January’s Simply Held Fiction Picks

We have rebranded our Best Sellers Club to now be called Simply Held! 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.

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

Diverse Debuts:

Diverse Debuts: Debut fiction novel by a BIPOC author.

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

A moving and deeply engaging debut novel about a young Native American man finding strength in his familial identity, from a stellar new voice in fiction.

Oscar Hokeah’s electric debut takes us into the life of Ever Geimausaddle, whose family—part Mexican, part Native American—is determined to hold onto their community despite obstacles everywhere they turn. Ever’s father is injured at the hands of corrupt police on the border when he goes to visit family in Mexico, while his mother struggles both to keep her job and care for her husband. And young Ever is lost and angry at all that he doesn’t understand, at this world that seems to undermine his sense of safety. Ever’s relatives all have ideas about who he is and who he should be. His Cherokee grandmother, knowing the importance of proximity, urges the family to move across Oklahoma to be near her, while his grandfather, watching their traditions slip away, tries to reunite Ever with his heritage through traditional gourd dances. Through it all, every relative wants the same: to remind Ever of the rich and supportive communities that surround him, there to hold him tight, and for Ever to learn to take the strength given to him to save not only himself but also the next generation.

How will this young man visualize a place for himself when the world hasn’t made room for him to start with? Honest, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, Calling for a Blanket Dance is the story of how Ever Geimausaddle finds his way home.

This book is also available in the following format:

Graphic Novel:

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

Who Will Make the Pancakes: Five Stories by Megan Kelso

A suite of five brilliant comics stories united by themes of motherhood, family, and love.
Who Will Make the Pancakes collects five deeply social stories by the acclaimed cartoonist Megan Kelso, exploring the connective tissue that binds us together despite our individual, interior experience. These stories, created over the past 15 years — roughly contemporaneously with the author’s own journey as a mother— wrestle with the concept of motherhood and the way the experience informs and impacts concepts of identity, racism, class, love, and even abuse. The book opens with “Watergate Sue,” originally serialized in The New York Times Magazine over six months in 2007. Spanning two generations of mothers/daughters, Eve’s obsession with Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal throughout 1973 heightens her self-doubt about whether she wants to raise more children (resonantly mirroring the anxiety many of us had while doom scrolling our way through the Trump administration). Some 30 years later, her daughter, Sue, is now grown and beginning her own family and attempting to reconcile her mother’s experience with her own.

“Cats in Service” is a contemporary fable about how a death in the family leads a young couple to adopt several cats who have been expertly trained to tend to their every need. “The Egg Room” profiles middle-aged Florence, caught between dreams of how her life might have unfolded and the shrunken reality. “The Golden Lasso” turns the focus to adolescence, using rock climbing as a set piece for a story about innocence lost, while “Korin Voss” chronicles a few months in the life of a single mother in the late 1940s.

Taken collectively, Who Will Make the Pancakes showcases Kelso’s unique voice in graphic fiction (one more in tune with writers such as Alice Munro, Sarah Waters, or Ann Patchett than most graphic novelists) and a stylistic command that tailors her approachable and warm cartooning style for each story’s needs.

Historical Fiction:

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

Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu

“Within every misfortune there is a blessing and within every blessing, the seeds of misfortune, and so it goes, until the end of time.”

It is 1938 in China and, as a young wife, Meilin’s future is bright. But with the Japanese army approaching, Meilin and her four year old son, Renshu, are forced to flee their home. Relying on little but their wits and a beautifully illustrated hand scroll, filled with ancient fables that offer solace and wisdom, they must travel through a ravaged country, seeking refuge.

Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. Though his daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down? Yet how can Lily learn who she is if she can never know her family’s story?

Spanning continents and generations, Peach Blossom Spring is a bold and moving look at the history of modern China, told through the story of one family. It’s about the power of our past, the hope for a better future, and the haunting question: What would it mean to finally be home?

This book is also available in the following format:

International Fiction:

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

Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell

In northern India, an eighty-year-old woman slips into a deep depression after the death of her husband, and then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention – including striking up a friendship with a transgender person – confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two.

To her family’s consternation, Ma insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist.

