April’s Simply Held Fiction Picks

Have you joined Simply Held? If not, you’re missing out! Four times a year, we choose fiction titles for Simply Held members to read from multiple categories: Graphic Novel, Diverse Debuts, Rainbow Reads, Overcoming Adversity, Historical Fiction, Out of this World, Stranger Things, International Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, and Juvenile Fiction. Join Simply Held to have any of the new picks automatically put on hold for you.

Below you will find information provided by the publishers and authors on the titles we have picked for April.

Diverse Debuts:

Diverse Debuts: Debut fiction novel by a BIPOC author.

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana

From a superb new literary talent, a rich, lyrical collection of stories about a tight-knit cast of characters grappling with their own personal challenges while the forces of gentrification threaten to upend life as they know it.

At Banneker Terrace, everybody knows everybody, or at least knows of them. Longtime tenants’ lives are entangled together in the ups and downs of the day-to-day, for better or for worse. The neighbors in the unit next door are friends or family, childhood rivals or enterprising business partners. In other words, Harlem is home. But the rent is due, and the clock of gentrification—never far from anyone’s mind—is ticking louder now than ever.

In eight interconnected stories, Sidik Fofana conjures a residential community under pressure. There is Swan, in apartment 6B, whose excitement about his friend’s release from prison jeopardizes the life he’s been trying to lead. Mimi, in apartment 14D, hustles to raise the child she had with Swan, waitressing at Roscoe’s and doing hair on the side. And Quanneisha B. Miles, in apartment 21J, is a former gymnast with a good education who wishes she could leave Banneker for good, but can’t seem to escape the building’s gravitational pull. We root for the tight-knit cast of characters as they weave in and out of one another’s narratives, working to escape their pasts and blaze new paths forward for themselves and the people they love. All the while we brace, as they do, for the challenges of a rapidly shifting future.

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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.

Shubeik Lubeik by Deena Mohamed

A brilliantly original debut graphic novel that imagines a fantastical alternate Cairo where wishes really do come true. Shubeik Lubeik—a fairy tale rhyme that means “your wish is my command” in Arabic—is the story of three people who are navigating a world where wishes are literally for sale.

Three wishes that are sold at an unassuming kiosk in Cairo link Aziza, Nour, and Shokry, changing their perspectives as well as their lives. Aziza learned early that life can be hard, but when she loses her husband and manages to procure a wish, she finds herself fighting bureau­cracy and inequality for the right to have—and make—that wish. Nour is a privileged college student who secretly struggles with depression and must decide whether or not to use their wish to try to “fix” this depression, and then figure out how to do it. And, finally, Shokry must grapple with his religious convictions as he decides how to help a friend who doesn’t want to use their wish. Deena Mohamed brings to life a cast of characters whose struggles and triumphs are heartbreaking, inspiring, and deeply resonant.

Although their stories are fantastical—featuring talking donkeys, dragons, and cars that can magically avoid traffic—each of these people grapples with the very real challenge of trying to make their most deeply held desires come true.

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Historical Fiction:

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

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

There is one every generation, a seer who keeps the stories.

Luz “Little Light” Lopez, a tea leaf reader and laundress, is left to fend for herself after her older brother, Diego, a snake charmer and factory worker, is run out of town by a violent white mob. As Luz navigates 1930s Denver, she begins to have visions that transport her to her Indigenous homeland in the nearby Lost Territory. Luz recollects her ancestors’ origins, how her family flourished, and how they were threatened. She bears witness to the sinister forces that have devastated her people and their homelands for generations. In the end, it is up to Luz to save her family stories from disappearing into oblivion.

Written in Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s singular voice, the wildly entertaining and complex lives of the Lopez family fill the pages of this multigenerational western saga. Woman of Light is a transfixing novel about survival, family secrets, and love—filled with an unforgettable cast of characters, all of whom are just as special, memorable, and complicated as our beloved heroine, Luz.

This title is also available in the following formats:

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International Fiction:

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

All Your Children, Scattered by Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse ; translated from the French by Alison Anderson

Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse’s debut novel follows three generations torn apart by the genocide against the Tutsis, as they try to reconnect with one another, rebuild broken links, and find their place in today’s world.

Blanche returns to Rwanda after building a life in Bordeaux with her husband and young son, Stokely. Reuniting with her mother Immaculata, old wounds are reopened for both mother and daughter while Stokely, caught between two countries, tries to understand where he comes from and where he belongs.

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Juvenile Fiction:

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

Different Kinds of Fruit by Kyle Lukoff

In this funny and hugely heartfelt novel from the Newbery Honor-winning author of Too Bright to See, a sixth-grader’s life is turned upside down when she learns her dad is trans

Annabelle Blake fully expects this school year to be the same as every other: same teachers, same classmates, same, same, same. So she’s elated to discover there’s a new kid in town. To Annabelle, Bailey is a breath of fresh air. She loves hearing about their life in Seattle, meeting their loquacious (and kinda corny) parents, and hanging out at their massive house. And it doesn’t hurt that Bailey has a cute smile, nice hands (how can someone even have nice hands?) and smells really good.

