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LITERARY WOMEN

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Black Sunday, by author Tola Rotimi Abraham
Tola Rotimi Abraham, author of Black Sunday

Black Sunday

by Tola Rotimi Abraham

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.

-Karna

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Conjure Women, by author Afia Atakora
Afia Atakora, author of Conjure Women

Conjure Women

by Afia Atakora

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!

-Anne

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Vanishing Half, by author Brit Bennett
Brit Bennett, author of Vanishing Half

Vanishing Half

by Brit Bennett

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.

-Kirat

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Your House Will Pay, by author Steph Cha
Steph Cha, author of Your House Will Pay

Your House Will Pay

by Steph Cha

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.

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The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are, by author Libby Copeland
Libby Copeland, author of The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are

The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are

by Libby Copeland

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.

-Karna

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The Girl With the Louding Voice, by author Abi Daré
Abi Daré, author of The Girl With the Louding Voice

The Girl With the Louding Voice

by Abi Daré

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.

-Kathy

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Transcendent Kingdom, by author Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi, author of Transcendent Kingdom

Transcendent Kingdom

by Yaa Gyasi

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.

-Barbara

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The Magical Language of Others, by author E. J. Koh
E. J. Koh, author of The Magical Language of Others

The Magical Language of Others

by E. J. Koh

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.

-Jen

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Conditional Citizens, by author Laila Lalami
Laila Lalami, author of Conditional Citizens

Conditional Citizens

by Laila Lalami

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.

-Regina

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Vesper Flights, by author Helen Macdonald
Helen Macdonald, author of Vesper Flights

Vesper Flights

by Helen Macdonald

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.

-Mary

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Monogamy: A Novel, by author Sue Miller
Sue Miller, author of Monogamy: A Novel

Monogamy: A Novel

by Sue Miller

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.

-Christie

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American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland, by author Marie Mutsaki Mockett
Marie Mutsaki Mockett, author of American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland

American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland

by Marie Mutsaki Mockett

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 Brooke

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Long Bright River, by author Liz Moore
Liz Moore, author of Long Bright River

Long Bright River

by Liz Moore

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.

-Sara

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Dear Edward, by author Ann Napolitano
Ann Napolitano, author of Dear Edward

Dear Edward

by Ann Napolitano

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.

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The Inland Sea, by author Téa Obreht
Téa Obreht, author of The Inland Sea

The Inland Sea

by Téa Obreht

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.

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The Yellow Bird Sings: A Novel, by author Jennifer Rosner
Jennifer Rosner, author of The Yellow Bird Sings: A Novel

The Yellow Bird Sings: A Novel

by Jennifer Rosner

This beautifully written, poignant novel about a dark time in history really touched my heart. In WWII Poland, a Jewish mother, Roza, with her 5-year-old daughter Shira, seeks shelter in a countryside barn after her husband and parents are killed by the Nazis. Shira, a precocious child and musical prodigy, creates a make-believe world where a yellow bird and her mother are her only companions. In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching story, silence, music, and a mother’s love become the symbols of hope and survival.

-Regina

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Valentine, by author Elizabeth Wetmore
Elizabeth Wetmore, author of Valentine

Valentine

by Elizabeth Wetmore

Violence, race, class and region form the basis of Valentine, Elizabeth Wetmore’s debut novel set in West Texas in 1976. In Literary Women’s first collaboration with bookseller Creating Conversations, Wetmore, interviewed by radio personality Pam Atherton, discusses her writing process, her inspirations, and her journey to her first novel.

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How Much of These Hills is Gold, by author C Pam Zhang
C Pam Zhang, author of How Much of These Hills is Gold

How Much of These Hills is Gold

by C Pam Zhang

Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam are suddenly alone in a western mining town. Together, they set off to bury their father in the only way that will set them free from their past. Along the way, they encounter giant buffalo bones, tiger paw prints, and the specters of a ravaged landscape as well as family secrets, sibling rivalry, and glimpses of a different kind of future. How Much of These Hills are Gold is a stunning debut that blends the American West with Chinese mysticism.

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