What to Read this Month: November

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng. Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old. Our Missing Hearts is an old story about how supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact. Learn more here, The New York Times Book Review.


Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, this is a story of a boy born to a teenage single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damage to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion and, above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Read more in The Washington Post’s book review.


Acceptance by Emi Nietfeld. As a homeless teenager writing college essays in her rusty Toyota Corolla, Emi Nietfeld was convinced that the Ivy League was the only escape from her dysfunctional childhood. But upward mobility required crafting the perfect resilience narrative. She had to prove that she was an “overcomer,” made stronger by all she had endured. The truth was more complicated. Emi’s mom was a charming hoarder who had her put on antipsychotics but believed in her daughter’s brilliance—unlike the Minnesotan foster family who banned her “pornographic” art history flashcards (of Michelangelo’s David). Emi’s other parent vanished shortly after coming out as trans, a situation few understood in the mid-2000s. Both a chronicle of the American Dream and an indictment of it, this searing debut exposes the price of trading a troubled past for the promise of a bright future. Told with a ribbon of dark humor, Acceptance challenges our ideas of what it means to overcome. Read this NPR review to learn more.


Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land by Toni Jensen. Jensen is a Métis woman, and she is no stranger to the violence enacted on Indigenous women’s bodies on Indigenous land. In Carry, Jensen maps her personal experience onto the historical, exploring how history is lived in the body and redefining the language used to speak about violence in America. In the title chapter, Jensen connects the trauma of school shootings with her experiences of racism and sexual assault on college campuses. “The Worry Line” explores the gun and gang violence in her neighborhood the year her daughter was born. “At the Workshop” focuses on her graduate school years, during which a workshop classmate repeatedly killed off thinly veiled versions of her in his stories. In prose at once forensic and deeply emotional, Toni Jensen shows herself to be a brave new voice and a fearless witness to her own difficult history–as well as to the violent cultural landscape in which she finds her coordinates. Read more about Jensen’s debut book here and an interview with Clemson University here.


Dog Flowers: A Memoir by Danielle Geller. A daughter returns home to the Navajo reservation to retrace her mother’s life in a memoir that is both a narrative and an archive of one family’s troubled history. When Geller’s mother dies of alcohol withdrawal while attempting to get sober, Geller returns to Florida and finds her mother’s life packed into eight suitcases. Most were filled with clothes, except for the last one, which contained diaries, photos, letters, a few undeveloped disposable cameras, dried sage, jewelry, and the bandana her mother wore on days she skipped a hair wash. Geller, an archivist and a writer uses these pieces of her mother’s life to try and understand her mother’s relationship to home and their shared need to leave it. Geller embarks on a journey that will end at her mother’s home: the Navajo reservation. Dog Flowers is an arresting, photo-lingual memoir that masterfully weaves together images and text to examine mothers and mothering, sisters and caretaking, and colonized bodies. Read more about this story in the Southern Review of Books.


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