Summer/Fall Booknotes 2021

 

Handpicked new releases, brought to you by the staff of Elliott Bay.

 

Audiobooks available for select titles through our friends at LIBRO.FM

 

Spring 2021

 

 

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Star Eater Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9781250625311
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tordotcom - June 22nd, 2021

Equal parts bureaucrat and cannibalistic witch, leading lady Elfreda Raughn is desperate to protect her own dangerous secrets and dubious sanity even as she pries into the skeleton-filled closets of her superiors in the theocratic Sisterhood. Devious political machinations, a clever magic system, and subtle, confident worldbuilding are the hallmarks of this intriguing dark fantasy—along with just a pinch of eldritch horror. I’ve never been so creeped out by a goat! Star Eater is a twisting tale about power: who has it, who wants it, and what they’ll do to secure it. -Chester


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Walking on Cowrie Shells: Stories Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781644450543
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - June 1st, 2021

Nana Nkweti’s debut book of stories introduces us to a writer who gives us vast universes writ small, in the form of dazzling, word- and world-spanning, genre-bending tales. Here at a Comic-Con, there dealing with a zombie outbreak in Cameroon, these stories and the people who navigate them show us show what such worlds are, and how one might inhabit it. If some of us are familiar with some things, chances are we’re not with others. Thus, surprise, the eyes and other senses open to stories funny, smart, glowing, and knowing. What a voice within, too. -Rick


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The Other Black Girl: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781982160135
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atria Books - June 1st, 2021

Harris’ debut novel is a fun, suspenseful read as well as a commentary on the microaggressions and exclusivity that those of color experience in a white-dominated workplace. This book is a slow burn with many twists and turns that’ll keep you guessing. The main character, Nella, has been working as an assistant at Wagner Publishing House for years as the only black woman until one day another black girl, Hazel, is hired. Everything slowly changes and things aren’t what they appear. Harris knocks her first book out of the park and I’m curious to see what she writes next. -Stephanie
 


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Ghost Forest: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780593230961
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - July 13th, 2021

Ghost Forest is the collision of three generations of grief told in a collection of jokes, secrets, and regrets as one woman faces the loss of the "astronaut" father she may never have really known. A sharp-edged little candy that can be crunched through in an afternoon but begs to be savored, Fung's story grew so vivid that, by the end, l had to double-check that "a novel" was still printed on the cover. Each lyrical vignette chips another sparkling facet into this kaleidoscopic view of a family fractured across the Hong Kong diaspora but bound by shaky, unbreakable love. -Lara
 


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With Teeth Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780593191507
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - June 1st, 2021

A hungry and heartbreaking book, full of Kristen Arnett's incisor-sharp insight and humor. Arnett captures loneliness and yearning so perfectly, how we can be so alone and so misunderstood even among family. With Teeth is ugly and honest as it wrestles with the nightmares and absurdities of parenting, the struggles of marriage and divorce, the wounds that family can inflict on each other, the narratives we cling to to make sense of it all, the mortifying ordeals of being known and, even more achingly, not known. Exactly my kind of summer read. -Callie


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One Last Stop Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781250244499
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - June 1st, 2021

This perfect summer read follows August, a reformed girl detective who moves to New York City to forget her past and finally finish her degree. But after falling into a new routine, August’s life is upended when she meets a girl on her daily commute—a girl who’s outgoing and effortlessly cool. Oh, and she’s stuck in time: she got on the train in the 1970s, has been there ever since, and she needs August’s help to get her unstuck. This book is an ode to found families, to queer history, and to finding love and finding yourself in the city. And it is an utter delight to read. -Laura
 


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The Book of Form and Emptiness: A Novel Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780399563645
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking - September 21st, 2021

If objects are understood to communicate through chemical bonds and shared electrons, is it a leap to imagine this communication happening in more overt ways? In Ruth Ozeki’s novel, a young boy begins to hear the voices of objects around him after his father’s death. A pane of glass mourns its prior existence as sand, for example, and, at the library, books begin conversations with and around him. This wise and deeply immersive novel invites us to open up to something within us that we share in common with what we create or find. Call it spirit or something else; it’s sublime. -Karen
 


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Palmares Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780807033494
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Beacon Press - September 14th, 2021

The only literary writer still writing that Toni Morrison edited, Gayl Jones brings to the table her first novel in twenty years. Set in colonial Brazil, Palmares is the transcendent story of a young, enslaved woman named Almeyda and her life and ways on Portuguese plantations—and in the almost-mythic fugitive settlement of Palmares. Gayl Jones is a rare writer, knowing everything, yet putting a haunting narrative, a cast of memorable characters, and storytelling full of reckoning and portent at the front and center of things. -Rick
 


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Harlem Shuffle Cover Image
$28.95
ISBN: 9780385545136
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday Books - September 14th, 2021

