April’s Simply Held Fiction Picks

Changes are coming to Simply Held starting July 1, 2024, but before that happens we wanted to share our April fiction picks for our patrons that are already signed up! Starting July 1, there will only be four fiction picks for you to choose from: diverse debuts, graphic novel, historical fiction, and international fiction. Our fiction picks are chosen quarterly and are available in regular print only. If you would like to update your selections or are a new patron who wants to receive picks from any of those four categories, sign up for Simply Held through our website!

Below you will find information provided by the publishers and authors on the titles we have selected for April from the following categories: Diverse Debuts, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, International Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Out of This World, Overcoming Adversity, Rainbow Reads, Stranger Things, and Young Adult.

Diverse Debuts:

Diverse Debuts: Debut fiction novel by a BIPOC author.

Acts of Forgiveness by Maura Cheeks

How much of their lineage is one family willing to unearth in order to participate in the nation’s first federal reparations program?

Every American waits with bated breath to see whether or not the country’s first female president will pass the Forgiveness Act. The bill would allow Black families to claim up to $175,000 if they can prove they are the descendants of slaves, and for ambitious single mother Willie Revel the bill could be a long-awaited form of redemption. A decade ago, Willie gave up her burgeoning journalism career to help run her father’s struggling construction company in Philadelphia and she has reluctantly put family first, without being able to forget who she might have become. Now she’s back living with her parents and her young daughter while trying to keep her family from going into bankruptcy. Could the Forgiveness Act uncover her forgotten roots while also helping save their beloved home and her father’s life’s work?

In order to qualify, she must first prove that the Revels are descended from slaves, but the rest of the family isn’t as eager to dig up the past. Her mother is adopted, her father doesn’t trust the government and believes working with a morally corrupt employer is the better way to save their business, and her daughter is just trying to make it through the fifth grade at her elite private school without attracting unwanted attention. It’s up to Willie to verify their ancestry and save her family—but as she delves into their history, Willie begins to learn just how complicated family and forgiveness can be.

With powerful insight and moving prose, Acts of Forgiveness asks how history shapes who we become and considers the weight of success when it is achieved despite incredible odds—and ultimately what leaving behind a legacy truly means. – Ballantine Books

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Graphic Novel:

Graphic Novel: Fiction novel for adults of any subgenre with diverse characters depicted by color illustrations, sketches, and photographs.

My Picture Diary by Fujiwara Maki, translated by Ryan Holmberg

The wife of Japan’s most lauded manga-ka documents a year in their lives with her own artistry.

In 1981, Fujiwara Maki began a picture diary about daily life with her son and husband, the legendary manga author Tsuge Yoshiharu. Publishing was not her original intention. “I wanted to record our family’s daily life while our son, Shosuke, was small. But as 8mm cameras were too expensive and we were poor, I decided on the picture diary format instead. I figured Shosuke would enjoy reading it when he got older.”

Drawn in a simple, personable style, and covering the same years fictionalized in Tsuge’s final masterpiece The Man Without Talent, Fujiwara’s journal focuses on the joys of daily life amidst the stresses of childrearing, housekeeping, and managing a depressed husband. A touching and inspiring testimony of one Japanese woman’s resilience, My Picture Diary is also an important glimpse of the enigma that is Tsuge. Fujiwara’s diary is unsparing. It provides a stark picture of the gender divide in their household: Tsuge sleeps until noon and does practically nothing. He never compliments her cooking, and dictates how money is spent. Not once is he shown drawing. And yet, Fujiwara remains surprisingly empathetic toward her mercurial husband.

Translated by Ryan Holmberg, this edition sheds light on Fujiwara’s life, her own career in art, writing, and underground theater, and her extensive influence upon her husband’s celebrated manga. – Drawn and Quarterly

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Historical Fiction:

Historical Fiction: Historical fiction novel written by a BIPOC author with BIPOC main character(s).

A History of Burning by Janika Oza

In 1898, Pirbhai, a teenage boy looking for work, is taken from his village in India to labor for the British on the East African Railway. Far from home, Pirbhai commits a brutal act in the name of survival that will haunt him and his family for years to come.

