The following are some books I’m looking forward to with a release date in June 2015:
Title: Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga
Author: Pamela Newkirk
Release Date: 02 June 2015
An award-winning journalist reveals a little-known and shameful episode in American history, when an African man was used as a human zoo exhibit—a shocking story of racial prejudice, science, and tragedy in the early years of the twentieth century in the tradition of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Devil in the White City, and Medical Apartheid.
In 1904, Ota Benga, a young Congolese “pygmy”—a person of petite stature—arrived from central Africa and was featured in an anthropology exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, the New York Zoological Gardens displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, 4-foot 11-inch tall man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe.
Spectacle explores the circumstances of Ota Benga’s captivity, the international controversy it inspired, and his efforts to adjust to American life. It also reveals why, decades later, the man most responsible for his exploitation would be hailed as his friend and savior, while those who truly fought for Ota have been banished to the shadows of history. Using primary historical documents, Pamela Newkirk traces Ota’s tragic life, from Africa to St. Louis to New York, and finally to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he lived out the remainder of his short life.
Illuminating this unimaginable event, Spectacle charts the evolution of science and race relations in New York City during the early years of the twentieth century, exploring this racially fraught era for Africa-Americans and the rising tide of political disenfranchisement and social scorn they endured, forty years after the end of the Civil War. Shocking and compelling Spectacle is a masterful work of social history that raises difficult questions about racial prejudice and discrimination that continue to haunt us today.
Title: The Liminal War
Author: Ayize Jama-Everett
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Release Date: 16 June 2015
“I read bodies the way master musicians read music.”
The Liminal War is a propulsive novel that starts with a kidnapping in London and takes off running. Taggert is a man with a questionable past and the ability to hurt or heal with his thoughts alone. When his adopted daughter goes missing, he immediately suspects the hand of an old enemy. In order to find her, Taggert assembles a team of friends, family, and new allies who don’t quite trust he has left his violent times behind. But their search leads them to an unexpected place: the past.
Getting there is hard, being there is harder, and their journey has a price that is higher than any of us can afford.
Author: Daniel José Older
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: 30 June 2015
Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.
Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.
With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.
Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.
Title: Map of Chaos
Author: Félix J. Palma
Release Date: 30 June 2015
When the person he loves most dies in tragic circumstances, the mysterious protagonist of The Map of Chaos does all he can to speak to her one last time. A session with a renowned medium seems to offer the only solution, but the experience unleashes terrible forces that bring the world to the brink of disaster. Salvation can only be found in The Map of Chaos, an obscure book that he is desperate to uncover. In his search, he is given invaluable help by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll, and of course by H. G. Wells, whose Invisible Man seems to have escaped from the pages of his famous novel to sow terror among mankind. They alone can discover the means to save the world and to find the path that will reunite the lovers separated by death.
Proving once again that he is “a master of ingenious plotting” (Kirkus Reviews), Félix J. Palma brings together a cast of real and imagined literary characters in Victorian-Age London, when spiritualism is at its height. The Map of Chaos is a spellbinding adventure that mixes impossible loves, nonstop action, real ghosts, and fake mediums, all while paying homage to the giants of science fiction.
Title: The Star Side of Bird Hill
Author: Naomi Jackson
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: 30 June 2015
Two sisters are suddenly sent from their home in Brooklyn to Barbados to live with their grandmother, in this stunning debut novel
This lyrical novel of community, betrayal, and love centers on an unforgettable matriarchal family in Barbados. Two sisters, ages ten and sixteen, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados after their mother can no longer care for them. The young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, live for the summer of 1989 with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah.
Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother’s limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother’s mysterious life.
This tautly paced coming-of-age story builds to a crisis when the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, and both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family.
Jackson’s Barbados and her characters are singular, especially the wise Hyacinth and the heartbreaking young Phaedra, who is coming into her own as a young woman amid the tumult of her family.