Less than five years after winning the National Book Award for The Underground Railroad and the Pulitzer Prize for both that and The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead is not resting on his laurels, pushing again in new directions with this book, set as a whodunit (though everyone knows who) in early 1960s Harlem. Rich in ambient setting and feeling, Harlem Shuffle gives us one man’s choices in life—those following the virtuous versus those leading to easy money via bad behavior. Whitehead is a rare writer in being able to make characters larger than life yet cut from reality. Here, again. -Rick
 


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All's Well: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781982169664
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - August 3rd, 2021

Miranda Fitch had been an actor until she fell off a stage and injured her hip and back. Not well, she acquired a job teaching at a small college. There, she ends up  directing All's Well That Ends Well, a "problem play" that becomes a problem for her. Awad has written a wickedly funny novel of a woman, constantly in pain, obsessively working to find salvation through her production of All's Well. Like some of Shakespeare's plays, Awad's novel casts spells. I can't praise this book enough. -Greg
 


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Once There Were Wolves Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9781250244147
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Flatiron Books - August 3rd, 2021

Inti, a passionate biologist more at home in nature than in the human world, is working with a team on a project to reintroduce wolves to the Scottish Highlands. She will do whatever it takes to protect her wolves and her twin sister, who has been deeply traumatized by an abusive relationship. McConaghy pulls no punches—her writing is vivid and visceral. She perfectly captures the sense of helpless urgency and frustrated rage of an inherently gentle person who has been forced to learn to navigate a world in which violence seems to be the only language anyone understands. -Keenan
 


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My Heart Is a Chainsaw Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9781982137632
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Gallery / Saga Press - August 31st, 2021

A loving homage to slasher flicks, My Heart is a Chainsaw both embraces and slyly deconstructs well-worn tropes to forge its own genre. When tourists go missing after skinny-dipping in the lake, and bloody events escalate in her small rural town, seventeen-year-old half-Indian Jade is convinced she's become part of a real splatter film. But is there a monster in the lake waters or has Jade only affixed a hockey mask to disguise the true horrors of her own life? Jones' nuanced novel is as gruesome as it is compassionate, creating the final girl of our heart-pumping dreams.-Elaine
 


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Playlist for the Apocalypse: Poems Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780393867770
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - August 17th, 2021

If this were an awards show (and it would take a fancy evening to list Dove's prizes and accomplishments), Rita Dove would be the special guest that every shiny-toothed presenter would say “needs no introduction”. She also seems to need no time to catch her breath in this masterful and far-ranging collection that constructs varied forms with seamless ease but keeps each line so tight you could bounce a quarter off it. These poems stalk through the decades and seasons; flirt with opera, travel, and everyday pleasures; and then turn to sink their teeth into war and race and rage. -Lara
 


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Smile: The Story of a Face Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781982150945
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order: Scroll Down to Product Details for Release Date
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 5th, 2021

Smile is playwright Sarah Ruhl's memoir of developing Bell's palsy after the birth of her twins. Bell's palsy is paralysis of the face and I can only imagine what that is like. This memoir is a captivating, heartfelt, and honest account that captures her despair and frustration at being unable to express emotions with her face—something all of us take for granted, as well as a revealing look at her family and professional life. She tells her story with true grace. Outstanding. -Greg
 


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Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780593329191
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - June 8th, 2021

Emezi is an obanje— an Igbo spirit born to a human mother— who wants to die. Each chapter in Dear Senthuran is letters addressed to a friend, an ex-lover, a fictional young writer, their human mother, Toni Morrison, among others. Emezi writes about not humbling themself when they know better, friendship, embodiment as a god and their nonhuman affirming surgeries, writing, being loved and being lonely, decadence, casting spells and watching them come true. Improbably, impossibly, this book reads like a thriller. Like Morrison, they are standing on the border and claiming it as central. Run towards them. -Ellis
 


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Cuba: An American History Cover Image
$32.00
ISBN: 9781501154553
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - September 7th, 2021

Utterly fascinating in and of itself, the history of this island nation—from the day Columbus set foot on its shore to present-day Biden’s promise to reverse the reversal of reopening relations—encompasses colonialism, revolution, and a legacy of slavery, mining, and sugar cane exploitation. Cuba also retains focus of the entwinement of Cuba and the US, thus simultaneously serving as an off-shore history of this country. Most astonishingly, Ferrer’s writing is so engaging that the book reads like an entertaining story, compelling and hard to put down from beginning to end. -Peter
 


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Pessoa: A Biography Cover Image
$40.00
ISBN: 9780871404718
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Liveright - July 20th, 2021

Fernando Pessoa, author of The Book of Disquiet, left behind a brilliant and voluminous body of unpublished poetry and literary prose—written both as himself and as a variety of alternative personas—literally stuffed in a wooden chest. Now the great poet is brought to detailed, nuanced, insightful, sympathetic, contextual, factual, cultural, critical, imaginative, and vivid life by Zenith, the preeminent English-language translator of Portugal’s prolific and personally-multitudinous poet, as one would expect.  In addition, he’s written a beautiful book, a joy, a work of genius. -Peter
 


