Man sleeping on beach with book on his face

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Whether you’re cooling it poolside or kicking back at the BBQ, here’s a list of books to bring along this Memorial Day weekend.

A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley

The Synopsis:

“In the nine expansive, searching stories of A Lucky Man, fathers and sons attempt to salvage relationships with friends and family members and confront mistakes made in the past. An imaginative young boy from the Bronx goes swimming with his group from day camp at a backyard pool in the suburbs, and faces the effects of power and privilege in ways he can barely grasp. A teen intent on proving himself a man through the all-night revel of J’Ouvert can’t help but look out for his impressionable younger brother. A pair of college boys on the prowl follow two girls home from a party and have to own the uncomfortable truth of their desires. And at a capoeira conference, two brothers grapple with how to tell the story of their family, caught in the dance of their painful, fractured history.”

What Folks Are Saying:

“[A Lucky Man] is intent on recognizing what masculinity looks like, questioning our expectations of it, and criticizing its toxicity―and somehow managing to do all of that with love. . . . The collection may include only nine stories, but in each of them, Brinkley gives us an entire world.” ― NPR

Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

The Synopsis:

“In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo’s firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States.”

What Folks Are Saying:

“Barracoon brilliantly illuminates the tragedy of slavery and one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.” — HarperCollins

Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

The Synopsis:

“Calling to mind the best works of Paul Beatty and Junot Díaz, this collection of moving, timely, and darkly funny stories examines the concept of black identity in this so-called post-racial era.”

What Folks Are Saying:

“With devastating insight and remarkable style, Nafissa Thompson-Spires explores what it means to come to terms with one’s body, one’s family, one’s future. The eleven vignettes in Heads of the Colored People elevate the unusual and expose the unseen, forming an original—and urgent—portrait of American life.” — Allegra Hyde, Of This New World

In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers by Bernice Yeung

The Synopsis:

“An acclaimed journalist investigates sexual assault against the invisible workers who are an essential part of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.”

What Folks Are Saying:

“A timely, intensely intimate, and relevant exposé on a greatly disregarded sector of the American workforce.” — Kirkus Reviews

MEM by Bethany C. Morrow

The Synopsis:

“Set in the glittering art deco world of a century ago, MEM makes one slight alteration to history: a scientist in Montreal discovers a method allowing people to have their memories extracted from their minds, whole and complete. The Mems exist as mirror-images of their source ― zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept.”

What Folks Are Saying:

“Morrow’s debut is ambitious and insightful, raising questions about memory, trauma, and humanity. The novel is at its best when it presents Elsie at her most human, forcing the real ones around her to reckon with what her personhood means for theirs.”  — Publishers Weekly

Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen

The Synopsis:

Not Here is a flight plan for escape and a map for navigating home; a queer Vietnamese American body in confrontation with whiteness, trauma, family, and nostalgia; and a big beating heart of a book. Nguyen’s poems ache with loneliness and desire and the giddy terrors of allowing yourself to hope for love, and revel in moments of connection achieved.”

What Folks Are Saying:

“Outstanding collection of poetry about queerness, boyhood, sons and their mothers, what we carry when who we are is not enough for the people who should love us best, desire and the thrall of want… all the poems offer something beautiful, razor sharp, intelligent, interesting, memorable.”  — Roxane Gay

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay

The Synopsis:

“Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, Not That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.”

What Folks Are Saying:

“Roxane Gay is the brilliant girl-next-door: your best friend and your sharpest critic. . . . she is also required reading.” — PEOPLE

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

The Synopsis:

“Like many first-time mothers, Rebecca Stone finds herself both deeply in love with her newborn son and deeply overwhelmed. Struggling to juggle the demands of motherhood with her own aspirations and feeling utterly alone in the process, she reaches out to the only person at the hospital who offers her any real help—Priscilla Johnson—and begs her to come home with them as her son’s nanny.

Priscilla’s presence quickly does as much to shake up Rebecca’s perception of the world as it does to stabilize her life. Rebecca is white, and Priscilla is black, and through their relationship, Rebecca finds herself confronting, for the first time, the blind spots of her own privilege. She feels profoundly connected to the woman who essentially taught her what it means to be a mother. When Priscilla dies unexpectedly in childbirth, Rebecca steps forward to adopt the baby. But she is unprepared for what it means to be a white mother with a black son.”

What Folks Are Saying:

“A rich, complex, beautifully observed story about the collision of class, race and family. Motherhood is an overwhelming and joyful job and this book takes on the minutia of that domestic sphere with quiet, but incendiary power.” — Stephanie Powell Watts, No One is Coming to Save Us

Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

The Synopsis:

“In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy.”

What Folks Are Saying:

“Smith’s new book is scorching in both its steady cognizance of America’s original racial sins . . . and apprehension about history’s direction. . . . These historical poems have a homely, unvarnished sort of grace.” — The New York Times

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