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The Opium Prince by Jasmine AimaqStarring: Afghan-born American Daniel Abdullah Sajadi, posted to Kabul in 1970 to help eradicate the opium trade; Taj Maleki, local drug kingpin.
What happens: the accidental death of a young girl forces Daniel to compromise his mission; both men must contend with rising Soviet influence and increasing political chaos within their chosen realms.
Why you might like it: This debut -- by an author who grew up in Afghanistan and who has a background in foreign affairs -- effectively captures the dynamics of a complex nation.
Nights When Nothing Happened by Simon HanWhat it is: the sobering story of a hardworking Chinese family in Texas, whose fragile, happy-enough façade falls apart in the wake of a misunderstanding.
Read it for: themes of belonging and loyalty; fully realized characters suffering through discontent and disillusion; a leisurely paced unfolding of an immigrant experience in the United States.
What to read next: Akhil Sharma's Family Life, about an Indian family whose immigration to the U.S. is similarly challenged by tragedy.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi; translated by Geoffrey TrousselotIs time travel possible? It is in a tiny Tokyo café, where one particular chair allows its occupants to visit past experiences (though several rules apply).
Is it for you? The physics of time travel is not addressed here; instead, four characters simply get a second chance to revisit lost loved ones.
Book buzz: This English-language debut by Japanese playwright Toshikazu Kawaguchi was a bestseller in Japan.
Eartheater by Dolores Reyes; translated by Julia SanchesWhat it is: a coming-of-age novel set in contemporary Argentina and teeming with magical realism.
What happens? The unnamed narrator, a high school dropout, feels compelled to eat dirt -- and experiences visions of people who are missing or dead when she does so. Thanks to this distressing skill, she is both shunned and sought out in equal measure in a country suffering stark violence, particularly against women.
Book buzz: Eartheater was named a Best Book of Fall 2020 by Time, Vulture.com, The Boston Globe, Cosmopolitan, Wired.com, and more.
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi DaréStarring: Adunni, a 14-year-old rural Nigerian girl who longs for an education in a place where girls are meant to marry young and serve their husbands.
What happens: When Adunni flees her marriage and escapes to Lagos, she finds more degradation and abuse, but is just as determined to find her way.
For fans of: compelling, hopeful stories about fearless young women, like Shobha Rao's Girls Burn Brighter.
Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo FordWhat it is: the first collection of stories by Plimpton Prize-winning Cherokee writer Kelli Jo Ford that traces four generations of Cherokee women as they navigate cultural dynamics, disappointing men, and their relationships with each other.
Want a taste? "She’s survived a lifetime of these miracles, which trace back to Daddy emptying the bank account and leaving her with three girls and half an art education degree to pay the bills."
Reviewers say: "a stunner" (Publishers Weekly); "riveting" (Booklist).
Tiny Imperfections by Alli Frank and Asha YoumansFeaturing: Josie Bordelon, former model and now the head of admissions at a tony private school in San Francisco.
What happens: With pushy parents to contend with at work (it's admission season), Josie's also got tension at home stemming from her daughter's impending high school graduation and their clashing ideas for her future.
Why you might like it: Though there's a romantic sub-plot, the focus of this charming, humorous debut is on the family bond between Josie, her aunt, and her daughter. And don't miss the snarky commentary on competitive West Coast high achievers.
All My Mother's Lovers by Ilana MasadWhat happens: Maggie's mother, Iris, dies unexpectedly, putting an abrupt end to their complicated relationship, which was strained by Iris' discomfort with Maggie's sexuality.
And then: Maggie delivers five sealed letters to men from her mother's past, learning more than she ever thought possible about her mother, her parents' marriage, and herself.
For fans of: road-trip novels and stories of self-discovery.
The Cactus League by Emily NemensAt the plate: star left-fielder Jason Goodyear, who's at his peak but is spiraling out of control.
What happens: Narrated by an unnamed sportswriter, we follow along as the 2011 spring training season in Scottsdale, AZ unfolds -- and the cast is full with players, owners, trainers, wives, girlfriends, and assorted fans and hangers-on, all with their own flaws and fallibilities.
Reviewers say: "Like the best sportswriting, this bighearted, finely observed novel is about far more than the game" (Kirkus Reviews).
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong WashburnThen: As a child, Nainoa fell overboard and was retrieved and returned by a pack of sharks, entering local Hawaiian lore.
Now: Nainoa is a paramedic in Oregon, his sister and brother similarly scattered. After he fails to save a young mother and her child, Nainoa returns to Hawaii and disappears.
Why you might like it: Covering 14 years and narrated in alternating sections by four of the five members of Nainoa's Filipino Hawaiian family, this lush debut tinged with magical realism explores the difficulties of modern Hawaiian life.
Contact your librarian for more great books!