Can’t-miss debut books you should read in May

Every month, Debutiful selects can’t-miss books from debut authors that readers will love. You can find more recommendations here.

The Nigerwife by Vanessa Walters (May 2; Atria)

The plot of Walters’ gripping debut kicks off when a woman goes missing in Lagos, Nigeria. What follows is a tautly written book that explores much more than a missing woman investigation. Questions about loyalty, place in the world, and autonomy are seriously tackled with a biting sense of humor.

The Night Flowers by Sara Herchenroether (May 2; Tin House)

Get ready to read through the night once you pick up Herchenroether’s debut. It follows two women trying to solve a cold case of a gruesome murder. Though, the personal journeys the women go on along the way is just as gripping. This is a grab-you-by-the-collar page-turner fans of dark thrillers won’t want to miss.

Paper Names by Susie Lou (May 2; Hanover Square Press)

This multi-generational family drama weaves together secrets and desires as they years pass from page to page. Lou expertly puts a magnifying glass to the American Dream in a refreshing way. Her grasp on language and the unforgettable characters she crafter are magnificent.

Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (May 2; Pantheon)

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah already has a seat in the pantheon of new and exciting writers. His debut story collection Friday Black will change your life. His debut novel is no different. He takes a recognizable theme and setting then shakes it up and twists it into a shocking expose on America’s biggest problems. Expect to be amazed by Adjei-Brenyah’s craft as he explores what happens when prisons go too far in the power they hold over their inmates.

The Sorrows of Others by Ada Zhang (May 9; Public Space)

Each story in Zhang’s debut collection is illuminating. The stories shift in place and time but at the heart of each one are memorable characters balancing the quietness in between the moments that shape their lives. From love and death to being part of revolutions.

Dykette by Jenny Fran Davis (May 16; Henry Holt)

A queer love story filled with messiness, hilarity, and razor-sharp writing. Dykette may take place in the winter, but it will heat up your summer in the first few pages.

Dances by Nicole Cuffy (May 16; One World)

Dances is notable and beautiful in every way. Cuffy brings to life the story of a ballet dancer through vivid prose and striking momentum. The book follows dancer Cece at the height of her career, but it isn’t enough and she begins to teeter on the edge of destruction and devastation. Cuffy’s graceful prose dances from word to word.

Glassworks by Olivia Wolfgang-Smith (May 16; Bloomsbury)

Time is played with throughout Wolfgang-Smith’s debut as distant family members are on display in different decades of this drama. They may live during vastly different times, but the beats of their lives are all too familiar. This is a captivating and warm epic.

Cousins by Aurora Venturini, translated by Kit Maude (May 16; Soft Skull)

The English-language debut of the Argentine powerhouse is fast, fun, and dark. It follows a family that is down on their luck just outside of Buenos Aires. As down and out as it can feel at times, Venturini brings the slapstick as fast and often as she can.

The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams (May 16; Putnam)

Agbaje-Williams expertly dissects how being an immigrant shape every aspect of the lives of the three titular characters. Rumaan Alam calls it “a taut study” while Ashley Audain said it was “bold, brilliant satire was refreshing and confronting and completely entertaining.”

Notes on Her Color by Jennifer Neal (May 23; Catapult)

Race and body are explored in this magical realism debut where a girl’s fraught relationship with her mother shapes her in unexpected ways.

Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza (May 30; Catapult)

Subtitled “A Memoir in Archives,” this is an ode to lesbians as told through multiple romances while Possanza reflects on her own life. The historical gravitas weaved through the author’s personal reflections is balanced by beautiful prose. This is for fans of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers and for people who love damn good writing. The passion leaps off the page.

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