Here are some books published in February that are definitely worth checking out.
From the McPherson & Company: “Blending history, essay, travelogue, and autobiography, Time’s Up! is a personal and political saga: luminous, probing, and absorbing…Time’s Up! is a kaleidoscopic self-portrait, and a devastating examination of our nation in slow but almost certain decline. Cabot’s expansive literary gifts are on full display, whether delivering vital strikes against American ‘exceptionalism’ and hypocrisy, or gratefully embracing ‘whatever beauty and love life has given us.'”
From New Directions: “Birthday…consists of a series of short chapters in which Aira searches for and meditates on the events that were significant to him during his first fifty years. Between anecdotes, and memories, the author ponders the origins of his personal truths, and wonders about literature meant as much for the writer as for the reader, about ignorance, knowledge, and death. Finally, Birthday is a little sad, in a serene, crystal-clear kind of way, which makes it even more irresistible.”
Casting Deep Shade, by C. D. Wright
From Copper Canyon: “Casting Deep Shade is a passionate, poetic exploration of humanity’s shared history with the beech tree…Written in Wright’s singular prosimetric style, this ‘memoir with beech trees’ demonstrates the power of words to conserve, preserve, and bare witness. Honoring Wright’s lifelong fascination with books as objects, this final work is a three-panel hardcover that encloses the body of text, illustrated with striking color photographs of beech trees by artist Denny Moers.”
Sea Monsters, by Chloe Aridjis
From Catapult: “One autumn afternoon in Mexico City, seventeen-year-old Luisa does not return home from school. Instead, she boards a bus to the Pacific coast with Tomás, a boy she barely knows. He seems to represent everything her life is lacking—recklessness, impulse, independence…Sea Monsters is a brilliantly playful and supple novel about the moments and mysteries that shape us.”
Magical Negro, by Morgan Parker
From Tin House: “Magical Negro is an archive of black everydayness, a catalog of contemporary folk heroes, an ethnography of ancestral grief, and an inventory of figureheads, idioms, and customs…In Magical Negro, Parker creates a space of witness, of airing grievances, of pointing out patterns. In these poems are living documents, pleas, latent traumas, inside jokes, and unspoken anxieties situated as firmly in the past as in the present―timeless black melancholies and triumphs.”
Death Is Hard Work, by Khaled Khalifa, translated from the Arabic by Leri Price
From Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: “Khaled Khalifa’s Death Is Hard Work is the new novel from the greatest chronicler of Syria’s ongoing and catastrophic civil war: a tale of three ordinary people facing down the stuff of nightmares armed with little more than simple determination.”
From Riverhead: In this stunning follow-up to his Man Booker-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James draws on a rich tradition of African mythology, fantasy and history to imagine an ancient world, a lost child, an extraordinary hunter, and a mystery with many answers…
From Knopf: “From the two-time NBCC Finalist, an emotionally resonant, fiercely imaginative new novel about a family whose road trip across America collides with an immigration crisis at the southwestern border–an indelible journey told with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity.
From Knopf: Arguably the most celebrated and revered writer of our time now gives us a new nonfiction collection–a rich gathering of her essays, speeches, and meditations on society, culture, and art, spanning four decades.
From Biblioasis: “Shifting masterfully between forms—creation tale to meditation, playful comedy to magical twist—these stories grapple with questions of what’s been lost and what can be reclaimed, what future exists for a country that broke the yoke of colonialism only to descend into internecine war, what is Mozambican and what is Mozambique.”
From Transit Books: A young Argentinian woman feels her identity is in pieces. Diffident, self-critical, wary of commitment, she is condemned, or condemns herself, to repeated acts of departure, from places, parents, and lovers. Then, arriving in the southernmost region of Patagonia, she convinces herself she has found happiness, until she’s caught up in the horrific murders that haunt her story.
From Other Press: Based on true events, a story of courage, forgiveness, love, and freedom in precolonial Ghana, told through the eyes of two women born to vastly different fates…The Hundred Wells of Salaga offers a remarkable view of slavery and how the scramble for Africa affected the lives of everyday people.
