What to Read This Month: April 2021

Congrats on making it through another unusual semester here at Duke! We at the library realize that you’re probably busy with end-of-semester projects and finals (and remember, we’re always here to help!), but if by chance you’ve got the time to pick up a new book to read, here are some great selections from our Overdrive and New & Noteworthy collections. As always, these picks represent just a tiny fraction of what’s available, so be sure to follow the above links to see what else we have!


Your House Will Pay: A Novel: Cha, Steph: 9780062868855: Amazon.com: BooksYour House Will Pay by Steph Cha. In this thriller, Cha tells the story of Grace and Shawn, two Angelenos whose lives unexpectedly intersect when Grace’s mother is injured in a drive-by shooting. It is the summer of 2019, and as tensions in the city come to a head following the police shooting of an unarmed Black teenager, Grace is shocked to learn an egregious family secret: in 1991, a member of Grace’s family murdered a teenage girl named Ava, believing her to be stealing from the family’s convenience store, and received no jail time for the crime. The event ignited tensions between Los Angeles’ Black and Korean communities, and in 2019, the investigation surrounding the shooting of Grace’s mother resurrects some of these tensions at the family level. It also exacts a heavy toll on Shawn, Ava’s brother, who has been haunted by sister’s death for 28 years. As he becomes involved in the investigation, he must confront his own grief as well as the very family responsible for Ava’s murder. Cha derives much of the story from the real-life 1991 murder of Latasha Harlins, and in so doing, offers a tense exploration of race, grief, and justice. You can read a review here and an interview with Cha here.


Troubled: The Failed Promise of America's Behavioral Treatment Programs:  Rosen, Kenneth R.: 9781542022118: Amazon.com: BooksTroubled: The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment Programs by Kenneth R. Rosen. In this book, journalist Rosen traces the fraught history of American behavioral treatment programs, most of which have historically taken the form of spartan residential camps and schools. The book is partially a memoir, as Rosen describes at length his own experience with such programs: as a teenager with behavioral issues in the mid-2000s, Rosen was sent against his will to three separate institutions throughout the United States, all of which treated him brutally while also having little positive effect on him; despite (or perhaps because of) his years in these programs, his young adulthood proved to be a dysfunctional and often unstable one. Rosen also interviews a number of other graduates from similar institutions, and their testimonies strongly bolster Rosen’s argument that the American industry of behavioral treatment programs is one built not only on precarious conclusions about mental health and behavioral therapy, but also on abject cruelty to children. The book is undoubtedly a heavy read, but nonetheless an important one. You can read a review here and listen to an interview with Rosen here.


Klara and the Sun: A novel: Ishiguro, Kazuo: 9780593318171: Amazon.com:  BooksKlara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. In this novel, Nobel Prize winner Ishiguro explores issues ranging from the myriad difficulties of adolescence to questions surrounding the nature of emotional artificial intelligence. At an unspecified future date, Klara exists an “Artificial Friend,” essentially a robot designed to serve as an empathizing and socializing companion, in an era where technology has upended many facets of everyday human life. She lives in a department store, spending her days making human—and somewhat superhuman—observations about the world around her, until one day she is purchased for a sickly teenage girl named Josie. Josie is the result of “lifting”—genetic editing, which in this universe has become rather commonplace for wealthy people—and is intelligent beyond her years. This has come at a personal cost; normal schools have proven inadequate for her, and her homeschooling has caused her socialization to lag behind. Worse, the side effects of the editing have rendered her ill and will possibly even kill her. Klara fills a serious void for Josie, and as the two develop their relationship, Ishiguro explores heavy themes of love, intelligence, and loneliness. You can read reviews here and here.


Of Women and Salt: A Novel: Garcia, Gabriela: 9781250776686: Amazon.com:  BooksOf Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia. In this novel, Garcia tells the collective and intergenerational tale of two families living in contemporary Miami. There are two pairs of mothers and daughters that anchor the story: Jeannette and her mother Carmen, and Ana and her mother Gloria. Carmen and Jeannette’s relationship is marked by tumult, with their political and cultural disagreements (Jeannette was raised in Miami and comes to question the perspectives of her mother, a wealthy Cuban immigrant) exacerbated by Jeannette’s struggles with addiction. The two live in close proximity to Ana and Gloria, both of whom are undocumented immigrants from El Salvador. After Gloria is detained by ICE, Jeannette briefly takes Ana in, and things come to a head when Carmen fatefully convinces Jeannette to call the police over the situation. In the midst of these current events, Garcia also focuses on Jeannette’s relationship with her family in Cuba, exploring both her interactions with her living family members as well as her understanding of the family’s past generations. In all, Garcia poetically portrays issues of identity and family in a heated political atmosphere. You can read reviews here and here.


The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song: Gates Jr., Henry  Louis: 9781984880338: Amazon.com: BooksThe Black Church: This Is our Story, This Is Our Song by Henry Louis Gates Jr. In this book, which serves as a companion piece to a recently-aired PBS documentary series of the same name, renowned historian Gates offers a near-exhaustive history of the Black church in the United States, as well as its significance and profound influence on American culture at large. Beginning with the subject of praise houses, churches used by enslaved people in the South, Gates explicates the manifold spiritual and theological roots of the modern-day Black church, and relays the evolution of its many denominations. He makes the compelling case that the Black church has proven to be a highly elastic institution, adapting to the varying needs and plights of Black Americans throughout history, while at once serving as a powerful shaper of Black culture and political movements. Ending his account in the modern era, he brings in the voices of a number of scholars, and these contributions only further enrich his telling of this complicated and often controversial history. You can read a review here and learn more about the accompanying PBS documentary here.

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