October’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: Diverse Debuts, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, International Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Out of This World, Overcoming Adversity, Rainbow Reads, Stranger Things, and Young Adult. 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 October.

Diverse Debuts:

Diverse Debuts: Debut fiction novel by a BIPOC author.

We Are a Haunting by Tyriek White

A poignant debut for readers of Jesmyn Ward and Jamel Brinkley, We Are a Haunting follows three generations of a working class family and their inherited ghosts: a story of hope and transformation.

In 1980’s Brooklyn, Key is enchanted with her world, glowing with her dreams. A charming and tender doula serving the Black women of her East New York neighborhood, she lives, like her mother, among the departed and learns to speak to and for them. Her untimely death leaves behind her mother Audrey, who is on the verge of losing the public housing apartment they once shared. Colly, Key’s grieving son, soon learns that he too has inherited this sacred gift and begins to slip into the liminal space between the living and the dead on his journey to self-realization.

In the present, an expulsion from school forces Colly across town where, feeling increasingly detached and disenchanted with the condition of his community, he begins to realize that he must, ultimately, be accountable to the place he is from. After college, having forged an understanding of friendship, kinship, community, and how to foster love in places where it seems impossible, Colly returns to East New York to work toward addressing structural neglect and the crumbling blocks of New York City public housing he was born to; discovering a collective path forward from the wreckages of the past. 

A supernatural family saga, a searing social critique, and a lyrical and potent account of displaced lives, We Are a Haunting unravels the threads connecting the past, present, and future, and depicts the palpable, breathing essence of the neglected corridors of a pulsing city with pathos and poise.  – Penguin Random House

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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.

Ballad for Sophie written by Filipe Melo; illustrations by Juan Cavia

A young journalist prompts a reclusive piano superstar to open up, resulting in this stunning graphic sonata exploring a lifetime of rivalry, regret, and redemption.

1933. In the small French village of Cressy-la-Valoise, a local piano contest brings together two brilliant young players: Julien Dubois, the privileged heir of a wealthy family, and François Samson, the janitor’s son. One wins, one loses, and both are changed forever.

1997. In a huge mansion stained with cigarette smoke and memories, a bitter old man is shaken by the unexpected visit of an interviewer. Somewhere between reality and fantasy, Julien composes, like in a musical score, a complex and moving story about the cost of success, rivalry, redemption, and flying pianos.

When all is said and done, did anyone ever truly win? And is there any music left to play? – Penguin Random House

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Historical Fiction:

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

Skull Water by Heinz Insu Fenkl

Growing up outside a US military base in South Korea in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Insu—the son of a Korean mother and a German father enlisted in the US Army—spends his days with his “half and half” friends skipping school, selling scavenged Western goods on the black market, watching Hollywood movies, and testing the boundaries between childhood and adulthood. When he hears a legend that water collected in a human skull will cure any sickness, he vows to dig up a skull in order to heal his ailing Big Uncle, a geomancer who has been exiled by the family to a mountain cave to die.

Insu’s quest takes him and his friends on a sprawling, wild journey into some of South Korea’s darkest corners, opening them up to a fantastical world beyond their grasp. Meanwhile, Big Uncle has embraced his solitude and fate, trusting in otherworldly forces Insu cannot access. As he recalls his wartime experiences of betrayal and lost love, Big Uncle attempts to teach his nephew that life is not limited to what we can see—or think we know.

Largely autobiographical and sparkling with magical realism, Skull Water is the story of a boy coming into his own—and the ways the past haunts the present in a country on the cusp of modernity struggling to confront its troubled history. As Insu seeks the wisdom of his ancestors, what he learns, he hopes, will save not just his uncle but himself.  – Spiegel and Grau

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International Fiction:

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

Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel; translated by Rosalind Harvey

Alina and Laura are independent and career-driven women in their mid-thirties, neither of whom have built their future around the prospect of a family. Laura is so determined not to become a mother that she has taken the drastic decision to have her tubes tied. But when she announces this to her friend, she learns that Alina has made the opposite decision and is preparing to have a child of her own.

Alina’s pregnancy shakes the women’s lives, first creating distance and then a remarkable closeness between them. When Alina’s daughter survives childbirth – after a diagnosis that predicted the opposite – and Laura becomes attached to her neighbor’s son, both women are forced to reckon with the complexity of their emotions, their needs, and the needs of the people who are dependent upon them.

In prose that is as gripping as it is insightful, Guadalupe Nettel explores maternal ambivalence with a surgeon’s touch, carefully dissecting the contradictions that make up the lived experiences of women.  – Bloomsbury Publishing

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Juvenile Fiction:

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

You Are Here: Connecting Flights by Ellen Oh

An incident at a TSA security check point sows chaos and rumors, creating a chain of events that impacts twelve young Asian Americans in a crowded and restless airport. As their disrupted journeys crisscross and collide, they encounter fellow travelers—some helpful, some hostile—as they discover the challenges of friendship, the power of courage, the importance of the right word at the right time, and the unexpected significance of a blue Stratocaster electric guitar.

Twelve powerhouse Asian American authors explore themes of identity and belonging in the entwined experiences of young people whose family roots may extend to East and Southeast Asia, but who are themselves distinctly American.

