A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta)
A Passage North begins with a message from out of the blue: a telephone call informing Krishan that his grandmother’s caretaker, Rani, has died under unexpected circumstances - found at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall. The news arrives on the heels of an email from Anjum, an impassioned yet aloof activist Krishnan fell in love with years before while living in Delhi, stirring old memories and desires from a world he left behind.
As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn Northern Province for Rani’s funeral, so begins an astonishing passage into the innermost reaches of a country. At once a powerful meditation on absence and longing, as well as an unsparing account of the legacy of Sri Lanka’s thirty-year civil war, this procession to a pyre “at the end of the earth” lays bare the imprints of an island’s past, the unattainable distances between who we are and what we seek.
Written with precision and grace, Anuk Arudpragasam’s masterful novel is an attempt to come to terms with life in the wake of devastation, and a poignant memorial for those lost and those still living.
Anuk Arudpragasam, A Passage North (Granta)
Anuk Arudpragasam was born in Colombo and currently lives between Sri Lanka and India. His debut novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize as well as the Internationaler Literaturpreis. His second novel, A Passage North, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2021. He received a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University in 2019.
[Photo credit: Ruvin De Silva]
What Noise Against The Cane by Desiree C. Bailey (Yale University Press)
What Noise Against the Cane is a lyric quest for belonging and freedom, weaving political resistance, Caribbean folklore, immigration and the realities of Black life in America. Desiree C. Bailey begins by reworking the epic in an oceanic narrative of bondage and liberation in the midst of the Haitian Revolution. The poems move into the contemporary Black diaspora, probing the mythologies of home, belief, nation and womanhood. Series judge Carl Phillips observes that Bailey's “poems argue for hope and faith equally.... These are powerful poems, indeed, and they make a persuasive argument for the transformative powers of steady defiance.”
Desiree C. Bailey, What Noise Against the Cane (Yale University Press)
Desiree C. Bailey is the author of the fiction chapbook In Dirt or Saltwater and has been published in Best American Poetry, Academy of American Poets, Callaloo, and elsewhere. She was born in Trinidad and Tobago, and grew up in Queens, New York.
[Photo credit: Wilton Shereka]
Keeping the House by Tice Cin (And Other Stories Publishing)
Cabbages . . . The Turkish variety are prized for their enlarged leaf bud, that’s where we put the heroin . . .
There’s a stash of heroin waiting to be imported, and no one seems sure what to do with it . . . But Ayla’s a gardener, and she has a plan.
Offering a fresh and funny take on the machinery of the North London heroin trade, Keeping the House lifts the lid on a covert world thriving just beneath notice: not only in McDonald’s queues and men’s clubs, but in spotless living rooms and whispering kitchens. Spanning three generations, this is the story of the women who keep their family – and their family business – afloat, juggling everything from police surveillance to trickier questions of community, belonging and love.
Tice Cin, Keeping the House (And Other Stories Publishing)
Tice Cin is an interdisciplinary artist from north London. A London Writers Award-winner, her work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Extra Teeth and Skin Deep, and has been commissioned by organisations such as the Battersea Arts Centre and St Paul's Cathedral. An alumnus of the Barbican Young Poets programme, she now creates digital art as part of Design Yourself – a collective based at the Barbican Centre – exploring what it means to be human at a time of great technological change. A producer and DJ, she has released an EP, Keeping the House, to accompany her debut novel.
Twitter: @ticecin | Instagram: @tice.cin
[Photo credit: Dillon Kalyabe]
Auguries of a Minor God by Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe (Faber)
Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe’s spellbinding debut poetry collection explores love and the wounds it makes. Its first half is composed of five sections, corresponding to the five arrows of Kama, the Hindu God of Love, Desire and Memory. From ‘stunning’ and ‘paralysing’ to ‘killing’ and ‘destroying’, each arrow has its own effect on some body – a very real, contemporary body – and its particular journey of love.
The second is a long narrative poem, ‘A is for [Arabs]’, which follows a different kind of journey: a family of refugees who have fled to the West from conflict in an unspecified Middle Eastern country. With an extraordinary structure, yoking abecedarian and Fibonacci sequences, it is a skilful and intimate account of migration and exile, of home and belonging.
Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe, Auguries of a Minor God (Faber)
Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe is a poet, pacifist and fabulist. Born in India, she grew up across the Middle East, Europe and North America before calling Ireland home. Founder of the Play It Forward Fellowships, she serves as poetry editor at Skein Press and Fallow Media, contributing editor for the Stinging Fly and an advisory board member of Ledbury Poetry Critics Ireland. She is the recipient of a Next Generation Artist Award in Literature from the Arts Council of Ireland and the inaugural Ireland Chair of Poetry Student Award.
[Photo credit: Angela Isaac Panat]
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris (Tinder Press / Headline)
Landry and Prentiss are two brothers born into slavery, finally freed as the American Civil War draws to its bitter close. Cast into the world without a penny to their names, their only hope is to find work in a society that still views them with nothing but intolerance.
Farmer George Walker and his wife Isabelle are reeling from a loss that has shaken them to their core. After a chance encounter, they agree to employ the brothers on their land, and slowly the tentative bonds of trust begin to blossom between the strangers.
But this sanctuary survives on a knife’s edge, and it isn’t long before a tragedy causes the inhabitants of the nearby town to turn their suspicion onto these new friendships, with devastating consequences.
Nathan Harris, The Sweetness of Water (Tinder Press / Headline)
Nathan Harris is a Michener fellow at the University of Texas. He was awarded the Kidd prize, as judged by Anthony Doerr, and was also a finalist for the Tennessee Williams fiction prize. The Sweetness of Water is his debut novel. He lives in Austin, Texas.
[Photo credit: Laurel Sager]
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
This is a story about a life lived in two halves.
It's about what happens when real life collides with the increasing absurdity of a world accessed through a screen.
It's about living in world that contains both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.
It's a meditation on love, language and human connection from one of the most original voices of our time.
Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking About This (Bloomsbury Circus / Bloomsbury Publishing)
Patricia Lockwood is the author of four books, including the 2021 novel No One Is Talking About This, an international bestseller which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and translated into 20 languages. Her 2017 memoir Priestdaddy won the Thurber Prize for American Humor and was named one of the Guardian's 100 best books of the 21st century. She also has two poetry collections, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals (2014) and Balloon Pop Outlaw Black (2012). Lockwood's work has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the London Review of Books, where she is a contributing editor. She lives in Savannah, Georgia.
Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (Atlantic Books)
A thirteen-year-old girl watches her white best friend totter along the edge of a building roof; a woman who lost her child in its first trimester finds empathy and horror in the waters of a city aquarium; a mother protects her teen daughter from a predatory love interest by taking revenge over a very French supper; and two estranged siblings take a road-trip with their dead father’s ashes – rediscovering one another and reckoning with all the ways that trust can be betrayed and love can be redeemed.
Set in the suburbs and the cities of the modern world but about the ancient essences of who and what we are, Milk Blood Heat is a collection of love and sex, birth and death. Through the stories of ordinary characters confronted by extraordinary moments of violent yet often beautiful reckoning, Dantiel W. Moniz contemplates human connection, race, womanhood, inheritance, and the elemental darkness in us all. Wise and subversive, spiritual and seductive, Milk Blood Heat showcases that the world in which we live can be a place of obstacles and heartbreak… but also one of grace and splendour.
Dantiel W. Moniz, Milk Blood Heat (Atlantic Books)
Dantiel W. Moniz is the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction, the Cecelia Joyce Johnson Emerging Writer Award by the Key West Literary Seminars, and a Tin House Scholarship. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Paris Review, Tin House, Ploughshares, American Short Fiction, Yale Review, One Story, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and elsewhere. Milk Blood Heat is her first book. She lives in Northeast Florida.
Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley (John Murray Press)
Did you know in Tudor times all the brothels were south of the river in Southwark and it was only much later that they moved up this way to Soho. Stews, they were called then.’
Pungent, steamy, insatiable Soho; the only part of London that truly never sleeps. Tourists dawdling, chancers skulking, addicts shuffling, sex workers strutting, punters prowling, businessmen striding, the homeless and the lost. Down Wardour Street, ducking onto Dean Street, sweeping into L’Escargot, darting down quiet back alleyways, skirting dumpsters and drunks, emerging on to raucous main roads, fizzing with energy and riotous with life.