So begins Janika Oza’s masterful, richly told epic, where the embers of this desperate act are fanned into flame over four generations, four continents, throughout the twentieth century. Pirbhai’s children are born in Uganda during the waning days of British colonial rule, and as the country moves toward independence, his granddaughters, three sisters, come of age in a divided nation. Latika is an aspiring journalist, who will put everything on the line for what she believes in; Mayuri’s ambitions will take her farther away from home than she ever imagined; and fearless Kiya will have to carry the weight of her family’s silence and secrets.

In 1972, the entire family is forced to flee under Idi Amin’s military dictatorship. Pirbhai’s grandchildren are now scattered across the world, struggling to find their way back to each other. One day a letter arrives with news that makes each generation question how far they are willing to go, and who they are willing to defy, to secure their own place in the world. – Grand Central Publishing

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International Fiction:

International Fiction: Fiction novel originally written in another language with BIPOC main character(s).

The End of August by Yu Miri; translated by Morgan Giles

From the National Book Award winning author, an extraordinary, ground-breaking, epic multi-generational novel about a Korean family living under Japanese occupation.

In 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea, Lee Woo-cheol was a running prodigy and a contender for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. But he would have had to run under the Japanese flag.

Nearly a century later, his granddaughter is living in Japan and training to run a marathon herself. She summons Korean shamans to hold an intense, transcendent ritual to connect with Lee Woo-cheol. When his ghost appears, alongside those of his brother Lee Woo-Gun, and their young neighbor, who was forced to become a comfort woman to Japanese soldiers stationed in China during World War II, she must uncover their stories to free their souls. What she discovers is at the heart of this sweeping, majestic novel about a family that endured death, love, betrayal, war, political upheaval, and ghosts, both vengeful and wistful.

A poetic masterpiece that is a feat of historical fiction, epic family saga, and mind-bending story-telling acrobatics, The End of August is a marathon of literature. – Riverhead Books

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Juvenile Fiction:

Juvenile Fiction: Fiction chapter book with diversity, equity, or inclusion subject matter written for children 7-11

Green by Alex Gino

Green is lucky. They’ve got a supportive dad, friendly neighbors, and good friends. They’ve figured out a lot of things . . . but they can’t figure out what to do about Ronnie.

Ronnie’s a boy who’s been in Green’s class for awhile. He’s sweet. Funny. And lately, Green’s heart has raced a little faster whenever he’s around.

Green is pretty sure about their own feelings. But they have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how Ronnie feels.

When Green doesn’t get a part in the school musical – a very untraditional version of The Wizard of Oz – they join the crew to work alongside Ronnie.

Is this a good idea?

Green’s about to find out. . . . – Alex Gino

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Out of this World:

Out of this World: Science fiction novel written by a BIPOC author with BIPOC main character(s).

Counterweight by Djuna; translated by Anton Hur

On the fictional island of Patusan—and much to the ire of the Patusan natives—the Korean conglomerate LK is constructing an elevator into Earth’s orbit, gradually turning this one-time tropical resort town into a teeming travel hub: a gateway to and from our planet. Up in space, holding the elevator’s “spider cable” taut, is a mass of space junk known as the counterweight. And stashed within that junk is a trove of crucial data: a memory fragment left by LK’s former CEO, the control of which will determine the company’s—and humanity’s—future.

Racing up the elevator to retrieve the data is a host of rival forces: Mac, the novel’s narrator and LK’s chief of External Affairs, increasingly disillusioned with his employer; the everyman Choi Gangwu, unwittingly at the center of Mac’s investigations; the former CEO’s brilliant niece and power-hungry son; and Rex Tamaki, a violent officer in LK’s Security Division. They’re all caught in a labyrinth of fake identities, neuro-implants called Worms, and old political grievances held by the Patusan Liberation Front, the army of island natives determined to protect Patusan’s sovereignty.