Written by Linda Sue Park, Erin Entrada Kelly, Grace Lin, Traci Chee, Mike Chen, Meredith Ireland, Mike Jung, Minh Lê, Ellen Oh, Randy Ribay, Christina Soontornvat, and Susan Tan, and edited by Ellen Oh.  – HarperCollins

This title is also available as a Playaway audiobook, Libby eBook, and Libby eAudiobook.

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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).

The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem

A fugitive queen strikes a bargain with her greatest enemy that could resurrect her scorched kingdom or leave it in ashes forever in this unmissable Egyptian-inspired epic fantasy debut. Ten years ago, the kingdom of Jasad burned. Its magic was outlawed. Its royal family murdered. At least, that’s what Sylvia wants people to believe. The Heir of Jasad escaped the massacre, and she intends to stay hidden, especially from the armies of Nizahl that continue to hunt her people.

But a moment of anger changes everything. When Arin, the Nizahl Heir, tracks a group of Jasadi rebels to her village, Sylvia accidentally reveals her magic—and captures his attention. Now Sylvia’s forced to make a deal with her greatest enemy: Help him hunt the rebels in exchange for her life.

A deadly game begins. Sylvia can’t let Arin discover her identity, even as hatred shifts into something more between the Heirs. And as the tides change around her, Sylvia will have to choose between the life she wants and the one she abandoned.

The scorched kingdom is rising, and it needs a queen. – Hachette Book Group

This title is also available as a Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

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Overcoming Adversity:

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

Coleman Hill by Kim Coleman Foote

In 1916, during the early days of the Great Migration, Celia Coleman and Lucy Grimes flee the racism and poverty of their homes in the post–Civil War South for the “Promised Land” of Vauxhall, New Jersey. But the North possesses its own challenges and bigotries that will shape the fates of the women and their families over the next seventy years. Told through the voices of nine family members—their perspectives at once harmonious and contradictory—Coleman Hill is a penetrating multigenerational debut.

Within ten years of arriving in Vauxhall, both Celia and Lucy’s husbands are dead, and they turn to one another for support in raising their children far from home. Lucy’s gentleness sets Celia at ease, and Celia lends Lucy her fire when her friend wants to cower. Encouraged by their mothers’ friendship, their children’s lives become enmeshed as well. As the children grow into adolescence, two are caught in an impulsive act of impropriety, and Celia and Lucy find themselves at irreconcilable odds over who’s to blame. The ensuing fallout has dire consequences that reverberate through the next two generations of their families.

A stunning biomythography—a word coined by the late great writer Audre Lorde—Coleman Hill draws from the author’s own family legend, historical record, and fervent imagination to create an unforgettable new history. The result is a kaleidoscopic novel whose intergenerational arc emerges through a series of miniatures that contain worlds. – Zando Projects

This title is also available as a Libby eBook.

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Rainbow Reads:

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

Homebodies  by Tembe Denton-Hurst

Mickey Hayward dreams of writing stories that matter. She has a flashy media job that makes her feel successful and a devoted girlfriend who takes care of her when she comes home exhausted and demoralized. It’s not all A-list parties and steamy romance, but Mickey’s on her way, and it’s far from the messy life she left behind in Maryland. Despite being overlooked and mistreated at work, it seems like she might finally get the chance to prove herself—until she finds out she’s being replaced.

Distraught and enraged, Mickey fires back with a detailed letter outlining the racism and sexism she’s endured as a Black woman in media, certain it will change the world for the better. But when her letter is met with overwhelming silence, Mickey is sent into a tailspin of self-doubt. Forced to reckon with just how fragile her life is—including the uncertainty of her relationship—she flees to the last place she ever dreamed she would run to, her hometown, desperate for a break from her troubles.

Back home, Mickey is seduced by the simplicity of her old life—and the flirtation of a former flame—but her life in New York refuses to be forgotten. When a media scandal catapults Mickey’s forgotten letter into the public zeitgeist, suddenly everyone wants to hear what Mickey has to say. It’s what she’s always wanted—isn’t it?

Intimate, witty, and deeply sexy, Homebodies is a testament to those trying to be heard and loved in a world that refuses to make space, and introduces a standout new writer.  – HarperCollins

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Stranger Things:

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

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”

Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.

Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.  – Simon & Schuster

This title is also available in large print.

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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.

Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko

It’s summertime and 17-year-old Coley has found herself alone, again. Forced to move to rural Oregon after just losing her mother, she is in no position to risk her already fragile heart. But when she meets Sonya, the attraction is immediate.

Coley worries she isn’t worthy of love. Up until now, everyone she’s loved has left her. And Sonya’s never been with a girl before. What if she’s too afraid to show up for Coley? What if by opening her heart, Coley’s risking it all?

They both realize that when things are pushed down, and feelings are forced to shrivel away, Coley and Sonya will be the ones to shrink. It’s not until they accept the love they fear and deserve most, that suddenly the song makes sense.

Based on the billboard-charting smash hit song and viral music video GIRLS LIKE GIRLS, Hayley Kiyoko’s debut novel is about embracing your truth and realizing we are all worthy of being loved back.  – Macmillan Publishers

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

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