From Ecco: “A stunning collection of fiction, diary entries, screenplays, and scripts by the brilliant African-American artist and filmmaker.”
From Restless Books: “A sly critique of the hypocrisy and hubris that underlie faith in religion, science, and macho careerism, I Am God takes us on a hilarious and provocative romp through the Big Questions with the universe’s supreme storyteller.”
From Simon and Schuster: An arresting memoir equal parts refugee-coming-of-age story, feminist manifesto, and meditation on motherhood, displacement, gender politics, and art that follows award-winning writer Sophia Shalmiyev’s flight from the Soviet Union, where she was forced to abandon her estranged mother, and her subsequent quest to find her.
From Graywolf: “An intimate, moving book written with the immediacy and directness of one who still struggles with the effects of mental and chronic illness, The Collected Schizophrenias cuts right to the core…An essay collection of undeniable power, The Collected Schizophrenias dispels misconceptions and provides insight into a condition long misunderstood.”
From Graywolf: “Mark Doten, a satirist of unparalleled vision, brilliantly details how the internet has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, laying the groundwork for the tumult of our current political moment, and, in the kaleidoscopic, queer, all-consuming, parallactic swirl of Trump Sky Alpha, for the future headed our way.”
From Archipelago: “Christos Ikonomou’s collection Good Will Come from the Sea is a dirge for the Greek economic crisis and the devastation it has wrought, a profound meditation on the nature of justice in an unjust world…Good Will Come from the Sea is a tender and defiant song of loss, a study of poverty’s toll on the human soul.”
From Yale University Press: “A collection of brief, but intimate meditations on life and culture ranging from controversial matters to private moments…The panoramic nature of the vignettes is broad in scope, encompassing a variety of subjects rendered in quick, decisive brushstrokes. It is a little like leafing through a photo album of our times and our society while a learned companion seated beside us offers a perceptive running commentary.”
From Counterpoint: “Devi S. Laskar has written a brilliant debut novel that grapples with the complexities of the second-generation American experience, what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace, a sister, a wife, a mother to daughters in today’s America. Drawing inspiration from the author’s own terrifying experience of a raid on her home, The Atlas of Reds and Blues explores, in exquisite, lyrical prose, an alternate reality that might have been.”
Writ Large Press: “The poems and essays in Letters to My City combine two decades of field experience, research, personal observations, and stories told to the author, a third-generation Los Angeles native, by his grandfather and other family members, to interrogate all sides of Los Angeles, its streets, its people, its neighborhoods, as a means to examine the postmodern metropolis.”
From Civil Coping Mechanisms: “Gabrielle Civil’s Experiments in Joy celebrates black feminist collaborations and solos in essays, letters, performance texts, scores, images, and more…The book also features her solo encounters with artists and writers, ancestors and audiences. Here you will find black girlhood, grief, ghosts, girls in their bedrooms, lots of books, dancing, reading, falling in love, fighting back, and flying. With lots of heart and the help of her friends, Civil keeps reckoning with performance, art and life.”
From Civil Coping Mechanisms: “Losing Miami is an experiment in grieving the potential loss of Miami to rising sea levels. What are we losing if we lose Miami, a seemingly impossible city formed out of Caribbean migration and the transformation of language? This book asks how we cope with loss at such a grand scale, all while the world continues to rapidly change.”
From Civil Coping Mechanisms: “In 2010, Alex DiFrancesco had a different name and was a missing person. Alone in a mental hospital, they began to have fantasies of running away permanently, changing their name, growing a beard. In their journey to coming out as transgender, DiFrancesco moved from New York City to the Midwest. Psychopomps follows them on the search for family, marriage, relationships with other trans people, attempts to build community, and for the elusive link to ancient beliefs about the special spiritual role of the trans individual in society.”
From Melville House: “From Acker’s earliest interviews—filled with playful, evasive, and counter-intuitive responses—to the last interview before her death, where she reflects on the state of American literature, these interviews capture the writer at her funny and surprising best.”
