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Here’s a list of books by diverse authors your book club should definitely check out in 2022.
One of the most valuable parts of reading is exploring the experience of someone different from you. Fiction is one of the best ways for people to work toward more understanding. I’m not saying one fiction novel can solve all the world’s problems but it can help start to build a bridge.
For instance, I’ve loved seeing book clubs embrace Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, which I believe is one of the best fiction books to come out in years. It’s an impactful novel that deserves all the acclaim it has received and more.
But one book is not enough. It’s important to continue reading books by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) authors throughout the year. I’m placing a greater focus on featuring books by those authors on the site.
So I thought I would start off the year with a list of some new releases by diverse authors that should be on your radar for 2022. In addition, I’m featuring some of my favorite published books by BIPOC authors that your book club should consider as well. I will continue to update this list throughout the year so be sure to bookmark this page.
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan promises to be an impactful and haunting read on motherhood and identity. The story follows a young mother whose one lapse in judgement lands her in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance. Very chilling. It is said to focus on how mothers are judged—especially mothers of color. Here’s the synopsis:
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.
Until Frida has a very bad day.
The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.
A searing page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic.
The School for Good Mothers releases on Jan. 4 and you can order the book on Amazon here.
Wahala by Nikki May
Wahala by Nikki May promises a more diverse, modern and real version of Sex and the City. I think that is something we are all ready for! The story follows three Anglo-Nigerian best friends and a glamorous fourth woman who infiltrates their group. It features humor while also providing a look at modern women and friendship. But it’s not all champagne and fancy dinners, as it sounds like there is also a sinister side that comes out as well. Here’s the synopsis:
Ronke wants happily ever after and 2.2. kids. She’s dating Kayode and wants him to be “the one” (perfect, like her dead father). Her friends think he’s just another in a long line of dodgy Nigerian boyfriends.
Boo has everything Ronke wants—a kind husband, gorgeous child. But she’s frustrated, unfulfilled, plagued by guilt, and desperate to remember who she used to be.
Simi is the golden one with the perfect lifestyle. No one knows she’s crippled by impostor syndrome and tempted to pack it all in each time her boss mentions her “urban vibe.” Her husband thinks they’re trying for a baby. She’s not.
When the high-flying, charismatic Isobel explodes into the group, it seems at first she’s bringing out the best in each woman. (She gets Simi an interview in Shanghai! Goes jogging with Boo!) But the more Isobel intervenes, the more chaos she sows, and Ronke, Simi, and Boo’s close friendship begins to crack.
A sharp, modern take on friendship, ambition, culture, and betrayal, Wahala (trouble) is an unforgettable novel from a brilliant new voice.
Wahala releases on Jan. 11 and you can order the book on Amazon here.
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu is receiving a lot of buzz and sounds like a truly imaginative novel. Science fiction isn’t typically my go-to for book club recommendations but this one is very compelling and I can see it reaching a board audience. The story follows a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague. It’s targeted to fans of Station Eleven and Cloud Atlas. I have a feeling this will be one of the most unique stories you’ll read this year. Here’s the synopsis:
In 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika Crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus.
Once unleashed, the Arctic plague will reshape life on Earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects—a pig—develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.
From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resilience of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.
How High We Go in the Dark releases on Jan. 18 and you can order the book on Amazon here.
What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris
What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris is a story about Black girlhood that will no doubt stick with you long after you finish the last page. The story follows almost-eleven-year-old Kenyatta Bernice (KB), as she and her sister try to make sense of their new life with their estranged grandfather in the wake of their father’s death and their mother’s disappearance. This novel is told in the vein of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones and Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. Really looking forward to it. Here’s the synopsis:
An ode to Black girlhood and adolescence as seen through KB’s eyes, What the Fireflies Knew follows KB after her father dies of an overdose and the debts incurred from his addiction cause the loss of the family home in Detroit. Soon thereafter, KB and her teenage sister, Nia, are sent by their overwhelmed mother to live with their estranged grandfather in Lansing, Michigan. Over the course of a single sweltering summer, KB attempts to navigate a world that has turned upside down.
Her father has been labeled a fiend. Her mother’s smile no longer reaches her eyes. Her sister, once her best friend, now feels like a stranger. Her grandfather is grumpy and silent. The white kids who live across the street are friendly, but only sometimes. And they’re all keeping secrets. As KB vacillates between resentment, abandonment, and loneliness, she is forced to carve out a different identity for herself and find her own voice.
A dazzling and moving novel about family, identity, and race, What the Fireflies Knew poignantly reveals that heartbreaking but necessary component of growing up–the realization that loved ones can be flawed and that the perfect family we all dream of looks different up close.
What the Fireflies Knew releases on Feb. 1 and you can order the book on Amazon here.