Originally conceived by Djuna as a low-budget science fiction film, with literary references as wide-ranging as Joseph Conrad and the Marquis de Sade, Counterweight is part cyberpunk, part hard-boiled detective fiction, and part parable of South Korea’s neocolonial ambition and its rippling effects. – Pantheon

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Overcoming Adversity:

Overcoming Adversity: Fiction novel with diversity, equity, or inclusion subject matter written for people 14 and older.

The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis

Two bold, utopic communities are at the heart of Ayana Mathis’s searing follow-up to her bestselling debut, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. Bonaparte, Alabama – once 10,000 glorious Black-owned acres – is now a ghost town vanishing to depopulation, crooked developers, and an eerie mist closing in on its shoreline. Dutchess Carson, Bonaparte’s fiery, tough-talking protector, fights to keep its remaining one thousand acres in the hands of the last five residents. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, her estranged daughter Ava is drawn into Ark – a seductive, radical group with a commitment to Black self-determination in the spirit of the Black Panthers and MOVE, with a dash of the Weather Underground’s violent zeal. Ava’s eleven-year-old son Toussaint wants out – his future awaits him on his grandmother’s land, where the sounds of cicada and frog song might save him if only he can make it there.

In Mathis’s electrifying novel, Bonaparte is both mythic landscape and spiritual inheritance, and 1980s Philadelphia is its raw, darkly glittering counterpoint. The Unsettled is a spellbinding portrait of two fierce women reckoning with the steep cost of resistance: What legacy will we leave our children? Where can we be free? – Knopf

This title is also available in large print.

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Rainbow Reads:

Rainbow reads: Fiction novel with LGBTQ+ main character(s).

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Both a page-turner and literary tour de force, it is a vivid portrayal of working-class life and a deeply moving and highly suspenseful story of the dangerous first love of two young men.

Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars—Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic—and they should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all. Yet against all odds, they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. And when several months later Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.

Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in the literary world, Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the divisions of sectarianism, the violence faced by many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much. – Grove

This title is also available in large print.

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Stranger Things:

Stranger Things: Horror novel written by a BIPOC author with BIPOC main character(s).

The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro

Alejandra no longer knows who she is. To her husband, she is a wife, and to her children, a mother. To her own adoptive mother, she is a daughter. But they cannot see who Alejandra has become: a woman struggling with a darkness that threatens to consume her.

Nor can they see what Alejandra sees. In times of despair, a ghostly vision appears to her, the apparition of a crying woman in a ragged white gown.

When Alejandra visits a therapist, she begins exploring her family’s history, starting with the biological mother she never knew. As she goes deeper into the lives of the women in her family, she learns that heartbreak and tragedy are not the only things she has in common with her ancestors.

Because the crying woman was with them, too. She is La Llorona, the vengeful and murderous mother of Mexican legend. And she will not leave until Alejandra follows her mother, her grandmother, and all the women who came before her into the darkness.

But Alejandra has inherited more than just pain. She has inherited the strength and the courage of her foremothers—and she will have to summon everything they have given her to banish La Llorona forever. – Del Rey

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Young Adult Fiction:

Young Adult Fiction: Fiction chapter book with diversity, equity, or inclusion subject matter written for children 14 and older.

This Town is On Fire by Pamela N. Harris

A lot is up in the air in Naomi Henry’s life: her spot as a varsity cheer flier, her classmates’ reaction to the debut of her natural hair, and her crush on the guy who’s always been like a brother to her. With so much uncertainty, she feels lucky to have a best friend like Kylie to keep her grounded. After all, they’re practically sisters—Naomi’s mom took care of Kylie and her twin brother for years.

But then a video of Kylie calling the cops on two Black teens in a shopping store parking lot goes viral. Naomi is shaken, and her town is reeling from the publicity. While Naomi tries to reckon with Kylie, the other Black students in their high school are questioning their friendship, and her former friends are wondering where this new “woke” Naomi came from. Although Naomi wants to stand by her best friend, she now can’t help but see everything in a different light.

As tensions in her town escalate, Naomi finds herself engaging in protests that are on the cusp of being illegal. And then a bomb explodes, and someone is found dead. Will Naomi be caught in the center of the blast? – Quill Tree Books

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