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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #784, New York, New York

Fri, 07/09/2021 - 4:15pm by muffy

angel_&_hannahAngel & Hannah: A Novel in Verse by Ishle Yi Park (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook, performed by the author, first woman named poet laureate of Queens) reimagines Romeo and Juliet as an interracial couple in 1990s New York City. 

Hannah, the daughter of Korean immigrants in Queens, meets Angel, a Puerto Rican boy in Brooklyn,  at a quinceañera in the spring of 1993 and their “forbidden love instantly and wildly blooms along the Jackie Robinson Expressway.”

Told in seasons as opposed to Acts, in hip-hop sonnets and poems, we follow the blossoming of their young love to its gradual withering under the realities of poverty, racism, addiction, and the impacts of the AIDS epidemic.  

“Park's intermingling of slang with fragments of Spanish and Korean electrify the free-verse lyrics that dance and slide across the pages. With an energy and attitude closer to Lin Manuel Miranda's In the Heights than West Side Story, the spoken-word style of Park's wildly creative rendition will entrance readers.” (Booklist) 

 

dead_dead_girlsDead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia is the first in a new historical mystery series set during the Harlem Renaissance.  

A 15 year-old Louise Lovie Lloyd was abducted on her way home. A new fountain pen and ingenuity allowed her to escape and saved three other girls held in captivity. Immediately, she  was hailed as Harlem's Hero by the press. Now a decade older, Louise waits tables at Maggie’s Cafe during the day and spends her nights drinking and dancing at the Zodiac, Harlem's hottest speakeasy, trying to put her notoriety and her preacher father’s disapproval behind her. 

Then dead girls, elaborately groomed and posed begin turning up outside Maggie’s in the early hours. After an altercation with the police, Detective Theodore Gilbert makes her an offer: help solve the case or go to jail. 

“Even as she has little choice, she doesn't know how dangerous a deal she has made until subsequent deaths bring the killer close. In this atmospheric debut mystery, with a sequel already planned, Afia ably tracks how Louise goes from reluctant hero to detective, infusing the transition with the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance.” (Booklist) 

 

chosen_and_the_beautifulThe Chosen and the Beautiful * *  by Nghi Vo is “a fantastical reimagining of the world of The Great Gatsby.” (also in eBook and audiobook) from the point of view of Jordan Baker, the supposedly jaded and hollow golf pro on the sidelines of Fitzgerald's original novel. This is the author’s first full-length novel after 2 well-received novellas

In Vo’s version, Jordan Baker, a Vietnamese adoptee brought up in the rarefied Louisville society, stays close friends with Daisy Buchanan. Though a constant fixture at some of the most exclusive parties in 1920s New York, she remains an accepted outsider, being queer and Asian.  When Daisy sets Jordan up with her cousin, Nick Carraway, Jordan takes little notice of him until Jay Gatsby sets his eyes on Nick as well. 

“Between magic-filled parties at Gatsby’s house and whispers of dark bargains, Jordan watches the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby unravel over the course of the summer, at the same time struggling with her own relationship to Daisy and eventually coming to question her place in their society. Vo has crafted a retelling that, in many ways, surpasses the original, adding logic and depth to characters’ motivations while still—uncannily—unspooling the familiar story. Astonishingly crafted, with luscious prose and appeal for both fans of the original and those who always felt The Great Gatsby missed the mark.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

Readers might also want to look out for Nick by Michael F. Smithwhich provides Nick Carraway with a fascinating backstory before his move to West Egg and into Gatsby’s periphery. 

* * = 2 starred reviews 

 

 

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