Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Omer Aziz, Michelle Min Sterling, Jess Row, and more.

Brown Boy: A Memoir

Omer Aziz. Scribner, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-982-13631-4
“I was torn within myself, trying to be two people at once,” writes Aziz, a lawyer and former foreign policy adviser for Justin Trudeau’s administration in Canada, in this striking debut. Raised in 1990s suburban Toronto as the son of Pakistani Muslim immigrants, Aziz confesses to being an “apathetic” student before he watched then–presidential candidate Barack Obama give a speech on CNN. He was, he writes, struck by their similarities: “the immigrant father, the feeling of being stuck between worlds, the search for roots, the need to connect to something outside himself.” After graduating from Cambridge University and Yale Law School, Aziz returned to Canada in 2017 and became a foreign policy adviser in the Canadian government, but after experiencing escalating microaggressions from white coworkers, he resigned “with my dignity intact.” In 2021, a trip to Pakistan allowed him to reconnect with his culture: “I was reclaiming some pieces of history all for myself.” Aziz maintains a sharp awareness as he confronts his “immigrant boy’s need to eat pain and keep going” and celebrates his heritage (“The canvas given to me from before my birth had already been beautiful”). The result, a sterling portrait of personal revelation, cuts to the bone. Agent: Bonnie Nadell, Hill Nadell Literary Agency. (Apr.)

Camp Zero

Michelle Min Sterling. Atria, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-66800-756-3
Sterling’s stunning debut offers a glimpse into a climate change–ravaged future in which resources diminish quickly and new frontiers are hard to find. In desolate northern Canada, the enigmatic architect Meyer is building a settlement that promises hope for climate refugees. A group of escorts called the Blooms are flown into the build-site to be a sliver of beauty in the snowy wasteland. Among them is Rose, who hails from the Floating City, a luxurious, man-made metropolis that floats in Boston Harbor. She was secretly sent by a high-profile client to investigate the camp in exchange for an easier life for her Korean immigrant mother, but setbacks, mysteries, and a captivating man called the Barber hinder her progress with her mission. Meanwhile, Grant, who signed on to the project to extricate himself from both his wealthy family’s long shadow and a relationship that left him heartbroken, learns from the Diggers he’s been hired to teach that construction may well be futile. Nearby in a leftover Cold War station, a group of female experts in climate research grow from colleagues to friends to lovers as they unravel the cryptic mysteries of the team of men assigned to the same station before them. Sterling’s future is close enough to the present to be entirely recognizable, underlining this cleverly constructed climate fiction mystery with palpable terror: this world feels like one many readers could see within their lifetimes. This should earn a place on shelves alongside Station Eleven and Annihilation. Agent: Erin Harris, Folio Literary (Apr.)

Enter Ghost

Isabella Hammad. Grove, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6238-0
Hammad (The Parisian) offers a soul-stirring and dramatic tale of a Palestinian family’s exile and reconciliation. Sisters Sonia and Haneen Nasir grew up in London in the 1980s and ’90s and visited their paternal grandparents in Haifa on holidays, where their grandparents remained after many other Palestinians were displaced by Israeli statehood in 1948. Now approaching 40, Sonia is an actor in London, while her older sister, Haneen, lives in Haifa, one of the few Palestinian faculty members at a university in Tel Aviv. Sonia’s marriage has failed, and after ending an affair, she visits Haneen. There, she meets the outspoken Mariam Mansour, who is directing an all-Palestinian production of Hamlet, translated into classical Arabic, in the occupied West Bank, and who convinces Sonia to play Gertrude. The production breathes new life into Shakespeare’s text, suggesting for instance whether Palestine itself is “to be or not to be.” However, funding cuts by the Palestinian Authority and draconian attempts from the Israeli government to enforce cultural loyalty hamper the production, leaving Mariam to play the lead herself. Against the backdrop of violent struggles over the al-Aqsa Mosque, and a vivid image of hundreds of Muslim men peacefully bowing in prayer in the streets of East Jerusalem when Israeli authorities close off the mosque compound for “security concerns,” the troupe stages an opening-night outdoor performance. The layered text, rich in languages and literary references, dives deep into Sonia’s consciousness, illustrating her hopes for what art can accomplish. This deeply human work will stay with readers. (Apr.)

The House is on Fire

Rachel Beanland. Simon & Schuster, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-982186-14-2
Beanland’s powerful second novel (after Florence Adler Swims Forever) follows four characters through a disastrous fire and its aftermath. In December 1811, 600 people are crowded into Virginia’s Richmond Theater for a performance when teenage stagehand Jack Gibson forgets to snuff the candles on the stage chandelier but obeys an order to raise it into the rafters, where it ignites a backdrop and then the building. Sally Henry Campbell, a genteel widow attending the play, and Gilbert Hunt, an enslaved blacksmith who runs to the scene to help, are among those who try to rescue theatergoers trapped by the enormous blaze. Despite such efforts, scores perish or are grotesquely injured. Gilbert’s niece Cecily Patterson makes it safely out of a section called the “colored people’s gallery,” then attempts to free herself from slavery amid the ensuing chaos. Gilbert tries to help Cecily and Campbell volunteers at a makeshift hospital, while Gibson watches helplessly as his troupe, attempting to evade criminal charges, falsely blames the conflagration on a slave rebellion. Beanland enlivens the smart and suspenseful narrative with fully developed protagonists that illuminate the community’s response to mass catastrophe. Readers will relish this. Agent: Chad Luibl, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)


