Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin

From the May/June 2020 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

With so many good books being published every month, some literary titles worth exploring can get lost in the stacks. Page One offers the first lines of a dozen recently released books, including Synthesizing Gravity: Selected Prose by Kay Ryan and Conjure Women by Afia Atakora.

“In the beginning there was the word . . . Persian.” Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity (Vintage Books, May 2020) by Porochista Khakpour. Fourth book, first essay collection. Agent: Seth Fishman. Editor: Maria Goldverg. Publicist: Angie Venezia. 

“What makes a life, Sam Waxworth sometimes wondered—self or circumstance?” The Index of Self-Destructive Acts (Tin House Books, May 2020) by Christopher Beha. Fourth book, third novel. Agent: Sarah Burnes. Editor: Tony Perez. Publicist: Molly Templeton.

“I am in repose, / as my wife reads a poem about war, // the last thing I need is for the tanks / to advance into my bed.” Lean Against This Late Hour (Penguin Books, April 2020) by Garous Abdolmalekian, translated from the Persian by Ahmad Nadalizadeh and Idra Novey. Eighth book, poetry collection. Agent: PJ Mark. Editor: Allie Merola. Publicist: Kristina Fazzalaro. 

“the eye wall was human   black skin could not take off running / from this swell & surge” Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry (TriQuarterly Books, April 2020) by Nikky Finney. Sixth book, poetry collection. Agent: None. Editor: Parneshia Jones. Publicist: Olivia Aguilar. 

“In their house, they often say that Mother has a special fascination for the bath.” Sansei and Sensibility (Coffee House Press, May 2020) by Karen Tei Yamashita. Eighth book, first story collection. Agent: None. Editor: Chris Fischbach. Publicist: Daley Farr. 

“I have always felt that much of the best poetry was funny.” Synthesizing Gravity: Selected Prose (Grove Press, April 2020) by Kay Ryan. Tenth book, first essay collection. Agent: None. Editors: Katie Raissian and Christian Wiman. Publicist: Kait Astrella. 

“24th & Mission BART station laundry / hamper wide screen television Dupont / Circle cassette of my sister’s voice cassette / of my father’s Court House Metro / torn photograph of my abuelo…” After Rubén (Red Hen Press, May 2020) by Francisco Aragón. Third book, poetry collection. Agent: None. Editor: Kate Gale. Publicist: Monica Fernandez. 

“i get scared sometimes / and have to go look in to the closet to see if his clothes / are still there” Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems (Black Sparrow Press, April 2020) by Wanda Coleman. Eighteenth book, poetry collection. Agent: None. Editors: Joshua Bodwell and Terrance Hayes. Publicist: Joshua Bodwell.  

“Ba dies in the night, prompting them to seek two silver dollars.” How Much of These Hills Is Gold (Riverhead Books, April 2020) by C Pam Zhang. First book, novel. Agent: Bill Clegg. Editor: Sarah McGrath. Publicist: Glory Anne Plata.  

“He’d found a small way to resolve the future.” Quotients (Soho Press, May 2020) by Tracy O’Neill. Second book, novel. Agent: Kirby Kim. Editor: Mark Doten. Publicist: Justin Hargett. 

“The black baby’s crying wormed and bloomed.” Conjure Women (Random House, April 2020) by Afia Atakora. First book, novel. Agent: Amelia Atlas. Editor: Kate Medina. Publicist: Rachel Rokicki. 

“This is a story about love and country, and I will tell it to you how I remember it, in strands that took me years to untangle and then thread together.” Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America (Pantheon, September 2020) by Laila Lalami. Fifth book, first essay collection. Agent: Ellen Levine. Editor: Erroll McDonald. Publicist: Michiko Clark. 

Note: The print version of this article misstated the month Laila Lalami’s essay collection will be published. After the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, Pantheon decided to publish the title in September, not May.