It’s going to be an exciting fall books season as always. Especially exciting is how many of this year’s buzzy books were written by bloomers.
Kit de Waal’s debut novel My Name is Leon centers on a biracial family navigating the foster care system in the 1980s. When nine-year-old Leon’s baby brother Jake is given to strangers because he is white while Leon is not, Leon vows to find him. The novel brings together de Waal’s experience working for fifteen years in criminal and family law, writing manuals on foster and adoption experience, and having a mother who was a foster caregiver. De Waal’s website describes My Name is Leon as “a heart-breaking story of love, identity, and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how—just when we least expect it—we manage to find our way home.” While already having received numerous awards for her writing, including the 2015 and 2014 Flash Fiction Prizes and the SI Leeds Literary Reader’s Choice Prize 2014, de Waal’s debut “heralds the arrival of a powerful new voice in literary fiction” (Jenny Fry, Penguin Viking Acquisition).
Peter Ho Davies is the author of The Welsh Girl (long-listed for the Man Booker Prize), and two short story collections, The Ugliest House in the World (winner of the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize) and Equal Love (A New York Times Notable Book). His second novel, The Fortunes, catalogues American history through the lens of four stories about Chinese Americans—a railroad baron’s valet who unintentionally awakens an explosion in Chinese labor, Hollywood’s first Chinese movie star, a hate-crime victim whose death rallies Asian Americans together, and a biracial writer visiting China to adopt a baby. Through the use of real and fictional figures in Chinese American history, Ho Davies “has created a masterful novel about what it is to feel like an outsider in the place you call home” (The Bookseller, UK). Celeste Ng calls Ho Davies’ novel “Panoramic in scope yet intimate in detail…The Fortunes might be the most honest, unflinching, cathartically biting novel I’ve read about the Chinese American experience. It asks the big questions about identity and history that every American needs to ask in the 21st century.”
Bill Broun’s Night of the Animals tells the story of Cuthbert Handley and his peculiar mission to release the animals of the London Zoo from captivity. The novel takes place in the year 2052, in which the European Union has dissolved and Britain is ruled by a brutal tyrant. Non-human species are being driven to extinction, and a suicide cult is set on destroying the world’s animals along with themselves. Endowed with the magical ability to communicate with the animal world, Cuthbert sets out to rescue the animals with the belief that they may be able to reunite him with his lost brother. “It took Bill Broun 14 years to write Night of the Animals. But the novel has proved remarkably timely in a summer of ‘Brexit’-tinged anxieties,” says NPR. Mary Gaitskill calls the novel “beautiful” and “strange”, while Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, praises it for its “vivid prose that breathes and trembles like a living thing…Night of the Animals will captivate you, surprise you, and remind you of the strange, precarious thing it is to be human.”
Award-winning journalist and writer Vanessa Hua makes her fiction debut with Deceit and Other Stories this fall. Winner of the Willow Books Literature Awards Grand Prize, the stories in this collection follow a cast of characters—from a Hong Kong movie star to a Korean-American pastor—to provide an insightful glimpse into the immigrant experience and demonstrate how it is possible for one to be connected to multiple worlds but belong to none. “With insight and wit, [Hua] writes about what wounds us and what we must survive,” says Laila Lalami. “Her searing stories explore the clash of cultures and the complex, always shifting allegiances that we carry in ourselves, our family, and our community. Deceit and Other Stories gives us characters whose lives are constrained and yet also enriched by different borders, cultures, and traditions. A bracing and beautiful debut, full of fire and light.”
Lastly, Bloom’s own Sonya Chung’s second novel will be released this fall. The Loved Ones is what The Millions writer Claire Cameron calls, “ a multigenerational saga about family, race, difference, and what it means to be a lost child in a big world.” The Loved Ones tells the story of Charles Lee and his biracial family, as well as the connection he forms with his children’s caregiver, Hannah. Kirkus described the character’s in Chung’s novel as being “wholly alive and breathtakingly human,” while Shannon Cain, author of The Necessity of Certain Behaviors, called it “an elegant love story about two people bound to one another through tragedy yet kept apart by time and circumstance.” The Loved Ones explores the devastating effects of calamity on family in a way that “will break your heart and mend it too” (Bridgett M. Davis, Salon, SF Chronicle, The Root).
Ally Donovan is an English major and Film & Media Studies minor at Skidmore College. She is passionate about writing, and she feels lucky to have been able to explore this passion in Italy, England, and most recently, France. In her spare time she enjoys playing the guitar, listening to Bob Dylan, and cuddling with her dog.
Homepage photo credit: Janaina C. Falkiewicz via photopin