★ The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye
Reading groups will enjoy untangling the threads of Lyndsay Faye’s historical whodunit The Paragon Hotel. In 1921, Alice James, who’s been mixed up with New York mobsters, comes to Portland, Oregon, bearing a bullet wound. Alice, who is white, takes shelter at the Paragon Hotel—a sort of safe house for the city’s African American population, which has been harassed by the Ku Klux Klan. When Davy Lee, a multiracial boy who’s a favorite at the hotel, disappears, Alice pretends to be a journalist researching his case. Along the way, she crosses paths with a wide cast of characters, including Blossom Fontaine, a nightclub singer with a questionable past; wealthy Evelina Vaughan, a white woman with stakes in the boy’s disappearance; and an assortment of belligerent cops and racist thugs. Faye’s smart, stylish and suspenseful tale tackles timeless topics of race and gender.
Black Is the Body by Emily Bernard
In her powerful collection of personal essays, Bernard reflects upon her experiences as a black woman in America, sharing poignant reminiscences of her Southern childhood and insights into her life in the place she now calls home—the predominately white state of Vermont.
North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah
This piercing novel finds Somalian immigrant Mugdi living a quiet life in Oslo until his troubled son, Dhaqaneh, commits suicide. When Dhaqaneh’s strict Islamist widow and children come to live with Mugdi and his wife, the process of assimilation changes them forever.
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
In this dystopian tale, Lia, Grace and Sky live apart from society on an island with their parents. They receive no outsiders except for women in need of a ritual that protects them against the world’s poisons.
Last Stories by William Trevor
Last Stories is a stunning final collection from the beloved Irish author (1928–2016). Trevor’s unembellished prose stands in striking contrast to the weight and complexity of the ideas he explores, including mortality and the nature of love.