The Best BIPOC New Releases + Beach Reads

3 days ago 6

partial cover of Blue Ruin by Hari Kunzru

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Erica Ezeifedi, Associate Editor, is a transplant from Nashville, TN that has settled in the North East. In addition to being a writer, she has worked as a victim advocate and in public libraries, where she has focused on creating safe spaces for queer teens, mentorship, and providing test prep instruction free to students. Outside of work, much of her free time is spent looking for her next great read and planning her next snack. Find her on Twitter at @Erica_Eze_.

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May is playing with my feelings, because how are we already practically done with half the month?!

My bewilderment aside, there’s also good news — a trailer for the Queenie adaptation has dropped, and there are three episodes for the 14th season of Doctor Who, starring Ncuti Gatwa.

Books-wise, I’ve got a great mix. There’s a heisty-thriller set in 16th-century Korea, a genre-blending memoir, and a couple recommendations for beach reading. Now, what you consider beach reading may be a little different from what I consider it to be. To me, it’s something that is usually a little lighter in terms of subject matter, and something that isn’t too involved. Cozy mysteries and romances usually do it for me, and I have a rec for one of each after the new releases.

cover of Blue Ruin by Hari Kunzru

Blue Ruin by Hari Kunzru

I’m adding this to the growing list of books about artists coming out lately. Here, Jay’s previously promising career as an artist fresh out of his London art school program has sputtered into an existence of working without documentation in the U.S. While living out of his car, he delivers groceries to people in a wealthy area in New York during the pandemic. It’s during one of these delivery runs that he runs into someone from his art school days. When he first sees Alice, a former boo thing, on the enormous estate, he hopes she doesn’t recognize him. But she does, despite the dirty mask he’s wearing and the 20 years since she left him for his best friend and fellow artist, Rob. She invites him to isolate and recover from his sickness in their barn, and the time Jay spends there turns to time spent revisiting the past, and reconsidering what being an artist means.

cover of A Crane Among Wolves by June Hur

A Crane Among Wolves by June Hur

I love how June Hur sets her historical YA mysteries and thrillers during the Joseon era — a period of Korean history that lasted from the 14th century to the 19th century. Here, 17-year-old Iseul and her sister have lived a sheltered life away from the tyranny of the current king. But then, her older sister Suyeon catches the king’s eye. Now, Iseul travels outside through the forbidden territory to get to the capital and save her sister. Then there’s Prince Daehyun, the half-brother of the king, who is trying to start a coup that will overthrow his awful brother. Iseul’s and Daehyun’s paths eventually collide, and, though they detest each other at first, they’re united in their hate for the king.

cover of Another Word for Love by Carvell Wallace

Another Word for Love by Carvell Wallace

In this memoir, award-winning journalist Carvell Wallace peels back layers of pain, beauty, and survival that have encompassed his life as a Black queer person in America. He recounts his experiences with homelessness, living in a white Pennsylvania town, and raising kids, and the love he’s experienced through it all.

cover of Magical/Realism: Essays on Music, Memory, Fantasy, and Borders by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

Magical/Realism: Essays on Music, Memory, Fantasy, and Borders by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

In these essays, award-winning poet Villarreal bends genres to look at her personal experiences — like a difficult childhood and divorce — colonial consequences, and migration, and analyzes them through a pop culture lens. In one piece, she’s looking at gender performativity through Nirvana and Selena, and in the next, the racial implications of Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow. She also looks at fantasy and considers collective imagination and how magic and ancestral teachings become invalidated through colonialism.

Recommendations: Beach Reads

death by bubble tea cover

Death by Bubble Tea by Jennifer J. Chow

Yale and Celine are cousins who haven’t seen each other in 20 years when Celine visits from Hong Kong. That doesn’t stop Yale’s dad from insisting the two of them bond over running a food stall in a night market (lol at dad getting some free labor). When a customer turns up dead after drinking their bubble tea — which was so adorably garnished with some suspicious gold flakes Celine added — the two girls become suspects. They have to work together to clear their names before they end up spending even more time together in the clink.

cover of Can't Let Her Go by Kianna Alexander

Can’t Let Her Go by Kianna Alexander

In this steamy romance, Peaches and Jamie are both apart of the same friend group. They’re also two people who are charmingly weird, and who are wondering if moving their friendship to the next level is the right move. Peaches is on a road trip that will help her determine her future, while Jamie is trying to expand her business while dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s passing. Yes, they’re already friends and find comfort in each other, but is now the right time for romance?

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