Zoe's Staff Picks

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They Will Drown in Their Mothers' Tears Cover Image
By Johannes Anyuru, Saskia Vogel (Translator)
ISBN: 9781931883894
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Lines Press - November 5th, 2019

I'm having trouble writing about this novel due to how thoroughly I enjoyed each working part of it. In essence, it's a well-crafted, expertly-translated piece that leans far heavier toward the social rather than technical sciences (as I find my favorite pieces of speculative fiction generally do).

To be fair, Anyuru could have considered his universe-hopping logic more carefully, but the science isn't the point here - if you're going into this expecting a Michael Chrichton-style tech-heavy narrative, you're going to be disappointed. Instead, it's the plausibility of the setting that's the draw. Guantanamo Bay happened; race-oriented travel bans have been implemented; border camps for non-citizens do exist. The future Anyuru suggests is visible from where we are standing. The process of taking a class of citizen and converting them to criminal and finally to non-person is an observable, doccumented phenomenon. The line shifts, the rules shift, and so does the acceptable definition of personhood.

The characters and their maligned identities are the heart of this novel. Too often Muslim characters have their faith made happenstance, turned to an unfortunate situation they are caught up in so they are sympathetic to a white audience, but Anyuru takes the opportunity to write a portrait of Islam that is both devout and caring, meditative and familial. Every beautiful moment, he writes, is a love poem from God - is there anything more lovely than that (even if you don't believe)? When you pause, when you watch the world with silent wonder - that is a love poem just for you.     

Grass Cover Image
By Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, Janet Hong (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781770463622
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Drawn and Quarterly - August 27th, 2019

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim utilizes her considerable biographical and artistic skill to give voice to the painful story of Lee Ok-Sun, a sex slave (or, euphemistically, 'comfort woman') kidnaped under the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Gendry-Kim's stark, inky artwork perfectly frames her conflicted relationship with Lee, whose status as a heavily politicized figure and history as a sex slave makes her simultaneously outcast and honored celebrity.  

This novel is not an easy read. From the very beginning, Lee's life is studded with constant tragedy, and even long after the war has come to a close, she continues to question her happiness. However, hers is a critical piece of history, and one prime minister Abe Shinzo (who continues to refuse to aknowledge the suffering of Korean citizens under a despotic Japanese occupation) would rather we forget. Non-combatants are often overlooked in the drama of war, and this is a tragedy and indignity to their memories.  

The Migration Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735272620
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Canada - March 5th, 2019

There is certainly no dearth of "humanity v plague" novels available on the market; however, The Migration - presented, as it is, as a "plague" novel - strays enough from the path to linger in new, thoughtful territory. Unlike novels such as World War Z, Fire-us, The Fireman, and countless others, The Migration is less centered on the struggle between humanity and plague but rather the fraught relationship between the two. It's in part a reminder that these novels - while largely fantastic in their pathology - are based on calamities that have truly shaped the flow of history and the evolution of nations. Marshall's imagined infection is transformative rather than destructive in a more literal fashion, but the similarities are clear.

While this is not strictly a horror novel, it's a valuable read for veterans of the horror genre.         

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Cats Are a Liquid Cover Image
By Rebecca Donnelly, Misa Saburi (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781250206596
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) - October 8th, 2019

I love this absolutely adorable picture book. It's a fun introduction to a pretty simple scientific concept - liquid conforms to whatever container it's put into - paired with a quick and bouncy story and art so cute I can hardly stand it (you might even find a cat that looks just like yours hiding somewhere in the pages!!). There's also a recipe for oobleck included in the back, an experiment any child will enjoy.    

On Such a Full Sea: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594632891
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - December 2nd, 2014

What better way to explore an unfamiliar landscape than to take a character across it? Chang-rae Lee sets us on an odyssey through a desolate America and, along the way, explores the fate of identity and individualism under the indiscriminate boot of late-stage capitalism. It's also just an enjoyable dystopian romp, if you're not looking for an involved read.

Chang-rae Lee is better known for his impactful historical fiction, but he's a phenomenal writer overall and this novel is, really, a lot of fun.     

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See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey into Kim Jong Un's North Korea Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316509145
Availability: Usually Arrives to Store in 1-5 Days
Published: Hachette Books - May 28th, 2019

Stories of life in North Korea are so often exaggerated and sensationalized that it's difficult for insiders and outsiders alike to decide what's fact and what's fiction, especially when each and every story is centered in a national narrative that changes on a whim. Survivors' stories are valuable, but when survival begets fame and becomes someone's livelihood - as in the case of Yeonmi Park, whose autobiography famously vacillates in content between talk circuit, stage, and written record - mistakes are inevitably made, and shock value is prioritized over truth. 

I am far more intrigued by the stories that, by nature, are the most difficult to extract - that is, those of people who still live in the "hermit nation". Who are they? What are their daily lives like? Where do they find contentment?

This book doesn't thoroughly answer those questions - it's narrated by a foreigner, who lawfully can't conduct interviews with average citizens - but Jeppesen's observations serve as a window into that world, however small. It ranks up there with Barbara Demick's Nothing To Envy in its empathy, insight, and attention to detail.

As borders continue to thin, I can only hope more books like this are written.         

Peace Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765334565
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orb Books - December 11th, 2012

Peace may seem unassuming at first, but there's danger buried underneath the floorboards. If you're looking for subtle horror this Halloween season, this is it. Watch for shadows, be wary of shades - or you might become ensnared as well.   

Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection Cover Image
ISBN: 9781421598468
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: VIZ Media LLC - April 16th, 2019

No other illustrator in horror is able to evoke quite the same crawly, unsettling distress as Junji Ito. His art - uncooked, oozing, and uniquely upsetting - will stay with you long after you've looked away. If you're a horror fan in any capacity, there's a good chance you'll adore his work.

This volume in particular contains some excellent lesser-known short stories (thirteen, to be exact).    

Ghost Wall: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374161927
Availability: Usually Arrives to Store in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - January 8th, 2019

In the Dream House: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450031
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - November 5th, 2019