50 books we’re looking forward to in 2019 (Pt 4)

“Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, three women – Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Khan-Cullors – came together to form an active response to the systemic racism causing the deaths of so many African-Americans. They simply said: Black Lives Matter; and for that, they were labelled terrorists.” When they call you a terrorist sees founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors and journalist Asha Bandele tell that remarkable story.

Compiling a whole year of the series Roddy Doyle wrote for the Irish Independent, Charlie Savage is “a portrait of a man – funny, loyal, somewhat bewildered – trying to keep pace with the modern world (if his knees don’t give out first)”. Or: another version of Doyle’s everyman (“a middle-aged Dubliner with an indefatigable wife, an exasperated daughter, a drinking buddy who’s realised that he’s been a woman all along”). This might be something like Smile meets Two Pints… In other words: could be good, could be bad, could be just plain daft.

“When every day of your life you have been told you have nothing of value to offer, that you are worth nothing to society, can you ever escape that sense of being ‘lowborn’ no matter how far you’ve come?” Lowborn is novelist Kerry Hudson’s exploration of where she came from. She revisits the towns she grew up in to try to discover what being poor really means in Britain today and whether anything has changed. She also journeys into the hardest regions of her own childhood, because “sometimes in order to move forwards we first have to look back.”

“With the same originality displayed in his fiction, [Bret Easton] Ellis pours himself out onto the page and, in doing so, eviscerates the perceived good that the social-media age has wrought, starting with the dangerous cult of likeability. White is both a denunciation of censorship, particularly the self-inflicted sort committed in hopes of being ‘accepted’, and a bracing view of a life devoted to authenticity…” This is White, Bret Easton Ellis’ first foray into the world of non-fiction (we don’t include Luna Park as non-fiction, no matter what Ellis says).

If you got along with Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body & Other Parties, it’s likely you’ll also get along with You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian: “Here are women at work, at home, on dates, at the doctor’s, with their families and with their friends. Here are women grappling with desire, punishment, guilt and anger. These are stories that make you feel fascinated but repelled, scared but delighted, revolted but aroused.” The book also features ‘Cat Person’, which was one of the first New Yorker stories to go viral (apparently) back in the simpler days of 2017.

Palestinian-Icelandic writer Mazen Marouf’s Jokes for the Gunmen is a short collection of short stories “of life in a war zone, life peppered by surreal mistakes, tragic accidents and painful encounters [featuring]… fantasist matadors, lost limbs and perplexed voyeurs.” If you like Etgar Keret (or Sjon, for that matter, who appears to be a great champion of Marouf) we suspect you’ll get along with Jokes for the Gunmen.

“From a crowded apartment on Mott Street, where an immigrant family raises its first real Americans, to a pair of divers at the Beijing Olympics poised at the edge of success and self-discovery, Wang’s unforgettable characters – with their unusual careers, unconventional sex lives and fantastical technologies – share the bold hope that, no matter where they’ve come from, their lives too can be extraordinary.” A lot of people are going to be talking about Home Remedies, Xuan Juliana Wang’s debut collection of short stories. Lauren Groff says, “Xuan Juliana Wang is a radiant new talent” – and who are we to argue?

“At the age of 14, having scraped together some money as a street trader, Mohammed El-Gharani seizes an opportunity to study in Pakistan – only to be detained during a raid on his local mosque. After being beaten and interrogated, he is sold to the American government by the Pakistani forces as a member of Al-Qaida with links to Osama Bin Laden, but Mohammed has heard of neither. The Americans fly him first to Kandahar and then to Guantánamo Bay.” In Guantánamo Kid, Jérôme Tubiana and Alexandre Franc graphically tell the eye-opening, heart-wrenching story of one of Guantánamo’s youngest detainees.

Thousands of South Korean children were adopted around the world in the 1970s and 1980s. More than nine thousand found their new home in Sweden, including the cartoonist Lisa Wool-Rim Sjoblom. Palimpsest is a graphic memoir that attempts to unpick her upbringing (where she struggled to fit into the homogenous Swedish culture), the stories she was told (surely her life in Sweden was better than it would have been in Korea?) and, eventually, the truth she uncovers (returning to Korea and the orphanage). You can tell from the beautiful autumnal tones and clear lines in evidence on the cover that Sjoblom is an artist with a unique style, but the narrative bespeaks a mind wrestling with complex issues.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1941. The body of murder victim is discovered in a mudslide, a murder victim linked to an unsolved gold heist from ’31, and, of course, there’s a mad scramble to get hands on the booty. This Storm is James Ellroy’s sequel to Perfidia (and the second book in Ellroy’s second LA Quartet), which means Dudley Smith, Claire De Haven and Hideo Ashuida are back and – well, expect buckets of confusion, buckets of staccato machine-gun-fire prose, and all kinds of corruption, perversion and violence. Just standard Ellroy fare in other words.

 

Coming up in the fifth and final instalment of Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2019: Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson, David Means & Don Winslow, amongst others…

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