T.S. Eliot said that April was the cruelest month — but look at the batch of books coming out this month. April can’t be
so bad, right?
This month holds some gifts for those of us who have been waiting, and waiting, and
waiting for the follow-ups to favorite books. After five years, Meg Wolitzer has published her next novel, The Female Persuasion, a massive tome that explores a topic seen rarely in literature: mentorship between women. An aside: If you’re looking for a historical figure to look up to as a mentor, check out the 10 women profiled in Michelle Dean’s Sharp, out April 10 – each would make brilliant (and ridiculously witty) mentors.
Since April is the month of follow-ups, keep your eyes peeled for Madeline Miller’s
Circe; like her 2011 book, Song of Achilles, this is a brilliant reinterpretation of Homeric myth. Curtis Sittenfeld’s first short story collection will appeal to anyone who liked her last books — or intelligent women narrators in general.
But April also has some fantastic debuts. For the freshest voice in literature, look no further than Nafissa Thompson-Spires blisteringly clever short story collection,
Heads of the Colored People. These are the books we’re loving this April, and we think you will, too.
By Meg Wolitzer The Female Persuasion Out April 3 If you read The Interestings, you know that Meg Wolitzer has a knack for creating a whirlwind of rich, complicated lives to get lost in for the duration it takes to complete her mammoth novels. So a few years after completing The Female Persuasion, you might mistake Greer Kadetsky, the book’s protagonist, as your old friend from college — that’s how real she feels. Greer is a freshman in college when she meets Faith Frank, the Gloria Steinem-equivalent who snaps Greer out of a funk and pushes her down a path toward, hopefully, fulfillment. As Greer’s career moves one way, toward a feminist organization and a move to Brooklyn, her longtime boyfriend’s life veers sharply and unexpectedly in another. Greer and the other characters in this bustling, large-hearted book negotiate their dreams along with the curveballs. The Female Persuasion discusses timely issues of feminism (and second wave feminism’s struggle to adopt intersectionality), but does so through fully realized characters.
Look Alive Out There By Sloane Crosley Out April 3 The inside of Sloane Crosley’s head is a nice place to be. It is funny and full of warm, witty observations that ring true and will make you think, “Why didn’t I think to verbalize that!?” It is because we are not affixed to Crosley’s head, though we can benefit from it. Crosley, who is being called the modern-day Nora Ephron, writes about loud neighbors, an appearance on Gossip Girl, and a trip to Ecuador. She elevates what might be short anecdotes in our own retellings, to witty, intelligent observations on modern life.
By Elaine Castillo America Is Not The Heart Out April 3 America is Not the Heart is the sprawling, multi-generational family epic about immigration, national identity, and generational divides you need in your life. Castillo’s debut novel centers on Hero de Vera, a young woman who arrives to her aunt and uncle’s house in the Bay Area after being released from political prison in the Philippines. California of the ‘80s is a far cry from Hero’s past life in the Filipino countryside, then fighting the dictatorship in the New People’s Army, and then being tortured in prison. She and her cousin, Roni, set forth into the immigrant communities of East Bay, where Hero has space to explore her bisexuality. But her aunt, Paz, who came to this country by becoming a nurse, and her uncle, Pol, who works tirelessly as a security guard, struggle to relate to this “Hero’s journey.” This is the story of three generations of Filipino women making it in America, and you won’t want to miss out.
By Justina Ireland Dread Nation Out April 3 An alternative history about hordes of zombies rising and ending the Civil War? Sign us up. Jane is born two years before the undead rise. She comes of age in an America governed by another line — that of life and death. Jane wants to avoid the battlefield. Instead, she attends Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls with the hope of becoming an Attendant, and using her combat skills to guard a wealthy woman. But then, Jane finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy. Dread Nation is the fearless must-read YA book of the month.
Unwifeable By Mandy Stadtmiller Out April 3 At 30, Mandy Stadtmiller moves to New York to take a job at the Post. She’s emerging from a five-year-long, emotionally abusive marriage, and is starting off as a blank slate in the scariest, best way. Stadtmiller’s career takes off, and soon she’s socializing in the circles you read about in gossip magazines. This is journalism the way you always thought it was: schmoozing, gathering tips, cashing in favors, flirting with subjects. Along for the ride on this ridiculous pace of life are Stadtmiller’s demons of alcohol and sex addiction. Stadtmiller gives an honest — sometimes searingly so — account of her journey through this time, and the radical work and self-love required to come out the other side.