Suddenly sixth grade is anything but the same. And when her irascible father shares that he and Bailey have something big–and surprising–in common, Annabelle begins to see herself, and her family, in a whole new light. At the same time she starts to realize that her community, which she always thought of as home, might not be as welcoming as she had thought. Together Annabelle, Bailey, and their families discover how these categories that seem to mean so much—boy, girl, gay, straight, fruit, vegetable—aren’t so clear-cut after all.

This title is also available in the following formats:

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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).

Flux by Jinwoo Chong

A blazingly original and stylish debut novel about a young man whose reality unravels when he suspects his mysterious employers have inadvertently discovered time travel—and are using it to cover up a string of violent crimes . . .

Four days before Christmas, 8-year-old Bo loses his mother in a tragic accident, 28-year-old Brandon loses his job after a hostile takeover of his big-media employer, and 48-year-old Blue, a key witness in a criminal trial against an infamous now-defunct tech startup, struggles to reconnect with his family.

So begins Jinwoo Chong’s dazzling, time-bending debut that blends elements of neo-noir and speculative fiction as the lives of Bo, Brandon, and Blue begin to intersect, uncovering a vast network of secrets and an experimental technology that threatens to upend life itself. Intertwined with them is the saga of an iconic ’80s detective show, Raider, whose star actor has imploded spectacularly after revelations of long-term, concealed abuse.

Flux is a haunting and sometimes shocking exploration of the cyclical nature of grief, of moving past trauma, and of the pervasive nature of whiteness within the development of Asian identity in America.

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Overcoming Adversity:

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

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor

In this queer contemporary YA mystery, a nonbinary autistic teen realizes they must not only solve a 30-year-old mystery but also face the demons lurking in their past in order to live a satisfying life.

Sam Sylvester has long collected stories of half-lived lives—of kids who died before they turned nineteen. Sam was almost one of those kids. Now, as Sam’s own nineteenth birthday approaches, their recent near-death experience haunts them. They’re certain they don’t have much time left. . . .

But Sam’s life seems to be on the upswing after meeting several new friends and a potential love interest in Shep, their next-door neighbor. Yet the past keeps roaring back—in Sam’s memories and in the form of a thirty-year-old suspicious death that took place in Sam’s new home. Sam can’t resist trying to find out more about the kid who died and who now seems to guide their investigation. When Sam starts receiving threatening notes, they know they’re on the path to uncovering a murderer. But are they digging through the past or digging their own future grave?

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester explores healing in the aftermath of trauma and the fullness of queer joy.

This title is also available in the following format:

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Rainbow Reads:

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

My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson

Earl “Trey” Singleton III arrives in New York City with only a few dollars in his pocket. Born into a wealthy Black Indianapolis family, at 17, he is ready to leave his overbearing parents and their expectations behind.

In the city, Trey meets up with a cast of characters that changes his life forever. He volunteers at a renegade home hospice for AIDS patients, and after being put to the test by gay rights activists, becomes a member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). Along the way Trey attempts to navigate past traumas and searches for ways to maintain familial relationships—all while seeking the meaning of life amid so much death.

Vibrant, humorous, and fraught with entanglements, Rasheed Newson’s My Government Means to Kill Me is an exhilarating, fast-paced coming-of-age story that lends itself to a larger discussion about what it means for a young gay Black man in the mid-1980s to come to terms with his role in the midst of a political and social reckoning.

This title is also available in the following format:

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Stranger Things:

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

Lone Women by Victor LaValle

Adelaide Henry carries an enormous steamer trunk with her wherever she goes. It’s locked at all times. Because when the trunk opens, people around Adelaide start to disappear.

The year is 1915, and Adelaide is in trouble. Her secret sin killed her parents, forcing her to flee California in a hellfire rush and make her way to Montana as a homesteader. Dragging the trunk with her at every stop, she will become one of the “lone women” taking advantage of the government’s offer of free land for those who can tame it—except that Adelaide isn’t alone. And the secret she’s tried so desperately to lock away might be the only thing that will help her survive the harsh territory.

Crafted by a modern master of magical suspense, Lone Women blends shimmering prose, an unforgettable cast of adventurers who find horror and sisterhood in a brutal landscape, and a portrait of early-twentieth-century America like you’ve never seen. And at its heart is the gripping story of a woman desperate to bury her past—or redeem it.

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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.

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

What’s more important: Knowing the truth or keeping the peace?

Seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson is convinced her senior year is ruined when she’s uprooted from her life in DC and forced into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between Avery’s mom and Mama Letty makes for a frosty arrival and unearths past drama they refuse to talk about. Every time Avery tries to look deeper, she’s turned away, leaving her desperate to learn the secrets that split her family in two.

While tempers flare in her avoidant family, Avery finds friendship in unexpected places: in Simone Cole, her captivating next-door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, daughter of the town’s most prominent family—whose mother’s murder remains unsolved.

As the three girls grow closer—Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoming into romance—the sharp-edged opinions of their small southern town begin to hint at something insidious underneath. The racist history of Bardell, Georgia is rooted in Avery’s family in ways she can’t even imagine. With Mama Letty’s health dwindling every day, Avery must decide if digging for the truth is worth toppling the delicate relationships she’s built in Bardell—or if some things are better left buried.

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