New books from Bay Area authors in February

Fourteen Days

A collaborative novel
Harper (February 6, 2024)

After the Black Death epidemic of the 14th century, Boccaccio wrote the Decamoron, a novel about a group of young Italians who flee to a villa outside Florence to escape the disease. They amuse themselves by telling stories. More than 670 years later, a group of 35 prominent writers have collaborated on Fourteen Days, a novel set in a Lower East Side tenement in the early days of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. The residents begin to gather on the roof at 7 p.m. each night to clap and bang pots to honor the frontline workers caring for those suffering from Covid. Slowly they begin to know and trust one another and share their life stories. Each chapter in the book features a different tenant and each chapter is written anonymously by a different famous author. (There is a key in the back). Northern California is well represented in Fourteen Days with chapters by Ismael Reed, Dave Eggers, Tommy Orange and Charlie Jane Anders. Some of the other writers include Angie Cruz, Emma Donoghue, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, John Grisham, Maria Hinojosa, Mira Jacob, Erica Jong, Celeste Ng, Hampton Sides, R.L. Stine, Monique Truong, Scott Turow, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Meg Wolitzer, among others. Margaret Atwood and Douglas Preston edited and ordered the stories. Proceeds from the book will go to the Authors Guild Foundation.

A Map of Future Ruins: On Borders and Belonging

By Lauren Markham (Berkeley)
Riverhead (February 13, 2024)

In a follow up to her award winning book, The Far Away Brothers, which traces the story of two brothers who flee El Salvador as minors and apply for asylum in the U.S., Lauren Markham explores broader questions of immigration and borders. In A Map of Future Ruins, Markham traces her great great grandmother’s journey from Greece to the U.S. in 1914 and contrasts that with the obstacle refugees around the world confront today. She travels to Lesbos, Greece, an island largely populated with people who once fled Asia Minor. When refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere first arrive by boat, the residents assist them. Tens of thousands eventually come, putting a strain on the island’s resources and those who live there. In the book, Markham highlights a particular injustice: A fire breaks out in the Moira refugee camp and six Afghan youths are unjustly convicted of lighting it. The book, a mix of memoir, history, and reportage, is a meditation on immigration, the myths of whiteness, and how being a refugee became a crime.

The Fox Wife

By Yangsze Choo (Santa Clara County)
Henry Holt & Company (February 13, 2024)

A courtesan is found frozen in a doorway in Manchuria, 1908. No one knows who she is but rumors swirl that mystical foxes, who can transform themselves into beautiful men and women, may have been involved in her death. Bao, a detective, investigates. Meanwhile, a grieving mother named Snow seeks to avenge the murder of her child, tracing a suspect from China to Japan. Bao and Snow join forces. Choo’s much-anticipated third novel, The Fox Wife, comes after her debut, The Ghost Bride, was made into a Netflix series and her second, The Night Tiger, was a Reese’s Book Club Pick and a Big Jubilee Read selection for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

Judith Letting Go: Six Months in the Smallest Death Cafe

By Mark Dowie (Inverness)
New Village Press (February 13, 2024)

Almost as soon as Mark Dowie met Judith Tannenbaum,  he knew the date she would die. Tannenbaum, a poet, writer, artist, and activist, was suffering from a painful disease and had decided to end it on her own terms. Dowie, a former publisher and editor of Mother Jones who has won many of the nation’s most prestigious journalism awards, had been advocating for physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. With that belief in common, Dowie and Tannenbaum spent her last months in deep conversation about death and life, an experience he called a two person “death cafe.”

Dust: A Memoir

By Summer Brenner (Berkeley)
Spuyten Duyvil (February 15, 2024)

Summer Brenner grew up in an affluent household in Atlanta, GA in the 1950s, but it was one struck by tumult. Her family was Jewish; their synagogue was bombed. They lived near a munitions plant and adults around Brenner constantly warned the Soviets might bomb it. Her mother, Rita, called her a “slut.” Her father eventually commits suicide and her brother David is diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life. In Dust, Brenner recounts her childhood, including the time her father took her to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. in1960, her time as a poet in Paris and her eventual move to Berkeley where she becomes a prolific, well-regarded poet and novelist. In 2000, Brenner and her husband invited her brother Michael, then suffering from cancer as well as schizophrenia, to live with them. It is an opportunity for the siblings to reconnect and heal.

Drums and Demons: The Tragic Journey of Jim Gordon

By Joel Selvin (San Francisco)
Diversion Books (February 27, 2024)

Until his life imploded Jim Gordon was one of the most talented drummers in the world of rock and roll. He was part of the legendary group of Los Angeles session musicians, The Wrecking Crew, joined Eric Clapton to form Derek and the Dominos, and performed with John Lennon, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Ringo Starr, and Joe Cocker. But in the 1980s, voices started to cloud his thoughts and make him unruly. His doctors misdiagnosed him with alcohol addiction rather than schizophrenia. Finally, one day in 1983, those voices told him to kill his mother. Gordon was sentenced to prison, where he died March 13, 2023 at 77. Now former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Joel Selvin, the author of 20 books on rock and roll, including books on the deadly Altamont concert, Sly and the Family Stone, The Grateful Dead and more, has written a biography of Gordon, Drums and Demons: The Tragic Journey of Jim Gordon. 

Wandering Stars

By Tommy Orange (Angels Camp)
Knopf (February 27, 2024)

Tommy Orange’s debut novel, There There, exploded on the literary scene in 2018. It was one of the New York Times’ best books of the year and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Orange, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma, grew up in Oakland and movingly depicted what it was like to be an urban Native American. His long-anticipated follow up, Wandering Stars, is a multi-generational saga that begins in 1864 with the Sand Creek Massacre, continues with the creation of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which aimed to eradicate Native culture, and ends up in modern-day Oakland where Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield, whom readers met in There There is dealing with the aftermath of that novel’s explosive ending.

The post Bay City Books: New Books from Bay Area Authors – February 2024 appeared first on Local News Matters.

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