- Midwest Connection: Tola Rotimi Abraham lives in Iowa City and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in journalism. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she has taught writing at the University of Iowa.
- Shelf-talker: Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling's search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life.
Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife, and the family, facing poverty, becomes drawn into the New Church, an institution led by a charismatic pastor who is not shy about worshipping earthly wealth.
Soon Bibike and Ariyike’s father wagers the family home on a “sure bet” that evaporates like smoke. As their parents’ marriage collapses in the aftermath of this gamble, the twin sisters and their two younger siblings, Andrew and Peter, are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters. Each girl is left to locate, guard, and hone her own fragile source of power.
Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday takes us into the chaotic heart of family life, tracing a line from the euphoria of kinship to the devastation of estrangement.
Readers of literary fiction and stories of family bonds. For fans of Margaret Wilkerson Sexton and Michael Donkor.
Housegirl by Michael Donkor
Stay With Me by Ayò̥bámi Adébáyò̥
She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
Tola Rotimi Abraham is a writer from Lagos, Nigeria. She lives in Iowa City and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in journalism. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she has taught writing at the University of Iowa. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Catapult, The Des Moines Register, The Nigerian Literary Magazine, and other places.
"[A] piercing, supple debut . . . Abraham stuffs her novel past brimming, but its sophisticated structure and propulsive narration allow her to tuck in a biting critique of corrupt colonial religion and universally exploitative men . . . Twin sisters cut adrift in a perilous, duplicitous world learn that 'only the wise survive.' A formidable debut."
-- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Abraham’s fierce debut follows four Nigerian siblings living in Lagos from childhood in 1996 through early adulthood in 2015 . . . The novel’s strength lies in its lush, unflinching scenes, as when a seemingly simple infection leads gradually but inexorably to a life-threatening condition, revealing the dynamics of the family and community along the way. Abraham mightily captures a sense of the stresses of daily life in a family, city, and culture that always seems on the edge of self-destruction."
-- Publishers Weekly
"Set in Lagos over a period of decades, this absorbing debut follows twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike from the inseparable bonds of relative comfort to the challenges and independence of poverty."
-- Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine
"Abraham's debut novel tackles weighty topics like rape, self-discovery, and the mischief of prominent religious figures with a refreshing elegance. Bibike and Ariyike are nuanced characters who often make decisions with a jarred moral compass. Abraham gently ushers readers into both sisters' perspectives, inviting us into their journey to autonomous peace."
- Midwest Connection: Everywhere You Don't Belong takes place in South Shore, Chicago, and Missouri, and Gabriel Bump grew up in South Shore.
- Shelf-talker: A visceral, vivid, and urgent novel about a young black man growing up on Chicago’s South Side—an arresting debut from a sparkling new literary talent.
Everywhere You Don’t Belong is an alternately witty and heartbreaking debut novel about a young black man born on the South Side of Chicago. Raised by his civil rights-era grandmother, Claude McKay Love copes with abandonment, violence, riots, failed love, and societal pressures — and discovers how hard it is to leave his hometown behind.
For fans of Tommy Orange, Jamel Brinkley, and Jesmyn Ward, and for readers looking for an honest and moving story about growing up.
Gabriel Bump grew up in South Shore, Chicago. His nonfiction and fiction have appeared in Slam magazine, the Huffington Post, Springhouse Journal, and other publications. He was awarded the 2016 Deborah Slosberg Memorial Award for Fiction. He received his MFA in fiction from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He lives in Buffalo, New York.
If you are interested in hosting an event with Gabriel Bump for Everywhere You Don't Belong, contact Michael McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This book is astonishing. You'll be smiling even as your heart is breaking, and you'll tip willingly into this world Bump offers you because what appears again and again are spectacular beams of light, also called love, also called hope, also called family. Gabriel Bump has established himself as a stunning talent to be reckoned with.”
-- Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King
“[A] pointedly affecting debut novel . . . With deft writing and rat-a-tat, laugh-until-you-gasp-at-the-implications dialog, Bump delivers a singular sense of growing up black that will resonate with readers.”
-- Library Journal (starred review)
"[An] astute and touching debut . . . Bump balances his heavy subject matter with a healthy dose of humor, but the highlight is Claude, a complex, fully developed protagonist who anchors everything. Readers will be moved in following his path to young adulthood."