By Leslie Jamison The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath Out April 3 In her first collection, The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison proved her prowess as a singular essayist. Jamison combined academic theory, reportage, pop culture, and insights from her own life. Essays in The Recovering incorporate a similar blend, but the subject is even more personal. In the book, she tracks her recovery from alcohol addiction, and positions herself amid the many other artists who also struggled with alcoholism. It’s being called the greatest addiction memoir of all time.
By Madeline Miller Circe Out April 10 Circe, Madeline Miller’s follow-up to her acclaimed 2011 novel Song of Achilles, will be a gift to classics nerds and newbies alike. In Circe, the witch of the Odyssey (most famous for turning Odysseus’ men into pigs) gets to go on an odyssey of her own. As punishment for practicing witchcraft, the nymph Circe is banished to eternity on the island Aiaia. There, at least, she finds freedom from her massive family and obligations. In addition to brushing paths with some of mythology's most famous figures, from Hermes to Medea, Circe gives shelter to Odysseus for a year — and her narration challenges and complements the conventional take on The Odyssey. Miller offers us the chance to reconsider myths through the eyes of a woman living them. It’s an exhilarating and exquisite book.
By Sarah Krasnostein The Trauma Cleaner Out April 10 Sandra Pankhurst has lived many lives. Before she became a trauma cleaner — someone who literally cleans scenes of extreme violence, hoarding, and squalor – Sandra was a husband, a father, a drag queen, a sex worker, a gender reassignment patient, and a wife. To report this biography, Sarah Krasnostein followed Pankhurst to over 20 job sites – some of which will make your stomach churn. Along the way, Krasnostein uncovered the traumas in Pankhurst’s past that led her to want to pursue an unconventional life of healing others through radical reorganization.
By Michelle Dean Sharp Out April 10 Sharp is a good quality in knives. It’s a better quality in people. The 10 brilliant women — Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm — featured in Michelle Dean’s novel are all characterized by their mental prowess; their sharpness. But “sharp” has another edge, too — these women were often seen as threats to their male colleagues. Dean manages to fit together the story of 10 lives in a compact, readable book. How very sharp of her.
By Nafissa Thompson-Spires Heads of the Colored People Out April 10 Sometimes, a voice comes around that is so singular, so funny, so wholly original, that you go back and reread each story once you finish it. Such is the case of Nafissa Thompson-Spires and her debut short story collection, Heads of the Colored People. In one story, two competitive mothers communicate by slipping letters in the others’ daughter’s backpack; in another, a young man attending a cosplay convention can dress up, but cannot escape the color of his skin. In each of these humorous, intelligent vignettes, Thompson-Spires explores aspects of being Black and middle-class in today’s America. This is a special collection. Buy it so you can read it more than once.
By Meaghan O’Connell And Now We Have Everything Out April 10 And Now We Have Everything is a shocking book about something we see all the time: motherhood. At the age of 28, writer Meaghan O’Connell and her fiancé of one week find out they’re going to have a baby. This does not fit into O’Connell’s picture of how her life would go. And yet, she continues, and writes about the process. She has given us a gift. A searing, brutally honest portrait of the expectations of motherhood (and the anxieties of fulfilling them), the pressures of a baby on a relationship, and the unexpected moments of breakthrough. Frankly speaking, this is a must-read for anyone with a mother, anyone with a baby, anyone who knows anyone with a baby — anyone.
By Sofija Stefanovic Miss Ex Yugoslavia Out April 17 You’ve heard of Miss America, Miss Universe, and Miss World – but Miss Ex-Yugoslavia? Now that’s a niche pageant. Years after emigrating to Australia from Belgrade in socialist Yugoslavia with her parents, writer Sofija Stefanovic competes in the first ever Miss Ex-Yugoslavia pageant (for journalistic purposes, of course). Joined together on the stage are other women whose lives were uprooted by war. This is lively, hilarious coming-of-age memoir, with the dark shadow of one of the most brutal conflicts in recent history always looming.
You Think It, I’ll Say It
By Curtis Sittenfeld
Out April 24
"I once heard that smart women want to be told they're pretty and pretty women want to be told they're smart. And the most depressing part is that I think I agree," says one of the characters in Curtis Sittenfeld’s newest collection of short stories. Since her debut novel
, Sittenfeld has made a career in giving voice to the witty, occasionally mean, always truthful thoughts that of smart women. The characters in
You Think It, I’ll Say It
have a lot in common – they’re all middle-aged, married, and established. In one way or another, they’re all haunted by the selves they once were. Reese Witherspoon recently announced she was making
You Think It, I’ll Say It into a TV show
starring Kristen Wiig, so you might as well get ahead.