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On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781644450628
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - September 7th, 2021

Whatever her subject—cruelty, the color blue, murder, her own life and its choices—book after book, in whatever form, Maggie Nelson delves into familiar subjects in unfamiliar ways, helping us see and know things anew. Freedom and its complexities, dimensions, depths, and divergences is the subject here. Freedom not as cliché, but, really, what it is is beautifully mused upon here. Climate, sex, drugs, art. What are choices here? Whose choices, what consequences, what contexts. Maggie Nelson, yes, again. -Rick
 


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There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781982123390
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atria/One Signal Publishers - September 7th, 2021

As the pageant nears its 100th anniversary, Washington Post editor Argetsinger examines this revered and reviled American institution. With firsthand accounts from former participants and crowned winners, readers learn of the extreme measures taken in the hopes of achieving the crown and how the sash bearers have brought cultural and social change for women to the forefront. We go behind the scenes as well, examining the many scandals, financial difficulties, and power struggles faced during its long history, and how it hopes to thrive in the future. -Holly
 


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The Heroine with 1001 Faces Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9781631498817
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Liveright - September 14th, 2021

Throughout history, the women of myths, legends, and folklore have been ignored or cast aside as unimportant by those who study the classics as well as by the authors of the stories themselves. A response to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Maria Tatar’s The Heroine with 1001 Faces argues the side of the women. Moving and fiercely feminist, this essay begs the questions: why not the women? HOW not the women? It shows the power of women in places where they were previously considered weak and without power. This is a must-read for those who believe in the often unseen power of women, who believe that their stories deserve to be told. -Rachael
 


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Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780063024892
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Quill Tree Books - June 22nd, 2021

Ahmed’s epic year begins when he discovers  that his family is moving from Hawaii to Minnesota for his father’s medical treatment and  that he is the only Muslim Indian in the entire school. He finds help in three classic novels: The Bridge to Terabithia, Holes and The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Ahmed discovers more about his relationship with others, with himself and most especially, his father in this heartwarming, contemporary middle grade reader.-Tracy


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Blast Off Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781681375687
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New York Review of Books - September 21st, 2021

This timely reissue from 1973 is a simple story of a young Black girl with a grand vision. Regina Williams dreamed of being an astronaut all her life, obsessed with space and rocket ships. Her friends tease her and say she’ll never reach her goal, but Regina has something important to realize her aspiration: imagination. Originally published when astronauts were white males, this boldly illustrated story demonstrates the power of faith in our ambitions. -Holly
 


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Kaleidoscope Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781338777246
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scholastic Inc. - September 21st, 2021

I was captivated and entranced by Kaleidoscope, a story of two friends that feels alternately dream-like, timeless, and very real. There is loss at the center of their memories and yet the absent one remains ever present. Selznick's book, much like a kaleidoscope, reflects what could be an endless variety of patterns. The illustrations, also by Selznick, capture the essence of this marvelous, magical book. A treasure not to be missed. -Greg
 


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We Are Not Broken Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780759554603
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - September 7th, 2021

A book of stories written as a sweet love letter from a boy to his fierce, loving, quintessential matriarch Grandmother known as Nanny. Growing up black and questioning his identity, Johnson shares the hard lessons passed on to him, his brother, and two cousins. Johnson makes you reflect on your own childhood, as well as those in your life who help shape you for the good and the bad. You are left wondering who you would be without certain people and how important family can be in influencing our decisions and even personality. We Are Not Broken truly embodies black joy and celebrates the beauty of being raised as a community. -Stephanie
 


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Cat Problems (Animal Problems) Cover Image
By Jory John, Lane Smith (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780593302132
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Studio - August 3rd, 2021

Jory John’s obviously very familiar with cats, and readers will delight in his version of them. How else would he have captured the tone of irritation used at the food dish either because there isn't food or it's the wrong kind of food? How could the author know the extreme ennui and philosophical malaise cats suffer when unable to destroy a plant, a sofa, a book? Accompanied by the perfectly anthropomorphized art of Lane Smith, families with feline friends will giggle as they recognize the silly qualities all cats share. -Holly
 


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Bear Is a Bear Cover Image
By Jonathan Stutzman, Dan Santat (Illustrator)
$18.99
ISBN: 9780062880512
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Balzer + Bray - September 14th, 2021

Our earliest friends and companions are often those we love the most and then put away at the end of childhood. In this homage to Bear, we journey through the times Bear is there to comfort, protect, play and love and then he is put away as time moves on. In this delightfully illustrated picture book, Bear gets a renewed life as he circles around and becomes the companion to the next generation and reminds us of our touchstones in life.-Tracy