David Wellington. Orbit, $18.99 trade paper (688p) ISBN 978-0-316-49674-2
Wellington (The Last Astronaut) skillfully combines hard sci-fi worldbuilding with tense mystery for a superior space thriller that never flags despite its length. United Earth Government Lt. Alexandra Petrova is introduced in the human colony of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede as she closes in on Jason Schmidt, the worst serial killer in Ganymede’s 100 year history. Her efforts are unexpectedly stymied by her superiors, and in the wake of her investigation’s untimely end, she’s exiled to Paradise-1, a fledgling human outpost 100 light years away, ostensibly to conduct a security analysis, and ensure that it’s “happy and productive.” En route, she and her two companions—Sam Parker, the commander of their transport, and doctor Zhang Lei—come under attack by an empty ship from the mysteriously abandoned Paradise-1, leading to a frantic struggle both to survive the assault and to understand what’s happened to the colony. Wellington excels at vivid descriptions (“The only light came from what reflected off the crescent of Jupiter, a thin arc of brown and orange that hung forever motionless in the night sky”), which further enhance the clever plot. Readers will be on the edges of their seats. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (Apr.)

The People Who Report More Stress: Stories

Alejandro Varela. Astra House, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-66260-107-1
Varela follows up The Town of Babylon, a finalist for the National Book Award, with a searing collection about gentrification, racism, and sexuality. In “An Other Man,” a queer Latinx man, restless in his relationship, gets permission from his partner to use dating apps. In “She and Her Kid, Me and Mine,” a Salvadorian Columbian father deals with a series of microaggressions during his son’s playdate with a classmate, whose white mother denigrates his parenting skills and pays his small apartment a backhanded compliment, one that stings especially as the mother is part of a wave of gentrifiers in their Brooklyn neighborhood. Slights also figure into “The Great Potato Famine,” in which the Latinx narrator struggles to hail a cab in Midtown until his white boyfriend steps in. “Midtown-West Side Story” features a Latinx couple who, hoping to buy a house in the suburbs and send their kids to Catholic school, supplement their meagre income from service jobs with a side hustle fencing stolen luxury clothing. Many of the atmospheric entries sting with a quick one-two, with Varela following up an unsettling racist encounter with wry commentary (after the narrator of “The Great Potato Famine” gets into a white cabbie’s car, he reflects on the driver’s icy manner: “This is what you get for leapfrogging someone in the hierarchy, for inverting the power dynamic”). Throughout, Varela provides invaluable insight on the ways stress impacts the characters’ lives, and how they persevere. Readers will be floored. Agent: Robert Guinsler, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.)

Ordinary Notes

Christina Sharpe. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (392p) ISBN 978-0-374-60448-6
Sharpe (In the Wake), a Black studies professor at York University, Toronto, lays bare the brutality of anti-Black racism through 248 brief “notes” on history, art, and her personal life in this poignant and genre-defying triumph. Recounting a visit to the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, Sharpe contends that its decision to feature statues only of enslaved children instead of adults suggests that the curators thought generating empathy for the enslaved children “was an easier task than seeing all Black people, everywhere/anywhere, as human.” Her wide-ranging analysis is penetrating, as when she links a journalist’s comments calling a neo-Nazi a “good father,” Francis Galton’s dubious honorific as the “father” of eugenics, and the remarks of a sheriff who said the 2021 Atlanta mass shooter who targeted Asian women had “a really bad day,” arguing that white supremacists are “extended the grammar of the human” often denied to people of color. Throughout, Sharpe returns to the supportive influence of her mother, who encouraged her “to build a life that was nourishing and Black” and instituted a family tradition of reciting excerpts from Black authors over tea, making Sharpe feel “accomplished and loved.” The fragmentary dispatches are rich with suggestion and insight, generating meaning through juxtaposition and benefiting from Sharpe’s pointed prose. Moving and profound, this is not to be missed. Photos. (Apr.)

Macunaíma: The Hero with No Character

Mário de Andrade, trans. from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson. New Directions, $17.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2702-5
Dodson, a PEN Award–winning translator of Clarice Lispector, breathes new life into this spirited modernist classic from Brazillian writer de Andrade (1893–1945), whose other translated works include Hallucinated City. A frequent refrain—“Ants aplenty and nobody’s healthy, so go the ills of Brazil!”—captures only a hint of the 1928 novel’s frenetic energy and satirizing humor. Over the course of hundreds of years, Macunaíma, a young man with ever-changing characteristics, travels with his brothers Jigue and Maanape from their homeland in the wild north of Brazil to the heart of São Paulo and back. Their mission is to retrieve a magical amulet, muiraquitã, from cannibal giant Venceslau Pietro Pietra. Along the way, de Andrade incorporates Indigenous Tupi and Pemon folklore, a West African Candomble religious ritual that allows people to communicate with deities, formal correspondence, popular vernacular, and continent-spanning botany. Macunaíma derives from an Indigenous Carib and Arawak shape-shifting trickster god, and de Andrade uses him as a blank canvas to explore Brazil’s mass of contradictions; he is at various times Black, white, and Indigenous; wild and urbane; comically officious and boorishly crude, and morally inconsistent. In other words, according to de Andrade, “quintessentially Brazilian.” Electrifying and perplexing, this cornerstone of Brazilian literature shouldn’t be missed. (Apr.)