From the Wire

The Best New BIPOC Books Out This Week

As we settle into May, the hip hop girlies have been engaging in a historic tussle that has been just as problematic as it has been entertaining, if we’re keeping it real. I’ve been very invested in it, and seeing so many different people’s takes on it has shown me something interesting: there’s so much nuance lost when someone analyzes something that sits outside their culture.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s cool that we share music and other art forms between cultures and languages, but this Kendrick Lamar vs. Drake beef has shown me that a lot of people who didn’t grow up within or adjacent enough to Black culture don’t pick up on a lot of seemingly obvious things that Black people do. You reading this newsletter means you understand this, but this rap beef has just shown it to me anew.

But books, right? Let’s get to those. And, speaking of specific cultural experiences and the importance of reading about a culture from the perspective of someone who grew up in it, this month’s cultural heritage focus asks us to give space to our Asian and Pacific Islander folks, which many of today’s new releases do splendidly.

Cinema Love by Jiaming Tang

Scraping by in New York City’s Chinatown, Bao Mei and her husband, Old Second, have been married for over 30 years, but their marriage is anything but typical. Years ago, they met in rural China at a cinema, where Bao Mei worked at the box office, and where Old Second frequented as a customer…and as a gay man seeking love. In between showings of classic war films were gay men seeking trysts, with Bao Mei acting as the keeper of their secrets. But then Old Second’s sexuality is discovered, and he and Bao Mei flee to the United States to face uncertainty. With Cinema Love, we see the cost of love, immigration, and how the past can forever flavor the present.

cover of Skin & Bones by Renée Watson

Skin & Bones by Renée Watson

In Watson’s adult debut, 40-year-old Lena Baker feels like she has things figured out. She’s got besties she kicks it with regularly, and a wedding just a few weeks away. But then a wedding-day confession rocks her world and she finds herself grieving instead of joyful. Now, she has to find ways to continue to support her daughter, educate on the lost history of Black people in Oregon, all while everything she knows about friendship, motherhood, and relationships gets brought into question.

cover of Love, Lies, and Cherry Pie by Jackie Lau

Love, Lies, and Cherry Pie by Jackie Lau

In this latest rom-com by romance heavyweight Jackie Lau, writer and barista Emily Hung is being pressed to get with engineer Mark Chan, a man her mother acts like is god’s gift to the world. Meanwhile, Emily thinks he’s a little full of himself when she has to make conversation with him at her sister’s wedding. But, seeing as she’s the last of her parent’s daughters to get hitched, she decides that fake dating Mark might be the way to get her mother off her back. Both Emily and Mark have to lean into their rouse more, though, once their family friends start seeing them out and about, and we all know where that leads.

cover of The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

The Ministry of Time has a little bit of everything — time-traveling romance, slice-of-life comedy, and even spy thriller elements. A little ways into the future, a civil servant is offered a promotion and the chance to work on a new project that is…a little weird. It involves her working as a “bridge” to a time “expat” — someone from another time. Her expat is Commander Graham Gore, a man from 1847 who was supposed to have died during an Arctic expedition. As he lives with the civil servant turned bridge, and adjusts to things like washing machines, music apps, and women’s constantly exposed calves, he falls in love. A zany cast of secondary characters — which include everything from a 17th-century film (and Tinder) lover, to a former spy and a WWI captain — round out this everywhere kind of story.

cover of The Return of Ellie Black by Emiko Jean

The Return of Ellie Black by Emiko Jean

Twenty years ago, Detective Chelsey Clahoun’s sister disappeared. Her sister was never seen again, so Chelsey dedicated her life to finding other missing girls, which is a pretty depressing vocation, not going to lie. Turns out people are awful, and Chelsey’s cases rarely end nicely, but then a teenager who’d been missing for two years — Ellie Black — turns up alive in the woods. The happy turn of events turns sour, though, when Chelsey realizes that Ellie is not trying to spill on what happened, who took her, or where she’s been all this time, and Chelsey will need to know all those things if she’s to stop another girl from being taken.

cover of Shanghailanders by Juli Min

Shanghailanders by Juli Min

This family saga, with its ever-looming apocalypse, takes us backwards in time. We start off in 2040, with handsome and wealthy family man Leo Yang. He and his wife Eko change routes from Boston to Paris once their eldest daughter reveals something big. Meanwhile, a year prior, their youngest daughter Kiko is following in her idol Marilyn Monroe’s footsteps, no matter the cost. As the years wind down to 2014, and the lives of the parents and daughters of the Yang family, and those around them, take centerstage, we see that certain things — like secrets, the complexities of love, and the realities of longing — never change.

cover of Hunted by Abir Mukherjee

Hunted by Abir Mukherjee

In London, a man is brought in by the police for questioning. Then, in Florida, a mother fears that her son has been radicalized. The two parents are connected through their missing children and an organization in Oregon that has diabolical plans for the U.S. Both parents are thrown together, on the run, and in a race against time to save the country and their children.


For more new releases, check out our New Books newsletter and the New Release Index.

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