We wrap up book news for our readers in our regular Book Digest segment with books from Jesmyn Ward, Kwame Dawes, Noo Saro-Wiwa, and Sarah Dass.
When the Vibe Is Right Novel by Sarah Dass
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date: May 30, 2023
Where to find it: Click here.
Sarah Dass was born in Trinidad but has lived in Tobago since she was two years old. A graduate of University College London, she works as an office administrator by day and writes stories about the Caribbean by night. When she’s not writing, she’s reading or taking walks with her dachshund, Stella. Sarah is also the author of Where the Rhythm Takes You, a reimagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
When the Vibe Is Right Novel
From the author of Where the Rhythm Takes You comes a delightful enemies-to-lovers, contemporary romance set during Trinidad’s Carnival celebration. There are two things Tess Crawford knows for sure: She’s destined to be a great Trinidadian Carnival costume designer like her renowned uncle, Russel Messina, and will one day inherit leadership of the family’s masquerade band, Grandeur. Her classmate, the popular social media influencer, Brandon Richards, is the bane of her existence. Everything about him irks her, from his annoying nickname for Tess (“Boop”) to his association with David, her awful ex. But when the future of Grandeur nears the brink of collapse in the face of band rivalry, Tess finds to her chagrin that she must team up with Brandon in a desperate attempt to revive the company. As Tess and Brandon spend more time together, Tess begins to wonder if everything she thought she knew might not be so certain after all…. Set in lush, gorgeous Trinidad, this is a novel about finding love in the most unexpected places.
Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward
Publisher: Scribner, Simon and Schuster
Date: October 24, 2023
Where to find it: Simon and Schuster.
Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has received the MacArthur Genius Grant, a Stegner Fellowship, a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, the Strauss Living Prize, and the 2022 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. She is the historic winner—first woman and first Black American—of two National Book Awards for Fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) and Salvage the Bones (2011). She is also the author of the novel Where the Line Bleeds and the memoir Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and the Media for a Just Society Award. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Tulane University and lives in Mississippi.
Let Us Descend
Let Us Descend is a reimagining of American slavery, as beautifully rendered as it is heart-wrenching. Searching, harrowing, replete with transcendent love, the novel is a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation.
Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the reader’s guide through this hellscape. As she struggles through the miles-long march, Annis turns inward, seeking comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with spirits: of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take. While Ward leads readers through the descent, this, her fourth novel, is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation.
From one of the most singularly brilliant and beloved writers of her generation, this miracle of a novel inscribes Black American grief and joy into the very land—the rich but unforgiving forests, swamps, and rivers of the American South. Let Us Descend is Jesmyn Ward’s most magnificent novel yet, a masterwork for the ages.
Sturge Town by Kwame Dawes
Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty-two books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. He is Glenna Luschei Editor-in-Chief of Prairie Schooner and George W. Holmes University Professor at the University of Nebraska. Dawes is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His awards include an Emmy, the Felix Dennis (Forward) Prize for Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing, and the Windham Campbell Prize for poetry.
In this stunning volume, acclaimed poet Kwame Dawes explores the mythic, ancestral, and spiritual journeys that make up a life.
The site of the ruined ancestral home of Kwame Dawes’s family, in one of the earliest post-slavery free villages in Jamaica, Sturge Town is at once a place of myth and, for Dawes, a metaphor of the journeying that has taken him from Ghana, through Jamaica, and to the United States. The poet ranges through time, pursued by a keen sense of mortality, and engages in an intimate dialogue with the reader―serious, confessional, alarmed, and sometimes teasing. Whether finding beauty in the quotidian or taking astonishing imaginative leaps, these poems speak movingly of self-reflection, family crises, loss, transcendence, the shattering realities of political engagement, and an unremitting investment in the vivid indeterminacy of poetry.
From “Recall” Oh, pipe me back to my familiar earth, for it is slipping slowly from me.
Black Ghosts: A Journey Into the Lives of Africans in China by Noo Saro-Wiwa
Publisher: Canongate Books
Date: November 2, 2023.
Where to find it: Canongate,
Noo Saro-Wiwa was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and raised in England. She attended King’s College London and Columbia University in New York. She is an author and journalist currently working for Conde Nast Traveller. Her first book, Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, was published in 2012 and was named Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year, nominated by the Financial Times as one of the best travel books and included as one of the 10 Best Contemporary Books on Africa by the Guardian. It was also shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award in 2013 and won the Albatros Travel Literature Prize in 2016.
Black Ghosts: A Journey Into the Lives of Africans in China
China today is a land of opportunity for African people blocked from commerce with most of Europe and Northern America. It is also an intersection of racism and prejudice. Noo Saro-Wiwa goes in search of China’s ‘Black Ghosts’, African economic migrants in the People’s Republic. Living in clustered communities, they are key to the trade between the continents. Her fascinating encounters include a cardiac surgeon, a drug dealer, a visa overstayer and men married to Chinese women who speak English with Nigerian accents. This is a story of intersecting cultures told with candour and compassion, focusing on the shared humanity between the sojourner and their hosts.