The days are longer and hotter than ever, and all we want to do from now until September is curl up in air conditioning with a book we can’t put down. From a coming-of-age story about class, power, politics and desire to an intimate memoir dispelling the model minority myth, here are seven incredible new books to read in August.
7 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in August
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The model minority myth takes the hotseat in journalist Prachi Gupta’s debut memoir. Gupta’s family embodied the American Dream: she grew up with a doctor father and a nurturing mother who raised two high-achieving children in Pennsylvania’s white suburbs. But molding oneself to fit this perfect image, Gupta shares, often comes at a steep but hidden cost. In They Called Us Exceptional, she expands on the shame and isolation of being upheld as an American success story while privately navigating traumas invisible to the outside world, weaving a deeply personal narrative with history, postcolonial theory and research to show how she slowly freed herself from the pervasive, reductive myth that had once defined her.
Poet Lang Leav’s debut adult novel asks: What comes first, the photograph or the memory? It’s the late ‘90s and Ai, the daughter of Cambodian refugees, lives in a small Australian town populated by Asian immigrants who once fled war-torn countries. Despite their parents' harrowing past, Ai and her tightknit group of friends lead seemingly ordinary lives. But that innocence is shattered in their last year of school, when the group encounters a pair of racist men whose cruel acts of intimidation spiral into violence. Later, in her second year of college, Ai suffers a mental health crisis, driving her back to the hometown she swore she’d never visit again. There, she reconnects with those she left behind and together they look back on the tragedy that shaped their adolescence.
Ursa has a very special gift: She can travel through memory and revisit her past. After fleeing her hometown for 1950's California, her unique ability eventually draws a group of women into her orbit and into a ramshackle mansion outside Santa Cruz. But Ursa's powers come with a cost. Soon, this cultish community of sisterhood takes an ominous turn, prompting her son, Ray, and his pregnant lover, Cherry, to leave their home for Los Angeles, where they can reinvent themselves far from Ursa's insidious influence. But escaping their past won't be so easy.
In 1950, the all-white U.S. Lawn Tennis Association opened its door to Althea Gibson, a Black woman from Harlem. Soon, her astonishing performance eclipsed the negative feelings being cast her way, and she eventually became one of the greatest American tennis champions. In former Boston Globe reporter Sally H. Jacobs’s biography of the tennis superstar, we learn about her fascinating journey, from being raised in New York and trained by a pair of tennis-playing doctors in the South, to winning top prizes at Wimbledon and Forest Hills and even shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth II. Althea is the story of a pioneer, trailblazer and champion.
The stories in Cleo Qian’s first book are invigorating and surreal, exploring the alienated, technology-mediated lives of contemporary Asian and Asian American women. In one story, a woman escapes into dating simulations to forget her best friend’s abandonment, while another centers on a supernatural karaoke machine that becomes a K-pop star’s channel for redemption. Throughout, Qian’s characters refuse stereotypes, instead questioning conventions and rebelling against consumer culture, the pressures of modern society and more.
In this coming-of-age story, it’s 1998, and the Soviet Union is dissolved, the Cold War is over and Bunny is a lonely American teenager in Azerbaijan with her Foreign Service family. Kiesling’s (The Golden State) latest follows Bunny from adolescence to middle age as her ambition and desire for comfort lead her to a career in the oil industry, eventually returning to the scene of her youth, where slippery figures from the past reappear in an era of political and climate breakdown in this story about class, power, politics and desire.
National Book Award-winning author Acevedo’s (The Poet X) first novel for adults tells the story of one Dominican-American family through the voices of its women. Flor can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a party to celebrate the long life she’s led, her sisters are surprised. But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets: her sisters, and the next generation, are hiding things, too. Spanning the three days prior to the party, Family Lore traces the lives of each of the family’s women, weaving together past and present, Santo Domingo and New York City.