From University of Pittsburgh Press: “Miller examines the 2010 suicide of Tyler Clementi, a young college student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after he discovered that his roommate spied on him via webcam. With access to the text messages, tweets, and chatroom posts of those directly involved in this tragedy, Miller asks: why did no one intervene to stop the spying? Searching for an answer to that question leads Miller to online porn sites, the invention of Facebook, the court-martial of Chelsea Manning, the contents of Hillary Clinton’s email server, Anthony Weiner’s sexted images, Chatroulette, and more as he maps out the changing norms governing privacy in the digital age.”
From the New Press: “Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, although renowned for his novels, memoirs, and plays, honed his craft as a short story writer. Covering the period of British colonial rule and resistance in Kenya to the bittersweet experience of independence—and including two stories that have never before been published in the United States—Ngũgĩ’s collection features women fighting for their space in a patriarchal society; big men in their Bentleys who have inherited power from the British; and rebels who still embody the fighting spirit of the downtrodden.
From FC2: “A dark yet playful collection of short stories that pushes boundaries and blurs the lines between the real and surreal. Girl Zoo is an enthralling and sometimes unsettling collection of short stories that examines how women in society are confined by the limitations and expectations of pop culture, politics, advertising, fashion, myth, and romance… Taken as a whole, this experimental speculative fiction invites parallels to social justice movements focused on sexuality and gender, as well as cautionary tales for our precarious political movement.”
From FC2: “Once into the Night is a collection of 57 brief stories, a fictional autobiography made of assumed identities and what-ifs. Here, the inner life is granted pride of place, with truths found in misremembered childhood notebooks, invisible tattoos, and the love life of icemen. Radical in its conception of story, this collection is also welcoming and relatable. Once into the Night blurs the line between fiction, poetry, and essay, as it reconceives contemporary autofiction in its own witty, poignant vernacular.”
From University of Massachusetts Press: “When Edward Tamlin disappears while writing his memoir, Jane Tamlin (his wife and the mother of his young children) begins to write a secret, corrective ‘counter-memoir’ of her own. Calling the book Choke Box, she reveals intimate, often irreverent, details about her family and marriage, rejecting—and occasionally celebrating—her suspected role in her husband’s disappearance. Choke Box isn’t Jane’s first book. From her room in the Buffalo Psychiatric Institute, she slowly reveals a hidden history of the ghost authorship that has sabotaged her family and driven her to madness. Her latest work, finally written under her own name, is designed to reclaim her dark and troubled story. Yet even as Jane portrays her life as a wife, mother, and slighted artist with sardonic candor, her every word is underscored by one belief above all others: the complete truth is always a secret. But the stories we tell may help us survive—if they don’t kill us first.”
From Paul Legault: “Tedesco’s Mary Oliver is a document of recovery. The beloved Pulitzer prize-winning poet of his title is less a character and more a muse offering solace to those afflicted by their own humanity. These poems give us “a sense of what made us us.”
From One World: “A glittering landscape of twenty-five speculative stories that challenge oppression and envision new futures for America—from N. K. Jemisin, Charles Yu, Jamie Ford, G. Willow Wilson, Charlie Jane Anders, Hugh Howey, and more.”
“An urgent collection of essays by first and second-generation immigrants, exploring what it’s like to be othered in an increasingly divided America.”
From Archipelago: “With a tender wit, Vladislavić cuts through the ordinary, the profound, and the truly perplexing to reveal absurdities and truisms alike…Vladislavic’s characters are as well-constructed as his sentences and as playful as his prose. Flashback Hotel collects two volumes of short stories by one of contemporary South Africa’s most acclaimed novelists.”
From University of Pittsburgh Press: “Writing begins with unconscious feelings of something that insistently demands to be responded to, acted upon, or elaborated into a new entity…In The Animal Who Writes, Cooper considers writing as a social practice and…argues that writing is an act of composing enmeshed in nature-cultures and is homologous with technology as a mode of making.”
John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.