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Frontlist | 16 international titles to watch for in March

Frontlist | 16 international titles to watch for in March
on Mar 15, 2021
Frontlist | 16 international titles to watch for in March
Children Under Fire: An American Crisis, by John Woodrow Cox (Ecco, 30 March) Over the past 10 years, 15,000 children have been killed by gunfire, and countless more have been devastated by its consequences. Cox, a reporter at The Washington Post, focuses on the emotional toll of gun violence in the United States — one friendship between two children whose lives were upended, Tyshaun and Ava, helps anchor the narrative — and offers some policy solutions. The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 9 March) Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry last year for the DNA editing technique they patented, known as Crispr. Isaacson, who is known for his mammoth biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and other inventors, now takes on his first female subject, tracing Doudna’s early interest in science, which was inspired by James Watson’s The Double Helix, and dives into the ethical questions that gene editing poses. The Committed, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, 2 March) A follow-up to Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut, The Sympathizer, this novel finds the story’s unnamed Vietnamese narrator arriving in Paris as a refugee in the 1980s after eluding his Communist interrogators. Expect another high-octane tale as he gets mixed up in the drug trade. Nguyen has said he is planning a third and final volume in the series, which will follow the narrator back to the United States. The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir, by Sherry Turkle (Penguin Press, 2 March) Turkle has founded her career studying how human relationships are affected by technology; two of her earlier books, Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together, looked at how our overreliance on digital communication has corroded empathy and other values. Here her story is more personal as she traces her life’s work back to her childhood in Brooklyn and her early years in academia. Festival Days, by Jo Ann Beard (Little, Brown, 16 March) This new collection by Beard, perhaps best known for her 1998 book The Boys of My Youth, comes with a disclaimer: Several of the selections blur the distinction between real and fiction. Throughout the book, she juxtaposes the extraordinary against the mundane: a woman’s cancer treatments with the delight of a new puppy; the simple surprises that greet a man who survived a fire in his apartment building. Girlhood, by Melissa Febos (Bloomsbury, 30 March) In this series of essays, Febos revisits the pain of her adolescence, and the rules about femininity she absorbed: “We learn to adopt a story about ourselves — what our value is, what beauty is, what is harmful and what is normal — and to privilege the feelings, comfort, perceptions and power of others over our own.” Her book is her attempt, she writes, to unlearn those lessons, “to train my mind to act in accordance with my beliefs,” and to recover the sense of self she lost in girlhood. How Beautiful We Were, by Imbolo Mbue (Random House, 9 March) Mbue, the author of Behold the Dreamers, explores greed, corruption and personal sacrifice in her new novel, set in a fictional African village. After an exploitative American oil company refuses to stop poisoning the place, the residents take a dramatic step and take employees hostage. Infinite Country, by Patricia Engel (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, 2 March) To reunite with her family in the United States, Talia must escape the juvenile correctional center where she is being held, a former parochial school in the mountains of Colombia. (“It was her idea to tie up the nun,” the novel begins.) A tense timeline propels the narrative — if Talia can’t make her flight out of Bogotá she will lose her chance — which weaves in the back story of her family, from her parent’s early romance amid Colombia’s civil conflict to the birth of Talia and her siblings. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf, 2 March) Ishiguro fans will recognize the themes that propel his latest novel: the ways that technology interrupts our lives, the threat of obsolescence. The narrator, Klara, is a droid, an Artificial Friend and companion to 11-year-old Josie. Klara’s keen observations about the world offer perspective on Ishiguro’s imagined near future, in which groups of people are considered redundant and a parent’s drive for success can put her child in harm’s way. Later, by Stephen King (Hard Case Crime, 2 March) A young boy’s gift — the ability to talk to the dead — makes him vulnerable to the adults who often manipulate him for their own ends. (The child is even enlisted to help track down a violent criminal.) At the core of King’s thriller, though, lies the innocence of childhood and the close relationship between a mother and son. Libertie, by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin, 30 March) Greenidge, whose debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman, was acclaimed for its nuanced depiction of a Black family in the 1990s, turns to Reconstruction-era Brooklyn. Libertie has grown up free, the daughter of a Black female doctor. But Libertie’s mother has fairer skin than her daughter, which allows her to move through the world with more ease, and Libertie is drawn to the arts, not medicine. And after her marriage to a Haitian man fails to bring her the freedom he promised, Libertie must again re-imagine her life. Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive, by Carl Zimmer (Dutton, 9 March) The question at the heart of this book is deceptively simple: What is life? Few scientists can agree on a definition. Zimmer, a science writer for The Times, has studied life in countless iterations — orangutans, hagfish, Venus flytraps — and this book is his attempt to find an answer. Of Women and Salt, by Gabriela Garcia (Flatiron, 30 March) In this debut novel, the daughter of a Cuban immigrant is haunted by the desire to learn more about her history, setting in motion a multigenerational family story that leaps across the Americas. Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said, by Timothy Brennan (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 23 March) Brennan, who studied under Said at Columbia, the Palestinian-American academic’s longtime home, traces Said’s legacy as a critic, negotiator and even musician by drawing on his letters, unpublished manuscripts and FBI files. Who Is Maud Dixon?, by Alexandra Andrews (Little, Brown, March 2) After torching her career prospects at a publishing house, 26-year-old Florence — who desperately wants to be a writer — is offered an alluring new job: working as an assistant to the literary legend Maud Dixon, whose real name is a secret. The arrangement gives Florence an opportunity to seize what she believes is her destiny, but soon she risks laying claim to a life that isn’t hers. Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?: Essays, by Jesse McCarthy (Liveright, 30 March) McCarthy, an assistant professor at Harvard, draws on a broad array of cultural and historical influences — from Kara Walker to Nas to Sappho — in these essays, which he began writing in 2014. He approaches the country’s cultural changes in the intervening years through the lens of the arts and intellectual culture, opening with a provocative question: “What do people owe each other when debts accrued can never be repaid?”

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