10 debut books you should read this August

As summer begins to wane, the heat from the books being published continues to stay hot, hot hot. This month, the books vary from historical fiction about witches, memoirs about grief, perfect short story collections, and a novel told from the perspective of an unborn child.

Regardless of what types of books tickle your fancy, the debuts that have been coming out will cover any itch you have. This year has provided some of the most unique, genre pushing stories coupled with prose that is out of this world. This month’s collection is no different.

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed (Counterpoint; Aug 3)

A pregnant, Muslim-American lesbian is pregnant and exiled from her family in Obama-era America. Told from the perspective of the unborn child to his grandmother he may never meet, Ahmed’s story is, simply put, brilliant. Exploring family traditions, religion, politics, sexuality, and more, this book highlights current issues in a brand new way. While some people come to books for the plot, readers should come to this book for the brilliancy of the craft Ahmed displays.

When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen (Harper Perennial; Aug 3)

What happens when a black women returns to her Southern hometown to go to a wedding on a former slave plantation? That’s the central question of McQueen’s work. Mira has always put her past behind her, but now she has to reckon with both her personal history and her town’s history. McQueen uses tense horror tropes to keep readers on edge throughout this morally haunting novel.

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (Ecco; Aug 3)

Anthony Veasna So passed away before this nuanced collection of short stories could be published. It is about generational trauma, refugees, queerness, immigrant communities and so much more. So’s writing was perfected. These stories are perfect. His tragic death makes reading this stories feel that much more impactful. Where could So’s writing have gone in years to come? We may never know, but we do have this short story collection that should be studied and revered for years to come.

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore (Catapult; Aug 10)

What if Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote a British The Crucible? That’s the shortest way to describe Blakemore’s debut novel. Set in Purticanical England in the 1600s, witch trials take center stage as a way to explore the social, economic and religious strife of the time. While this is a historical novel of sorts, it ultimately feels very modern and can be seen a reflection of the misogyny in the 21st Century. Blakemore is brilliant and Manningtree is just the tip of the iceberg.

Edge Case by YZ Chin (Ecco; Aug 10)

When Edwina’s husband seemingly picks up and leaves, she seeks him out. Both physically and emotionally. They’re both immigrants without green cards. His father just died. Their relationship is strained. Did he leave for any of these reasons? Does it matter? Does she care? Chin’s writing explores the current timeline and the “before” timeline where she delves into the couple’s past. The story is intoxicating, but her writing elevates it to another level. She hits on emotions so difficult to express on page with such ease.

The Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije (Gallery/Scout Press; Aug 10)

Ngamije’s coming-of-age novel is clever. He’s so witty and sharp and that bleeds into the characters he has created. Following a Rwandan man who is fleeing his country during war, the book is a millennial road novel where the bits and pieces of the journey are brilliant and Ngamije’s hilarity shines through.

Seeing Ghosts by Kat Chow (Grand Central; Aug 24)

This is a memoir about grief. It’s about Chow’s mother unexpectedly dying and how the family – Chow’s father and two sister’s – handled that death. It is thought-provoking and honest. It reveals both intimate and public pains. Chow is an expert storyteller. 

Three Rooms by Jo Hamya (Mariner Books; Aug 31)

This is the journey of a young woman and the three rooms she lives in over the course of a year as she tries to figure out who she is and what she wants. She moves from a rented room to a stranger’s couch, to her childhood room in her parents’ house. Hamya perfectly captures to pains of graduating college today when nothing seems to fall into place. With the previous generation screaming “just get a job” and Millennials screaming back in their heads “where are the jobs?” This book is a perfect ode to the transition we so desperately want as teenagers but dread when we actually get there.

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith (Random House; July 6)

In her expansive debut move, Kupersmith offers readers a long history in Vietnam by using the disappearance of two women – one in 1986 and one in 2011 – to weave together histories, myths, and horrors. The book is an innovative blend of many genres that twist and turn throughout the book.

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris (Little, Brown; June 15)

Set at the end of the Civil War, two freed slaves find work on a Georgia farm where a Northern-transplant farmer and his wife are looking for ways to grieve their dead son. The tenderness in Harris’s work is shown on every page with his thoughtful plotting and prose. The story weaves with a romance between two soldiers to effectively highlight the ramifications the war took on their minds, bodies, and souls.

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