Spring books 2023 round-up, part 2

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday May 2, 2023
Share this Post:
Spring books 2023 round-up, part 2

Continuing with the sequel to our spring book picks, here are many more ways to enjoy new works of fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and even a poetry volume by Eileen Myles. We have a mind-bending tale of a tech worker's life gone awry, a memoir from a Tony Award-nominated actor, a cult survivor's childhood memories, and a book exploring how food is used as a panacea for heartbreak.

"The Adult" by Bronwyn Fischer, $27 (Algonquin Books) May 23
Toronto lesbian author Fischer's insightful coming-of-age novel follows eighteen-year-old poet Natalie as she embarks on her first year at a Canadian college. Enter Nora, a woman almost twice her age, who seduces her and unleashes a torrent of self-doubt, self-conscious stress, and the kind of sexual energy that percolates with desire and need throughout the story.

Though theirs is not the only relationship the novel explores — Natalie's dorm-mate Clara is on hand to create even more insecurities as well as a classmate having an affair with a poetry professor — the age gap and power structure dynamics between Natalie and Nora is kept front and center in a page-turning novel that explores the emotionally revelatory nature of sexual awakenings. This is a surprising engrossing story of innocence, obsession and desire.

"Flux" by Jinwoo Chong, $26.99 (Melville House)
This debut reads like a fever dream caught in a spinning house of mirrors. There are three central characters and several genres working at the book's core: young Bo who is actively grieving his mother's death; Blue, a mute middle-aged man who just came out of a two-month coma; and half-Korean queer magazine worker Brandon, 28, who is fired just before Christmas. Brandon gets a strange job offer from tech company Flux, founded by a mysterious overachieving firebrand, and the story begins its extensive series of detours and unexpected timeline zips and zaps. This inventive brain-bending first novel by Chong will twist and turn in your mind long after you finish.

"And Then He Sang a Lullaby" by Ani Kayode Somtochukwu, $27 (Grove Press/Roxane Gay) June
This electric debut from Nigerian writer Ani Kayode Somtochukwu chronicles the lives of two queer students, August and Segun, at the University of Nigeria. August struggles with self-confidence and worthiness but these issues take a back seat once he meets confident, unapologetic Segun at a cybercafe and becomes immediately enamored. The taboo nature of their coupling is raw and real since their homeland has essentially outlawed homosexuality. The two must find ways to meet each other in the middle of insecurities, identity struggles, bullying, abuse, and the processes of coming out to a world that seemingly doesn't want them to. This love story is as beautiful as it is moving and unforgettable.

"The Late Americans" by Brandon Taylor, $28 (Riverhead) May
Queer Black author Taylor follows his stellar 2021 story collection, "Filthy Animals," with another character-driven morsel, this time in the form of a full-length novel about an ever-expanding group of Iowa City MFA graduate students, friends, and lovers whose lives intersect in interesting ways.

The cast is numerous and includes Seamus, a poet who also cooks at a hospice; Noah and Fatima, who are dancers; Ivan who used to perform but has now decided to pursue more provocative entrepreneurial endeavors, and Fyodor, an employee at a slaughterhouse who argues a lot with his vegetarian partner. Mostly disillusioned by their relationships' complexities, these folks have lots to say to each other, to the rooms they occupy, and toward contemporary society in general. Though the novel is well written, it's very busy and readers may find themselves involved in a juggling act to keep everyone in order. It's a challenge but well worth the effort.

"Uncle of the Year & Other Debatable Triumphs" by Andrew Rannells, $28 (Crown Books) May 16
Actor Andrew Rannells, who starred in HBO's "Girls" and "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway, lets readers in on a glimpse of his private world, his younger years, and life as an uncle to his nieces and nephews. The vignettes are wide-ranging and volley across subject matters both provocative, sensitive, and outright hilarious. Losing his wallet after a night of East Village shenanigans rubs up against an anecdote on his disappointing dating life and attendance at the 2015 Golden Globe Awards ceremony with Lena Dunham. The title essay will hit readers right in the heart when Rannells gracefully describes the blissful joy found in his role as a "guncle." This is breezy entertainment perfect for a day in the park.

"a 'Working Life'" by Eileen Myles, $26 (Grove Press) April 18
Skillful and rhythmic, the new poetry collection from Eileen Myles utilizes an economy of words to convey images from everyday life like pets and dark pungent coffee. Through their poetry, they also impart resonant messages about the blissfulness of sex and love and the very real threats of climate change and capitalism. Their prose structure is spare and words seem sprinkled up and down each page, sometimes haphazardly. Through their uniquely blunt wordplay, Myles beckons the reader to move closer into a world where language, emotion, social commentary and mundane activity are given due attention and appreciation.

"The Daddy Diaries" by Andy Cohen, $29.99 (Henry Holt) May 9
This fifth book from the "Real Housewives" franchise ringleader takes a closer look into his life throughout 2022 as a celebrity, a producer, a gay man, but more importantly, as a single working father of two children, Ben and Lucy. Though the book is written with Cohen's typical bubbly conversational prose and excessive namedropping, it's fun to read and refreshingly not too self-absorbed. There are fights, personal disasters, work-related melodrama, friends, foes, and even elation at receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One place Cohen refuses to go is between the sheets of his dating life, which may annoy some and satisfy others. Overall, Andy Cohen continues to strike gold with this series of memoirs exposing his life for what it is, not for what it may seem on the small screen.

"When the World Didn't End" by Guinevere Turner, $28 (Crown Books) May 23
Lesbian actress, screenwriter, and director Turner reflects back on a childhood spent in the care of members of the Lyman Family, a cult-like group scattered into sects spread out across the country. In 1975, the Lyman family told their communes that the world would end and their only hope for survival was to board a spaceship and fly to Venus. That never happened, of course, but the ensuing years shuffled Turner around to various homes with various caregivers. Based on her extensive journal entries, this is a harrowing chronicle of life growing up in a cultish environment and attempting to acclimate oneself to normal life after it's all over.

"Recipe for Disaster: 40 Superstar Stories of Sustenance and Survival" by Alison Riley, $27.95 (Chronicle Books)
In this entertaining and instructive collective of food and mood, 40 personalities, many queer, reflect on disastrous events in their lives and how food satiated them. Author Alison Riley, a Lyme Disease survivor, posed the question, "Can you name a low point, of any size and shape, and the food memory you associate with surviving it?" to a host of personalities, authors, artists, chefs, designers, gardeners, and performers and the result is a book of personal truths and the recipes that inspired their stories of survival.

When writer Samantha Irby got dumped, her cinnamon and curry-infused "Rejection Chicken" saved the day; Simon Doonan's attempt at preparing a macrobiotic miso soup meal for his AIDS-ravaged friend in the early '80s is both inspiring and heartbreaking; Justin Vivian Bond's mouthwatering "Crispy Hot Salty Potatoes" recipe proved the perfect comfort food to compliment "a moment of joyful camaraderie with my mom." Foodies and those who have a tendency to eat their feelings will find reflections and recipes to keep their heads, hearts, and stomachs happy.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.