2021 MIDYEAR BREATHER BUNDLE
Included here you’ll find acclaimed memoirs, a captivating literary import from the UK, an unforgettable voyage across post-Civil War Florida, and TWO works of brilliant late-mid 20th Century Black literature ripe for rediscovery. Bring home five stunning hardcovers books for one unbeatable price, as you get ready for the rest of the year ahead.
What role does a mother play in raising thoughtful, generous children? In her literary debut, internationally award-winning writer Courtney Zoffness considers what we inherit from generations past—biologically, culturally, spiritually—and what we pass on to our children. Spilt Milk is an intimate, bracing, and beautiful exploration of vulnerability and culpability. Zoffness relives her childhood anxiety disorder as she witnesses it manifest in her firstborn; endures brazen sexual advances by a student in her class; grapples with the implications of her young son’s cop obsession; and challenges her Jewish faith. Where is the line between privacy and secrecy? How do the stories we tell inform who we become? These powerful, dynamic essays herald a vital new voice.
“Spilt Milk explores the physicality of the body and how generational memory, anxiety, and disappointment entwine within us to conceive life. These are essays about pain. About belief. About desire… a window into the experience of how we both inherit and pass on different parts of ourselves.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
Tragic Magic is the story of Melvin Ellington, a.k.a. Mouth, a Black, twenty-something, ex-college radical who has just been released from a five-year prison stretch after being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. Brown structures this first-person tale around Ellington’s first day on the outside. Although hungry for freedom and desperate for female companionship, Ellington is haunted by a past that drives him to make sense of those choices leading up to this day. Through a filmic series of flashbacks, the novel revisits Ellington’s prison experiences, where he is forced to play the unwilling patsy to the predatory Chilly and the callow pupil of the not-so-predatory Hardknocks; then dips further back to Ellington’s college days, where again he is led astray by the hypnotic militarism of the Black Pantheresque Theo, whose antiwar politics incite the impressionable narrator to oppose his parents and to choose imprisonment over conscription; and finally back to his earliest high school days, where we meet in Otis, the presumed archetype of Ellington’s “tragic magic” relationships with magnetic but dangerous avatars of black masculinity in crisis. But the effect of the novel cannot be conveyed through plot recapitulation alone, for its style is perhaps even more provoking than its subject.
Originally published in 1978, and edited by Toni Morrison during her time at Random House, this Of the Diaspora edition of Tragic Magic features a new introduction by author Wesley Brown.
“Wesley Brown’s Tragic Magic is an underrated classic in the vein of my favorite albums. This is a book worth holding close and hugging hard. There has been much talk about the literary foreparents to hip-hop culture and for my money Brown has to take his place alongside the likes of the Black Arts Movement, The Nuyoricans, Piri Thomas, and Julius Lester. Pick this one up and ride alongside a masterful storyteller.”
—Nate Marshall, author of Finna: Poems
Praisesong for the Widow
Avey Johnson—a Black, middle-aged, middle-class widow given to hats, gloves, and pearls—has long since put behind her the Harlem of her childhood. Then on a cruise to the Caribbean with two friends, inspired by a troubling dream, she senses her life beginning to unravel—and in a panic packs her bag in the middle of the night and abandons her friends at the next port of call. The unexpected and beautiful adventure that follows provides Avey with the links to the culture and history she has so long disavowed. Originally published in 1983, Praisesong for the Widow was a recipient of the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award, and is presented here in a beautiful new hardcover edition as the second title in McSweeney’s Of the Diaspora series.
“There is no limit to the kind of readership to which this novel will appeal.”
From the outside, Pizzeria Vesuvio seems just like any other pizza place in West London: a buzzy, cheerful Italian spot on a street where cooks from Sri Lanka rub shoulders with waitstaff from Spain, Georgia, Wales, Poland, and more. But upstairs, on the battered leather sofas, lives are being altered drastically and often illegally, as money, legal aid, safe passage, and hope are dealt out under the table to those deemed worthy. Set in the opening years of the 21st century, against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war and its outpouring of refugees to Britain, You People asks the big questions at a time of bewildering flux. What price do we put on life, on freedom, and the right to love in an age defined by seismic political change?
“Lalwani has a knack for close observation of people: their mannerisms and motivations, the way they relate to each other in different situations… Crucially, though, pain is not the defining experience of these characters… Fiction is not a blueprint, but it can be a gilded mirror, or a four-dimensional map. Living, loving, dying—You People is an elegant work of all three.”
—The Seattle Times
In the tradition of Mark Twain and Cormac McCarthy comes this distinctly American, pulse-quickening epic from the acclaimed author of Citrus County and Arkansas. Twelve-year-old Gussie Dwyer—audacious, resilient, determined to adhere to the morals his mother instilled in him—undertakes to trek across the sumptuous yet perilous peninsula of post-Civil War Florida in search of his father, a man who has no idea of his son’s existence. Gussie’s journey sees him cross paths with hardened Floridians of every stripe, from the brave and noble to a bevy of cutthroat villains, none worse than his amoral shark of a half brother. Will he survive his quest, and at what cost?
Rich in deadpan humor as well as visceral details that illuminate a diverse cast of characters, the novel uncovers deep truths about family and self-determination as the reader tracks Gussie’s dangerous odyssey out of childhood. Ivory Shoals is an unforgettable story from a contemporary master.
“Ivory Shoals is a bracing mix of Florida history and fleet adventure, livened with dry wit and a tender regard for its characters. Take a walk across the state with Gussie — you won’t regret it.”
—Tampa Bay Times