-- Publishers Weekly
“A sharply funny debut novel that introduces an irreverent comic voice . . . By telling it in short vignettes rather than a traditional narrative, he creates striking images and memorable dialogue that vibrate with the life of Chicago's South Side . . . genuinely hilarious.”
-- Kirkus Reviews
- Midwest Connection: Author Debra Landwehr Engle lives in Madison County, Iowa.
- Shelf-talker: Defiantly uplifting, Twenty by Debra Landwehr Engle is a transformative story about making peace with the past and allowing joy to bloom in our daily lives.
Twenty begins as 55-year-old Meg is reeling from a series of calamities, including divorce and the death of her mother. Just as she hits an all-time low, something magical happens that allows her to begin rediscovering the love, friendship and joy that’s been missing from her life. Both a heartwarming story and a catalyst for inspiration, Twenty fearlessly tackles depression, grief and regret.
Women 40+, anyone struggling with depression/mental health, magical realism, women’s fiction, divorce fiction, grief.
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffen
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
The Testament of Harold's Wife by Lynn Hugo
Debra Landwehr Engle is the bestselling author of The Only Little Prayer You Need and Let Your Spirit Guides Speak. She is the co-founder of a women’s program of personal and spiritual growth, teaching classes in A Course in Miracles, and offering courses and workshops worldwide. Her blog, “Everyday Miracles” appears at www.patheos.com. Debra lives with her husband, Bob, in Madison County, Iowa, home of the famed covered bridges. Twenty is her first novel.
If you are interested in hosting an event with Debra Landwehr Engle for Twenty, please contact Crystal McCoy at CMcCoy@KensingtonBooks.com.
“Impressive and surprising . . .in less than two hundred pages the author delivers a thought-provoking story about what it means both to live and die.”
“One of the most remarkable books I've ever read.”
-- Pamela Wallace, Academy Award-winning screenwriter
“A book to hold against your heart long after the last page is turned.”
-- New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs
“Twenty reminds us to live with our hearts wide open even when they’ve been broken, and how to love even when it hurts.”
-- Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials
“Written with such strong and heartfelt faith in the magic and power of never-ending love, it will renew your own.”
-- Judy Reene Singer, author of In the Shadow of Alabama
“Reading Twenty is like walking into what C. S. Lewis called the ‘thin place’—that land so close to Heaven, you can practically touch it. Engle takes us through an emotional struggle in which life and death are the two prizefighters, making us believe there is so much more behind the comedies and tragedies of our lives. Coming to the end of Engle’s remarkable story allows every reader to experience a ravishing victory not only for Meg, the protagonist, but for their own soul as well.”
-- David Paul Kirkpatrick, former President of Paramount Pictures, Former Production Chief of Walt Disney studios
- Midwest Connection: Alyssa Zaczek is originally from Chicago and now lives in St. Cloud, MN.
- Shelf-talker: In this bighearted middle-grade debut, Martin McLean struggles to find his voice—and his inner diva—as he navigates friendship, family, first crushes, and a whole lot of glitter.
Martin McLean has always been surrounded by people who can express themselves, but he’s not great at speaking up unless he’s at a Mathletes competition. Then his Tío Billy introduces him to the world of drag, inspiring Martin to create a fabulous drag queen alter ego. When Martin discovers that his first-ever drag show is the same night as an important Mathletes tournament, he realizes that he can only pull off both appearances by revealing his true self to his friends—and channeling his inner drag superstar.
Contemporary fiction readers, aged 8-12 in North America.
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez
Alyssa Zaczek is an author, playwright, and journalist. Martin McLean, Middle School Queen is her debut novel. Originally from Chicago, Alyssa now lives in St. Cloud, MN. Visit her online at alyssazaczek.com and on Twitter @AlyssaDZaczek.
“An amusing story that's bursting with diversity at every turn. . . . A tasty treat.”
-- Kirkus (Starred review)
"... a good-humored romp with a highly empathetic hero. What’s not to like?”
“Martin McLean, Middle School Queen is a thoughtful exploration of how we contain multitudes. This accessible, inclusive novel shows we are as infinite as the universe and have the potential to be as bright as the stars. You’ll cheer and root for Martin (Lottie) as he figures out how to celebrate all the parts of who he is. This book will leave you feeling triumphant!”
-- Donna Gephart, award-winning author of Lily and Dunkin and The Paris Project
If you are interested in hosting an event with Alyssa Zaczek featuring Martin McLean, Middle School Queen, contact Anthony Lasasso at Alasasso@sterlingpublishing.com.