Red Thread of Fate by Lyn Liao Butler
Red Thread of Fate by Lyn Liao Butler is said to be a heartfelt meditation on what makes a family. The initial seed of inspiration grew from the author’s own experience adopting her son from China and learning about the bond between the child and their ayi (nanny) at the orphanages. The story features a central mystery along with focusing on what makes a family. Here’s the synopsis:
Two days before Tam and Tony Kwan receive their letter of acceptance for the son they are adopting from China, Tony and his estranged cousin Mia are killed unexpectedly in an accident. A shell-shocked Tam learns she is named the guardian to Mia’s five-year-old daughter, Angela. With no other family around, Tam has no choice but to agree to take in the girl she hasn’t seen since the child was an infant.
Overwhelmed by her life suddenly being upended, Tam must also decide if she will complete the adoption on her own and bring home the son waiting for her in a Chinese orphanage. But when a long-concealed secret comes to light just as she and Angela start to bond, their fragile family is threatened. As Tam begins to unravel the events of Tony and Mia’s past in China, she discovers the true meaning of love and the threads that bind her to the family she is fated to have.
Red Thread of Fate releases on Feb. 8 and you can order the book on Amazon here.
Good Intentions by Kasim Ali
If you’re a fan of The Big Sick movie and Nick Hornby novels, be sure to add Good Intentions by Kasim Ali on your list. The story follows a British Pakistani man with a hidden romance. He has to make a choice between where his heart lies but also family obligations. Sounds very compelling. Here’s the synopsis:
t’s the countdown to the New Year, and Nur is steeling himself to tell his parents that he’s seeing someone. A young British Pakistani man, Nur has spent years omitting details about his personal life to maintain his image as the golden child. And it’s come at a cost.
Once, Nur was a restless college student, struggling to fit in. At a party, he meets Yasmina, a beautiful and self-possessed aspiring journalist. They start a conversation―first awkward, then absorbing. And as their relationship develops, so too does Nur’s self-destruction. He falls deeper into traps of his own making, attempting to please both Yasmina and his family until he must finally reveal the truth: Yasmina is Black, and he loves her.
Deftly transporting readers between that first night and the years beyond, Kasim Ali’s Good Intentions exposes with unblinking authenticity the complexities of immigrant families and racial prejudice. It is a crackling, wryly clever depiction of standing on the precipice of adulthood, piecing together who it is you’re meant to be.
Good Intentions releases on March 8 and you can order the book on Amazon here.
A Ballard of Love and Glory by Reyna Grande
A Ballard of Love and Glory by Reyna Grande takes place during the Mexican-American War. This historical fiction saga follows a Mexican army nurse and an Irish soldier who must fight for their love amidst the backdrop of war. I always appreciate when historical fiction tells stories outside the typical WWII time frame. I’m really looking forward to this one and I’m sure we all will learn much from it. Here’s the synopsis:
The year is 1846. After the controversial annexation of Texas, the US Army marches south to provoke war with México over the disputed Río Grande boundary.
Ximena Salomé is a gifted Mexican healer who dreams of building a family with the man she loves on the coveted land she calls home. But when Texas Rangers storm her ranch and shoot her husband dead, her dreams are burned to ashes. Vowing to honor her husband’s memory and defend her country, Ximena uses her healing skills as an army nurse on the frontlines of the ravaging war.
Meanwhile, John Riley, an Irish immigrant in the Yankee army desperate to help his family escape the famine devastating his homeland, is sickened by the unjust war and the unspeakable atrocities against his countrymen by nativist officers. In a bold act of defiance, he swims across the Río Grande and joins the Mexican Army—a desertion punishable by execution. He forms the St. Patrick’s Battalion, a band of Irish soldiers willing to fight to the death for México’s freedom.
When Ximena and John meet, a dangerous attraction blooms between them. As the war intensifies, so does their passion. Swept up by forces with the power to change history, they fight not only for the fate of a nation but for their future together.
Heartbreaking and lyrical, Reyna Grande’s spellbinding saga, inspired by true events and historical figures, brings these two unforgettable characters to life and illuminates a largely forgotten moment in history that impacts the US-México border to this day.
Will Ximena and John survive the chaos of this bitter war, or will their love be devoured along with the land they strive to defend?
A Ballard of Love and Glory releases on March 15 and you can order the book on Amazon here.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Transcendent Kingdom by Yea Gyasi is literary fiction at its finest. There’s also a bit of a melancholy feel to this one so you do need to be in the right mindset when you start it. The story follows a Ghanaian family in Alabama as they try to recover from a deep loss. It features a debate of science vs. religion, a look at the devastating effects of opioid addiction and the complexity of the immigration experience in the Deep South. Here’s the synopsis:
Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive.
Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief—a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.
The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
I really loved The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson and encourage you all to check it out. The story focuses on the divide between Black and white communities, what it means to be a mother as well as a focus on the illusion of the American Dream. A dynamic and quiet story that will make you think. Here’s the synopsis:
It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.
Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives.
Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi is one of those novels that truly takes you to another time and place. This is quite the vivid story and you’ll learn a lot too, especially about India’s culture in the 1950s, which was an interesting time period for the country. The story follows one woman’s search for independence in a society that is struggling between traditional and modern thinking. Here’s the synopsis:
Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…
Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.