Rather than respond to tragedy with seriousness, Geetanjali Shree’s playful tone and exuberant wordplay results in a book that is engaging, funny, and utterly original, at the same time as being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries, or genders.

Juvenile Fiction:

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

Operation Sisterhood by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Fans of the Netflix reboot of The Babysitters Club will delight as four new sisters band together in the heart of New York City. Discover this jubilant novel about the difficulties of change, the loyalty of sisters, and the love of family from a prolific award-winning author.

Bo and her mom always had their own rhythm. But ever since they moved to Harlem, Bo’s world has fallen out of sync. She and Mum are now living with Mum’s boyfriend Bill, his daughter Sunday, the twins, Lili and Lee, the twins’ parents…along with a dog, two cats, a bearded dragon, a turtle, and chickens. All in one brownstone! With so many people squished together, Bo isn’t so sure there is room for her.

Set against the bursting energy of a New York City summer, award-winning author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich delivers a joyful novel about a new family that hits all the right notes!

Out of this World:

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

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.

But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire.

Overcoming Adversity:

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

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens edited by Marieke Nijkamp

A YA fiction anthology showcasing stories in various genres, featuring disabled characters, and written by disabled creators. Contributors range from established NYT bestsellers to exciting debuts.

This anthology explores disability in fictional tales told from the viewpoint of disabled characters, written by disabled creators. With stories in various genres about first loves, friendship, war, travel, and more, Unbroken will offer today’s teen readers a glimpse into the lives of disabled people in the past, present, and future.

The contributing authors are awardwinners, bestsellers, and newcomers including Kody Keplinger, Kristine Wyllys, Francisco X. Stork, William Alexander, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp, Dhonielle Clayton, Heidi Heilig, Katherine Locke, Karuna Riazi, Kayla Whaley, Keah Brown, and Fox Benwell. Each author identifies as disabled along a physical, mental, or neurodiverse axis—and their characters reflect this diversity.

Rainbow Reads:

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

Other Names for Love by Taymour Soomro

A charged, hypnotic debut novel about a boy’s life-changing summer in rural Pakistan: a story of fathers, sons, and the consequences of desire.

At age sixteen, Fahad hopes to spend the summer with his mother in London. His father, Rafik, has other plans: hauling his son to Abad, the family’s feudal estate in upcountry, Pakistan. Rafik wants to toughen up his sensitive boy, to teach him about power, duty, family—to make him a man. He enlists Ali, a local teenager, in this project, hoping his presence will prove instructive.

Instead, over the course of one hot, indolent season, attraction blooms between the two boys, and Fahad finds himself seduced by the wildness of the land and its inhabitants: the people, who revere and revile his father in turn; cousin Mousey, who lives alone with a man he calls his manager; and most of all, Ali, who threatens to unearth all that is hidden.

Decades later, Fahad is living abroad when he receives a call from his mother summoning him home. His return will force him to face the past. Taymour Soomro’s Other Names for Love is a tale of masculinity, inheritance, and desire set against the backdrop of a country’s troubled history, told with uncommon urgency and beauty.

Stranger Things:

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

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Carlota Moreau: A young woman growing up on a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of a researcher who is either a genius or a madman.

Montgomery Laughton: A melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.

The hybrids: The fruits of the doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.

All of them live in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Dr. Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction.

For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and, in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is both a dazzling historical novel and a daring science fiction journey.

This book is also available in the following format:

Young Adult Fiction:

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

Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi

From National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi comes a companion novel to the critically acclaimed PET that explores both the importance and cost of social revolution–and how youth lead the way.

After a childhood in foster care, Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside this haven, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the city of Lucille.

Bitter’s instinct is to stay safe within the walls of Eucalyptus . . . but her friends aren’t willing to settle for a world that’s so far away from what they deserve. Pulled between old friendships, her artistic passion, and a new romance, Bitter isn’t sure where she belongs—in the studio or in the streets. And if she does find a way to help the revolution while being true to who she is, she must also ask: at what cost?

This timely and riveting novel—a companion to the National Book Award finalist Pet—explores the power of youth, protest, and art.

Join Simply Held to have the newest Fiction picks automatically put on hold for you every quarter.

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