April is stacked with an almost overwhelming number of exciting new releases from treasured authors. Among the highlights: Jennifer Egan delivers a long-awaited sibling novel to A Visit From the Goon Squad, and Emily St. John Mandel again turns a pandemic into fodder for fiction. Ocean Vuong’s second poetry collection will leave readers breathless, while comedian Jessi Klein’s essays promise stressed parents a laugh. Other titles celebrate deaf culture and introduce feisty, determined nuns.
Here, the 12 best new books to read in April.
The Candy House, Jennifer Egan (April 5)
Jennifer Egan’s 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and hooked readers with its imagination and intellect. Now, more than a decade later, many of its characters return in The Candy House, which is billed as a sibling novel but works as a stand-alone, too. It centers on a new technology, “Own Your Unconscious,” that allows people to save and share all their memories. Egan uses tweets and emails from the future to illustrate what happens when we have access to each other’s most private thoughts.
Of Blood and Sweat: Black Lives and the Making of White Power and Wealth, Clyde W. Ford (April 5)
Black Americans have long helped white people get—and stay—wealthy, but instead of their fair share, they’ve received brutality in return. That’s the central argument that Clyde W. Ford, a psychotherapist and the author of Think Black, makes in this deeply researched book. Ford recounts the period from when enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619 through the end of Reconstruction in 1877. He illustrates the many ways Black labor has been essential to fields such as agriculture, politics, medicine, and law enforcement, and makes it clear that reparations are still due.
Let’s Not Do That Again, Grant Ginder (April 5)
Nancy Harrison is running for Senate, and her biggest obstacles are her adult children, Greta and Nick. Greta is making headlines for hurling a Champagne bottle through a Paris restaurant window during a political riot, which doesn’t exactly help Nancy’s image. Nick, who’s floundering in his own way, writing a musical based on the works of Joan Didion, accompanies his mother to France to bring Greta home and save the campaign. Ginder—author of The People We Hate at the Wedding—has inhabited the world he’s writing about: he spent time as a congressional intern and White House speechwriter, experiences that help this bighearted family comedy shine.
Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel (April 5)
Sea of Tranquility introduces readers to Olive, the author of a best-selling pandemic novel—a rather meta plot point, given that Emily St. John Mandel herself is the author of a hugely popular (and prescient) pandemic novel, Station Eleven. We get to know Olive by jumping from a Vancouver forest in 1912 to the lunar colony she inhabits in 2203. Mandel plays with the idea of parallel worlds and presents a puzzle about the nature of time and reality that surprises again and again. Longtime fans will appreciate the Easter eggs that tease her previous work.
True Biz, Sara Nović (April 5)
Sara Nović’s second novel, following Girl at War, takes place at a school for the deaf, where the lives of a headmistress and two students intersect. One of the teens, Charlie, is forced by her parents to get a cochlear implant, a controversial device that helps some deaf people perceive sounds. Her hearing family never allowed her to learn American Sign Language—which is starkly opposite the experience her classmate, Austin, had growing up with deaf parents. When Charlie and Austin go missing, their community is tested in this coming-of-age story about love, friendship, protest, and justice.
Memphis, Tara M. Stringfellow (April 5)
Tara M. Stringfellow’s moving debut novel follows three generations of a Southern Black family from the 1930s through the early 2000s. When Joan is 10, she and her mother and sister flee her violent father and take refuge at a family home in Memphis. It’s the same place where, 50 years earlier, Joan’s grandfather was lynched after becoming the city’s first Black detective. Stringfellow introduces characters worth rooting for, and jumps between years and voices to reveal how we pass down trauma, anger, and love.
Time Is a Mother, Ocean Vuong (April 5)
It’s been six years since Ocean Vuong’s debut poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, was published. In the interim, he published a haunting, lyrical novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Now, finally, he returns with 27 new poems. Many are infused with pain, as Vuong grapples with his mother’s death. Others examine race, sexual orientation, and identity. Time Is a Mother is a poignant and beautiful collection.
Constructing a Nervous System, Margo Jefferson (April 12)
Pulitzer Prize–winning critic Margo Jefferson—whose memoir Negroland was published in 2015—reflects on some of her most intimate memories in Constructing a Nervous System. She combines memoir and criticism by examining how Black artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Ike Turner, Nat King Cole, and Bud Powell helped shape her, and how they impacted race and class more broadly. Jefferson excels at deconstructing American culture, and her raw self-examination makes her work riveting.
Sisters of Mokama: The Pioneering Women Who Brought Hope and Healing to India, Jyoti Thottam (April 12)
Sisters of Mokama is the inspiring story of six Kentucky nuns who built a hospital in a destitute part of India in 1947, when diseases like cholera were running rampant. Soon, the nuns opened a nursing school—and the mother of New York Times editor Jyoti Thottam (who formerly worked at TIME) was one of the women who studied there. At the time, Indian women rarely left home without a man, so the opportunity to train at the hospital was life-changing. Thottam interviewed more than 60 people to recreate the determination displayed by the doctors and nurses who worked at the hospital in its early years, as well as the women who founded it.
The Trouble with Happiness: And Other Stories, Tove Ditlevsen, translated by Michael Favala Goldman (April 19)
Danish writer Tove Ditlevsen died in 1976, but her legacy endures with this collection of short stories. As its title, The Trouble with Happiness, suggests, this isn’t a happy read; it focuses mostly on relationship turmoil. In one story, a husband chases away his wife’s pet cat because he feels threatened by her love for it; in another, a tyrant mother oppresses her children. Manipulation and alienation are frequent themes. Readers who enjoyed Ditlevsen’s autobiographical The Copenhagen Trilogy will appreciate these stories—they’re unsettling, but beautifully crafted.
Forbidden City, Vanessa Hua (April 19)
In 1960s China—during the violent Cultural Revolution—a fictional teenage girl named Mei is recruited by the Communist Party and drawn into the inner life of the Chairman leading the upheaval. She becomes his confidant and romantic partner, constantly fighting off jealous young women who’d like to take her place, including the Chairman’s wife. But when Mei is assigned an important political mission, she grows disillusioned and must make wrenching decisions. Forbidden City is a deeply researched, mesmerizing novel that offers a fresh perspective on a tumultuous era.
I’ll Show Myself Out: Essays on Midlife and Motherhood, Jessi Klein (April 26)
Comedian Jessi Klein delivers a necessary laugh for parents just beginning to emerge from the dumpster fire otherwise known as pandemic parenting. In her second essay collection, the Inside Amy Schumer writer grapples with the humiliations and possibilities of midlife and motherhood, from impossible car seats to equally befuddling “Mama” necklaces. Even the essay titles are funny. Among the standouts: “Eulogy for My Feet,” “Your Husband Will Remarry Five Minutes After You Die,” and “Listening to Beyoncé in the Parking Lot of Party City.”
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