Books You May Have Missed in the Early Days of the Pandemic

by Staff

When the Poets & Writers office transitioned to remote work in March last year, few of us anticipated it would be long-term. Many wonderful galleys (and beloved office plants) were left behind, with the expectation that we would return in a week or two. Of course, our staff and the rest of the literary community gradually realized we would need to buckle in for the long haul. This made for a challenging month for all arts workers, but it was perhaps especially difficult for authors who had little time to adapt their launch plans for a socially-distanced world, and had to compete for attention against increasingly dire headlines. As we mark the one-year anniversary of remote work and reflect on a year of both loss and perseverance, our editors compiled a list of fourteen books from March 2020 that you might have missed. 

March 10, 2020

The Gringa by Andrew Altschul (Melville House)
“A gripping and subversive novel about the slippery nature of truth and the tragic consequences of American idealism.” 

To Make Room for the Sea by Adam Clay (Milkweed Editions)
To Make Room for the Sea reckons with the notion that nothing in this world is permanent. Led by an introspective speaker, these poems examine a landscape that resists full focus, and conclude that ‘it’s easier to love what we don’t know.’”

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan (Soho Press)
“From the critically acclaimed author of Rainbirds comes a novel of tragedy and dark histories set in Japan.”

Savage Pageant by Jessica Q. Stark (Birds, LLC)
“With a hybrid, documentary poetics, Savage Pageant reveals how we attempt to narrate and control geographical space and how ghosts (remainders, the sketch, unfinished stories) collapse the tidy corners of our collective, accumulative histories.”

March 17, 2020

Don’t You Know That I Love You by Laura Bogart (Dzanc Books)
“The last place Angelina Moltisanti ever wants to go is home. She barely escaped life under the roof, and the thumb, of her violent but charismatic father, Jack. Yet home is exactly where she ends up after an SUV plows into her car just weeks after she graduates from college, fracturing her wrist and her hopes to start a career as an artist.” 

That Hair by Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida, translated by Eric M. B. Becker (Tin House)
“In layered, intricately constructed prose, That Hair enriches and deepens a global conversation, challenging in necessary ways our understanding of racism, feminism, and the double inheritance of colonialism, not yet fifty years removed from Angola’s independence.” 

Whiteout Conditions by Tariq Shah (Two Dollar Radio)
“With a poet’s sensibility, Shah navigates the murky responsibilities of adulthood, grief, toxic masculinity, and the tragedy of revenge in this haunting Midwestern noir.”

March 24, 2020

We Inherit What the Fires Left by William Evans (Simon & Schuster)
“William Evans, the award-winning poet and cofounder of the popular culture website Black Nerd Problems, offers an emotionally vulnerable poetry collection exploring the themes of inheritances, dreams, and injuries that are passed down from one generation to the next and delving into the lived experience of a Black man in the American suburbs today.” 

Lakewood by Megan Giddings (Amistad)
“A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of medical experimentation—part The Handmaid’s Tale, part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” 

The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith (Harper)
“From a supremely talented author comes this brilliant and inventive literary work of historical fiction, set in Rome in four different centuries, that explores love in all its various incarnations and ponders elemental questions of good and evil, obedience and free will that connect four unforgettable lives.” 

March 31, 2020

Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod by Traci Brimhall (Copper Canyon Press)
“Written during the trial for a close friend’s murder, Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod exposes that the whimsical, horrible, and absurd all sit together.” 

Repetition Nineteen by Mónica de la Torre (Nightboat Books)
“Based on slippages between languages and irreverent approaches to translation, the poems in Repetition Nineteen riff on creative misunderstanding in response to the prevailing political discourse.”

dayliGht by Roya Marsh (MCD x FSG Originals)
dayliGht is a dazzling collection of poems from a necessary new voice, at once a clarion call for stories of Black women and a rebuke of broken notions of sexuality and race.”

We Want Our Bodies Back by jessica Care moore (Amistad)
“A dazzling full-length collection of verse from one of the leading poets of our time.”