Staff Pick

Many books have been written about the Scottish missionary, Dr. David Livingstone, and his travels deep into the heart of Central Africa in search of the source of the Nile River. There's also been brief mentions of two of his guides, Chuma and Susi, through his journeys. But what Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah's newest novel, Out Of Darkness, Shining Light (Scribner, $27), gives us is a beautiful reimagining of the explorer’s entire entourage—the group that respectfully carries his body, papers, and maps 1,500 miles across the continent to the Eastern coast of Africa so he could be delivered to his birth home and legal family. The narrative focuses on Halima, still a slave to a harsh man named Amoda, and Jacob Wainwright, a freed slave. Through their distinctive voices we come to understand the different and often contradictory qualities of Bwana Daudi—as they call Dr. Livingstone—and gain a new and more complex awareness of the man behind the legend.

Out of Darkness, Shining Light: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982110338
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Scribner - September 10th, 2019

Staff Pick

Maaza Mengiste, born in Ethiopia, made a memorable literary debut with Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, which won an NAACP Image Award and was named one of the Guardian's Ten Best Contemporary African Books. Her highly anticipated second novel, The Shadow King (W.W. Norton, $26.95), is set in mid-1930s Ethiopia, where Mengiste reimagines Mussolini’s invasion from the perspectives of a sadistic Italian colonel, a Jewish Venetian photographer, and, most prominently, Hirut, an orphaned servant girl working for a wealthy family. A compelling and richly drawn character, Hirut is not content to watch history unfold but turns her considerable intelligence and resourcefulness to taking an active role in events, first by nursing the wounded, then by joining Hailie Selassie’s formidable force of female warriors. In a stroke brilliantly her own, she bolsters flagging hope among her compatriots by disguising a peasant as Haile Selassie when the emperor goes into exile. Facing rape and imprisonment, Hirut not only survives but inspires other women to actively resist the forces that threaten their homeland. Whether describing battlefi elds, domestic life, or interpersonal relationships, Mengiste’s cinematic prose evokes the full sensory experience of the time and place.

The Shadow King: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393083569
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 24th, 2019

Staff Pick

Red at the Bone (Riverhead, $26) is yet another amazing work of literary fiction by the award-winning Jacqueline Woodson. This novel is for the reader on your list who loves a good family saga. Woodson masterfully illustrates the life of a Black family in Brooklyn, New York, whose lives are all shaped by a teenage pregnancy. The reader is introduced to the family through Melody’s coming-of-age party, which leads us into the many memories surrounding her childhood and the entire family’s history of love, loss, and parenthood. This was the first time I’ve read any of Woodson’s work and it is because of this novel I am eager to read more by her. I loved this novel because Woodson is able to craft such a powerful story in under 200 pages. Anyone who is given this novel for the holidays will take the lessons from this book and into 2020 with them.

Red at the Bone: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525535270
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Riverhead Books - September 17th, 2019