★The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
Lydia Kiesling explores themes of immigration and family in her debut novel, The Golden State. Daphne, whose Turkish husband has been denied entry into the United States, is raising her infant daughter, Honey, alone in San Francisco. Cracking under the pressure of single parenthood and looking to escape her stress-filled life, she decamps with Honey for the California desert. Once there, Daphne drinks more than she should and meets her neighbors—Cindy, who’s a secessionist, and elderly Alice. But then her connections with the pair take a threatening turn. Told over the course of 10 days, this is an unflinching portrait of motherhood and its many challenges. Kiesling is a perceptive, compassionate writer, and she brings a remote part of California to vivid life in this accomplished debut.
Small Animals by Kim Brooks
When Brooks left her 4-year-old son in the car while running a quick errand, the police were alerted and she became embroiled in a protracted legal battle. Brooks recounts her experience in this fascinating mix of memoir and reportage on contemporary parenting.
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
Suffering from memory loss after a car accident, Virgil tries to reconstruct his past in the tightknit community of Greenstone, Minnesota. Enger’s many fans will savor this bittersweet chronicle of Greenstone and the charming people who call it home.
Heartland by Sarah Smarsh
This powerful memoir recounts Smarsh’s upbringing on a Kansas farm, reflecting on the past and probing the economic and social causes of poverty in America.
Dear America by Jose Antonio Vargas
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Vargas, who is Filipino, learned of his undocumented status at the age of 16, when he tried to get a driver’s license. With a reporter’s instinct for detail, he writes about the challenges of surviving as an outsider in America.