How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

A young man painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A father who packs furniture to move into homes he'll never afford. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. In her stunning Giller Prize-winning debut book of fiction, Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values. As one of Thammavongsa's characters says, "All we wanted was to live." And in these stories, they do—brightly, ferociously, unforgettably (Penguin Random House).

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Vanishing Half by  Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect? (Penguin Random House).

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White Teeth by  Zadie Smith

Smith (recently profiled in an issue of The New Yorker) has written an epic tale of two interconnected families. It begins with the suicide attempt of hapless, coin-flipping Archibald Jones on New Year's Day, 1975, and ends, after a 100-year ramble back and forth through time, on New Year's Eve, 1992, with his accidental (or preordained?) release of a poor mutant mouse programmed to do away with the randomness of creation. Smith evokes images of teeth throughout the novel. Do they symbolize some characteristic shared by all of humanity in this novel about ethnicity, class, belonging, homeland, family, adolescence, identity, blindness, and ignorance? Or are they meant to distract the reader from the all-encompassing theme of fate? Smith's characters are tossed about by decisions made deliberately, rashly, or by the flip of a coin. As Smith pieces together this story with bits of fabric from different times and places, the reader must contemplate whether our choices determine our future or whether fate leads us to an inevitable destiny (Library Journal).

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The Road by  Cormac McCarthy

Set in the smoking ashes of a postapocalyptic America, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road tells the story of a man and his son’s journey toward the sea and an uncertain salvation. The world they pass through is a ghastly vision of scorched countryside and blasted cities "held by cores of blackened looters who tunneled among the ruins and crawled from the rubble white of tooth and eye carrying charred and anonymous tins of food in nylon nets like shoppers in the commissaries of hell" [p. 181]. It is a starved world, all plant and animal life dead or dying, some of the few human survivors even eating each other alive.

The father and son move through the ruins searching for food and shelter, trying to keep safe from murderous, roving bands. They have only a pistol to defend themselves, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food–and each other (Penguin Random House).

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Homegoing by  Yaa Gyasi

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into two different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonist, and will live in comfort in the sprawling, palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising "half-caste" children who will be sent abroad to be educated in England before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the Empire. Her sister, Esi, will be imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle's women's dungeon, before being shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery. Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the north to the Great Migration to the streets of 20th century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi has written a modern masterpiece, a novel that moves through histories and geographies and--with outstanding economy and force--captures the intricacies of the troubled yet hopeful human spirit (Ottawa Public Library).

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Ayesha At Last (P&P retelling)by  Umza Jalaluddin

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn't want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can't get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind (HarperCollins Publishers).

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The Break by  Katherena Vermette

When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.

In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed (House of Anansi Press).

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Born a Crime by  Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle (Penguin Random House).

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Miguetsch! Portrait d'un passeur d'histoires par Michel Noël

« Pien est né de l'union entre un Algonquin et une femme blanche qui n'a jamais réussi à s'adapter à la vie en forêt. Cette dernière étant retournée à la ville peu après sa naissance, le jeune métis grandit donc sur une falaise surplombant le lac Cabonga aux côtés de ses grands-parents et de son père, le gérant du tout dernier poste de traite de la Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson. Dans un grand cri d'amour, le narrateur devenu adulte raconte son enfance selon un mode de vie aujourd'hui révolu. […] [SDM] ». -Bibliothèque publique d’Ottawa

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Rap pour violoncelle seul par  Maryse Pagé

« Condamné à effectuer des travaux communautaires, Malik se retrouve dans une résidence pour aînés auprès d'un vieil homme détestable qu'il n'a nulle envie de connaître. Sous la petite délinquance de l'un et l'aigreur de l'autre se cache une sensibilité qui, peu à peu, transformera cette relation forcée en amitié sincère. » -Bibliothèque publique d’Ottawa

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