Drawing on the lives and struggles of many pioneering artists – Alice Neel, Jenny Offill, Audre Lorde, Doris Lessing and others – Phillips offers a rich exploration of the space where inspiration, creative work and motherhood converge. “What does it mean to create not just in ‘one’s own room’, but in a shared space?” she wonders. “What is the shape of a creative mother’s life?”
‘The Candy House’, by Jennifer Egan (Scribner, April 5)
Egan returns to the world of her 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” in this highly anticipated sequel. Some characters and themes reappear – the music director Bennie Salazar; his mentor, Lou; and his protégé, Sasha; among others – though Egan jumps between the perspectives of their families and loved ones in a complex tale of memory, storytelling and how technology permeates our lives.
In her earlier autobiography, “Negroland,” Jefferson reflected on her upbringing in an upper-middle-class black family. Now the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and essayist broadens her horizons and examines the artists who shaped her.
De Waal, whose previous books have taken over the emotional lives of bonobos and chimpanzees, sets out to find out what humans can learn about gender and sex from other apes. “While it’s true that gender goes beyond biology, it’s not out of the blue,” he writes. “There is therefore every reason to see what we can learn about ourselves through comparisons with other primates.”
In the 1880s, Louis Le Prince began testing a device that could take animated pictures, bringing him closer to an invention that others had been striving for for years. The stakes were impossibly high, Fischer writes: “No human experience, from the most benign to the most memorable, should be lost to history again.” But soon after, Le Prince disappeared – and later Thomas Edison would take credit for inventing the film. Although the disappearance remained unsolved, Fischer is reviving the case.
In a fictional Philippines, the country braces itself for the impeachment trial of its leader (who resembles Rodrigo Duterte), and whose main political rival is his former lover, an actress named Vita. The novel is structured as a series of interviews, from Vita’s perspective and from that of her previous romantic entanglements.
‘Marrying the Ketchups’ by Jennifer Close (Knopf, April 26)
Three generations of a Chicago family are shocked by the death of their patriarch Bud, who opened the family restaurant JP Sullivan’s; the election of Donald Trump; and the Cubs’ World Series win. This novel explores the fallout of three Sullivan cousins - Gretchen, a musician stranded; Jane, who suspects a marital betrayal; and their cousin Teddy, who works at the restaurant and tries to move on from heartbreak.
As a boy, Faraz was taken from the red light district of Lahore, where his mother worked, and sent by his politically connected father to live with relatives. Years later, his father asks Faraz, now a police officer, to return to the neighborhood to cover up the murder of a young girl there. But Faraz is inevitably drawn into the case, forcing him to face his own history.
Rouge Street: Three Novellas by Shuang Xuetao. Translated by Jeremy Tiang. (Metropolitan, Apr 19)
These stories are set in northeast China, centered on the author’s home city, Shenyang, a region where Anglophones have little literary representation. In an interview, the author once compared the neighborhood of his childhood to the American Wild West: “a place inhabited by the oppressed, lawless and free, and therefore full of life.” Despite all the gloom that his characters encounter there – violence, poverty, retaliation – there are also moments of possibility and levity.
‘Sea of Tranquility’ by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf, April 5)
Mandel’s novel ‘Station Eleven’, which depicts the artistic and social consequences of a deadly pandemic, has acquired a disturbing relevance over the past two years. Now, in a time travel story that jumps through the ages, she follows characters from British Columbia in the early 1900s to an interstellar colony in the 25th century.
‘Time Is a Mother’, by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press, April 5)
In his second collection of poems, written After his mother’s death, Vuong struggles with themes reminiscent of his novel ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’: grief, belonging, and the political and cultural legacies of the Vietnam War.
‘The Trayvon Generation’ by Elizabeth Alexander (Grand Central, April 5)
“I call the young people who have grown up in the past 25 years the Trayvon generation,” writes Alexander, a poet and scholar. Intertwined with art and writings by Clint Smith, Glenn Ligon, Elizabeth Catlett and others, the book builds on an essay she published in The New Yorker in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. For many members of this generation, Alexander says, the stories of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling and others were “the ground of their anger.”