It's been 11 years since Junot Díaz's critically acclaimed story collection, Drown, landed on bookshelves and from page one of his debut novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, any worries of a sophomore jinx disappear. The titular Oscar is a 300-pound-plus "lovesick ghetto nerd" with zero game (except for Dungeons & Dragons) who cranks out pages of fantasy fiction with the hopes of becoming a Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien. The book is also the story of a multi-generational family curse that courses through the book, leaving troubles and tragedy in its wake. This was the most dynamic, entertaining, and achingly heartfelt novel I've read in a long time. My head is still buzzing with the memory of dozens of killer passages that I dog-eared throughout the book. The rope-a-dope narrative is funny, hip, tragic, soulful, and bursting with desire. Make some room for Oscar Wao on your bookshelf--you won't be disappointed. --Brad Thomas Parsons http://www.amazon.com/Brief-Wondrous-Life-Oscar-Wao/dp/1594483299/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1291318259&sr=1-1
From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Philosopher and motorcycle repair-shop owner Crawford extols the value of making and fixing things in this masterful paean to what he calls manual competence, the ability to work with one's hands. According to the author, our alienation from how our possessions are made and how they work takes many forms: the decline of shop class, the design of goods whose workings cannot be accessed by users (such as recent Mercedes models built without oil dipsticks) and the general disdain with which we regard the trades in our emerging information economy. Unlike today's knowledge worker, whose work is often so abstract that standards of excellence cannot exist in many fields (consider corporate executives awarded bonuses as their companies sink into bankruptcy), the person who works with his or her hands submits to standards inherent in the work itself: the lights either turn on or they don't, the toilet flushes or it doesn't, the motorcycle roars or sputters. With wit and humor, the author deftly mixes the details of his own experience as a tradesman and then proprietor of a motorcycle repair shop with more philosophical considerations. http://www.amazon.com/Shop-Class-Soulcraft-Inquiry-Value/dp/B003YDXCZ0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1291318036&sr=8-1
Evans’ first collection of short stories deals thoughtfully and incisively with considerations of class, race, and coming-of-age. That six of the stories are told in their female or male protagonists’ first-person voices brings them immediacy and emotional resonance. Sometimes, though, this device results in narrative voices that sound too much alike while the stories they tell lack thematic originality. Interestingly, two of the best stories—“Someone Ought to Tell Her There’s Nowhere to Go,” about a deeply troubled veteran of the Iraq War, and “Jellyfish,” about the fraught relationship of a young woman and her father—are told in third person. Yet, whether told in first or third person, what all of the stories share is a demonstration of the profound influence of the past on the present-day lives of their characters and the intricacies of relationships among African American, white, Hispanic, and mixed-race young people. Clearly, Evans lives up to her reputation as an important new voice in literary fiction. --Michael Cart http://www.amazon.com/Before-Suffocate-Your-Fool-Self/dp/1594487693/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1291318307&sr=1-1
By exploring the ferociously cruel and dehumanizing practices of slavery in Jamaica, James adds a new chapter to the history of human bondage in the Americas -- "a story we may dare to think we already know" (New York Times Book Review). Powerful and eloquent, The Book of Night Women is narrated in a lilting Jamaican patois that at once underscores and eerily conflicts with the disturbing images of violence and degradation that James conjures. Though the novel is filled with familiar figures -- dissolute masters, jealous mistresses, house and field slaves -- James never lets them devolve into cliches or ciphers; instead, he creates convincingly human characters. A stunning testament to the dynamics of ultimate power and powerlessness, Night Women will keep readers up at night. http://www.amazon.com/Book-Night-Women-Marlon-James/dp/B003XU7W9Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1291318358&sr=1-1
Mustian's debut novel is a meditation on memory in which the dreams of a former Turkish soldier contain the truth of his past. Emmett Conn is 92 and living in Georgia when he begins dreaming of his youth and his involvement in the Armenian diaspora. After 70 years of amnesia caused by his WWI injuries, Emmett's past returns with a vengeance following surgery for a brain tumor. Emmett knows he fought the British at Gallipoli, was wounded, and was cared for by a nurse, Carol, whom he married and accompanied back to the U.S. But in his violent dreams, he relives his actions as a Turkish gendarme in the forced death march of thousands of Armenians into Syria. Emmett recalls snippets of his murderous and rapacious acts but also of his obsession with a beautiful young Armenian girl, Araxie. His dream life leads him to one conclusion: he must find Araxie and beg her forgiveness. Mustian's staccato prose, an attempt to emulate Emmett's skittish and elusive dreams, works sometimes better than others, but the novel effectively captures the human capacity for survival and redemption.