand alone as a scholarly, scientific discussion. Yet surprisingly, this collection is particularly appropriate during our turbulent times. The essays offer a measure of tranquility and hope, and a timely observation about the adaptability of many species—including human—to strike a positive and hopeful note.
-MaryPurchase from Creating Conversation › Visit Helen Macdonald’s website ›
In 2001 Elizabeth McCracken joined us for the Festival with her eccentric debut novel, The Giant’s House. Over the years this award-winning author has continued to enrich our reading lives with her witty, vibrant, and heart-rending observations. Her virtuoso skills as a short story writer are on display in her recently released The Souvenir Museum that explores the “mysterious bonds of family.”Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Elizabeth McCracken’s website ›
It was 1989 when Terry McMillan joined Literary Women to share her touching, often funny, first novel, Mama!, about the struggles of a young black mother to raise her five children. In her recently published tenth novel, It’s Not All Down Hill From Here, we join the busy lives of a group of 60-something black women who are dealing “with loss, illness… and the never-ending challenges of diet and exercise.”Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Terry McMillan’s website ›
At the center of this novel is the marriage of Annie and Graham, but each major character is given their due in this story of grief, motherhood, and friendship. Many questions of aging, ambition, and sacrifice lingered in my mind as the story of this second marriage for both Annie and Graham is intimately examined through exquisite writing and meticulously developed characters. These characters are our friends, neighbors, and family, and by the close of the novel, I felt a depth of emotion for all of them, not only in their triumphs but also their faults.
-ChristiePurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Sue Miller’s website ›
With the growing divisions in our country, we were both drawn to this book to deepen our understanding of America’s heartland. Marie Mutsaki Mockett embeds herself with a custom harvesting crew as it works its way from Texas to Idaho harvesting wheat. She is a city person who knows little about growing and harvesting wheat, but she has long been interested in the GMO vs. organic debate. Throughout her journey, Mockett asks questions about technology and farming, Christianity and the Evangelical church, intellectualism and belief, attitudes towards gays, and city people vs. farm people. We enjoyed her exploration of the range of beliefs and attitudes that make up this country.
-Anne and BrookePurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Marie Mutsaki Mockett’s website ›
As a woman with a close relationship to my sister, Moore threw me for an emotional loop during this suspenseful novel about drug addiction and the intense nature of family relationships. Mickey and Kacey’s choices were hard to imagine for my sister and I, but they expose the hard decisions and conversations that bubble up in every family. Actions have consequences that become more dramatic when a sibling is involved. By weaving these themes of family in with the gritty and depressing backdrop of Kacey’s world, I was transported to an alternate life and felt deeply empathetic towards the sisters and their struggle to survive despite their challenging circumstances.
-SaraPurchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Liz Moore’s website ›
In her -Just Released- new novel, Eleanor Morse quietly builds the depth of her characters into a narrative that is more the telling of life than the writing of stories. On the coast of Maine in the sixties, a three generational family struggles with their desires, doubts, and confusion. The beauty of this narrative is a reminder of the rich and intimate portrait of Botswana from her previous novel , White Dog Fell from the Sky, that she shared at our 2015 Festival.Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Eleanor Morse’s website ›
Edward, twelve years old, is the only survivor of a horrific airplane crash that kills his immediate family. He goes to live with his aunt and uncle, dealing with survivor’s guilt while becoming the focus of the nation’s compassion. In a lovely coming of age story, Ann Napolitano’s Dear Edward tells how one boy finds his way to a new life.Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Ann Napolitano’s website ›
In a rich story of the 1850’s West, Tea Obreht’s Inland tells of unforgettable characters who never quite meet. Family, and drought, including conversations with camels and the dead, are all interwoven in this heartbreaking story of Nora, a valiant frontierswoman and Luri, an orphan and outcast. There are sons and daughters, townspeople and Arkansas rangers, all playing their parts in this luminous tale.Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Téa Obreht’s website ›
In this “dazzling response to climate crisis,” Jenny Offill introduces us to former librarian Lizzie Benson who is hired to answer questions about ecological disaster and global heating for the podcast, Hell and High Water. With its pared down writing style Weather recalls the taut paragraphs packed with quirky observations from her novel, Dept. of Speculation, that so delighted us at the 2015 Festival.Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Jenny Offill’s website ›
Following on the heels of her tour de force thriller, Wonder Valley, from our 2019 Festival of Authors, Ivy Pochoda’s new novel, These Women, does not disappoint. Set in the West Adams area of South Los Angeles the story unfolds through the perspectives of five characters, all women, haunted by their own pain and tragedy. In this Los Angeles Times Mystery & Thriller finalist, women are both victims and heroes.Purchase from Creating Conversations › Visit Ivy Pochoda’s website ›