On a corner, sits a large townhouse, the same as all its neighbours. But this building hosts a teeming throng of rich and poor, full from the basement right up to the roof terrace. Precious and Tabitha call the top floors their home but it’s under threat; its billionaire-owner Agatha wants to kick the women out to build expensive restaurants and luxury flats. Men like Robert, who visit the brothel, will have to go elsewhere. Those like Cheryl, who sleep in the basement, will have to find somewhere else to hide after dark. But the women won’t go quietly. Soho is their turf and they are ready for a fight.
Fiona Mozley, Hot Stew (John Murray Press)
Fiona Mozley grew up in York and lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Elmet, won a Somerset Maugham Award and the Polari Prize. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, and longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, the Dublin Literary Award and the International Dylan Thomas Prize. In 2018 Fiona Mozley was shortlisted for the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award.
Twitter: @FJMoz | Instagram: fionamozley
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking / Penguin General)
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists - he a photographer, she a dancer - trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.
Caleb Azumah Nelson, Open Water (Viking / Penguin General)
Caleb Azumah Nelson is a 27-year-old British-Ghanaian writer and photographer living in South East London. His photography has been shortlisted for the Palm Photo Prize and won the People's Choice prize. His short story, PRAY, was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2020. His first novel, Open Water, won the Costa First Novel Award and the Bad Form Book of the Year Award, was shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year, and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Gordon Burn Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize. He was selected as a National Book Foundation '5 under 35' honoree by Brit Bennett in 2021.
Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan (Jonathan Cape)
She's twenty-three and in love with love. He's older, and the most beautiful man she's ever seen. The affair is quickly consuming.
But this relationship is unpredictable, and behind his perfect looks is a mean streak. She's intent on winning him over, but neither is living up to the other's ideals. He keeps emailing his thin, glamorous ex, and she's starting to give in to secret, shameful cravings of her own. The search for a fix is frantic, and taking a dangerous turn...
Megan Nolan, Acts of Desperation (Jonathan Cape)
Megan Nolan lives in London and was born in 1990 in Waterford, Ireland. Her essays, fiction and reviews have been published in The New York Times, The White Review, The Sunday Times, The Village Voice, The Guardian and in the literary anthology, Winter Papers. She writes a fortnightly column for the New Statesman. This is her first novel.
Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi (Faber)
Peaces is the story of Otto and Xavier Shin, a couple who embark on a mysterious train journey that takes them far beyond any destination they could have anticipated. As the carriages roll along they discover each is more curious and fascinating than the last, becoming embroiled in this strange train and its intrigue. Who is Ava Kapoor, the sole full-time inhabitant of the train, and what is her relationship to a man named Prem? Are they passengers or prisoners? We discover who orchestrated the journey, hurtling them all into their past for clues..
Helen Oyeyemi, Peaces (Faber)
Helen Oyeyemi is the author of The Icarus Girl, The Opposite House, White is for Witching (which won the Somerset Maugham Award), Mr Fox, Boy, Snow, Bird, Gingerbread and the short story collection What is Not Yours is Not Yours. In 2013, Helen was included in Granta's Best of Young British Novelists.
[Photo credit: Tereza Linhartová]
Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (Daunt Books Publishing)
In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, a young man tentatively engages with the world again. Recently discharged from hospital, Lionel meets two dance students at a party. Charles and Sophie’s relationship is difficult to read but Lionel is drawn to them both. As he navigates their sexually fraught encounters he is forced to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness – and to consider his return to life. Elsewhere, a little girl runs wild to the consternation of her childminder; unspoken frictions among a group of teenagers come to a vicious head on a winter night; and a woman dreads a first date only to find that something has cracked open.
What connects these stories is the tension between the surface of things and the intensity of our inner worlds. With exquisite empathy, Brandon Taylor shows that though violence hovers at the edge of many encounters, so too does tenderness and love.
Brandon Taylor, Filthy Animals (Daunt Books Publishing)
Brandon Taylor is the author of the acclaimed novel Real Life, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and the Foyles Fiction Book of the Year. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow in fiction.
[Photo credit: Bill Adams]