This month we put a spotlight on six new books that cut against the grain of life, music, history and politics.
In need of a fresh new read? Check out these 6 suggestions that will have you turning the page.
1 MADAME X
Novelist Sadeqa Johnson should take a bow for her latest effort. Fans of 2011's Love in a Carry-On Bag (12th Street Press), her first offering, will devour every word of Second House From the Corner (Thomas Dunne, $25.99). Even those unfamiliar with the storyteller can certainly relate to Felicia Lyons, her heroine, a stay-at-home mom who must confront some shady secrets from her past.
2 THE SVENGALI
Some folks have an eye for talent. Producer L.A. Reid has an eye, an ear and a gut, having been instrumental in the careers of such superstars as Toni Braxton, Kanye West, Rihanna, TLC, Pink, OutKast, Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber and Usher. In Sing to Me (Harper, $29.99), the Cincinnati native mixes memoir with service to chart his rise as one of the music industry's most successful executives.
3 THE EXPERIMENT
When you first step into the pages of Kaitlyn Greenidge's wonderfully audacious debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Algonquin, $25.95), you're not quite sure where she's going. Well, buckle up for an unforgettable journey. Laurel Freeman, who has mastered sign language, leaps at an opportunity to move her family from Boston's South End to a leafy Massachusetts town near the state's lush coast. Hear that? It's the sound of a shoe dropping as we learn that as a part of their relocation, a sinister research institute has moved a chimpanzee into their new home, where Mrs. Freeman is to teach the primate sign language as well.
4 ORDINARY PEOPLE
Six years ago actress and advocate Holly Robinson Peete and her daughter (along with Denene Millner) wrote My Brother Charlie (Scholastic Press; grades 2–5), a colorful and compassionate book about coping with a family member with autism. Now, in Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express (Scholastic Press, $17.99; grades 7–9) teenagers Ryan Elizabeth Peete and her twin brother, RJ, who is autistic, along with their mom, Holly, detail their everyday joys and triumphs navigating life when a loved one has this increasingly common disorder.
5 COLD WAR 2.0
I'm a pushover for a good satire, and first-time novelist Paul Goldberg's The Yid: A Novel (Picador, $26) had me at the opening lines of this vivid and whip-smart look at the Cold War and its implications for our world today. I was particularly drawn to the writer's handling of Friederich Lewis, a Black engineer from Omaha who turned up in Communist Russia after fleeing Jim Crow oppression and found himself constantly being mistaken for Renaissance man Paul Robeson, who had made a pilgrimage to the Soviet Union.
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6 SISTER JUSTICE
It's early still, but it's safe to say that The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice (Knopf, $30) will deservedly capture several literary awards this year. More than two decades in the making, the product of author Patricia Bell-Scott's exhaustive reporting is a definitive biography of Murray, a trailblazing legal scholar and a tremendous influence on Mrs. Roosevelt, who deepened her commitment to civil rights until her death in 1962.
Follow ESSENCE Editorial Projects Director Patrik Henry Bass on Twitter @PATRIKSPICKS.