We’re always on the lookout for books that strike a chord with our readers. In our New & Notable series you’ll find weekly picks that appeal to our editors and that we can’t help but share. This week we’ve curated a beautiful mosaic of cultures. We’re taking you on a journey through distant and not-too-distant lands—Senegal, France, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and the United States—through books full of heartbreaking and hilarious narratives of assimilation, resilience, love (won and lost), healing, and reinvention.
Fiction | Women, Senegal, France, West Africa | Self-Realization
Three Strong Women, by French writer Marie NDiaye, is the first by a black woman to win the coveted Prix Goncourt. This is the story of three women who say no: Norah, a French-born lawyer who finds herself in Senegal, summoned by her father to save another victim of his paternity; Fanta, who leaves a modest but contented life as a teacher in Dakar to follow her white boyfriend back to France; and Khady, a penniless widow put out by her husband’s family with nothing but the name of a distant cousin. NDiaye masterfully evokes the relentless denial of dignity, to say nothing of happiness, in these lives caught between Africa and Europe. We see with stunning emotional exactitude how ordinary women discover unimagined reserves of strength, even as their humanity is chipped away. (Excerpted from Knopf, Publisher.)
“Three Strong Women is a rare novel, capturing the grand scope of migration, from Africa to Europe and back, and the inner lives of very different people caught between pride and despair. And NDiaye is a rare novelist, whose arrival in America is long overdue.” —Jason Farago, NPR
Memoir | Women, Soviet Union, Romanies | Immigration—U.S.
American Gypsy, by Soviet Union-born Oksana Marafioti, is a memoir tracing a journey from Siberia to Hollywood. Fifteen-year-old Oksana Marafioti is a Gypsy—touring with the family band from the Mongolian deserts to the Siberian tundra and enduring sneering racism from every segment of Soviet society. Her father is determined that his girls lead a better, freer life. In America! Soon they are living on the sketchier side of Hollywood.
What Oksana and her sister, Roxy, know of the United States they’ve learned from MTV, subcategory George Michael. It doesn’t quite prepare them for the challenges of immigration. In this affecting, hilarious memoir, Marafioti cracks open the secretive world of the Roma and brings the absurdities, miscommunications, and unpredictable victories of the immigrant experience to life. (Excerpted from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Publisher.)
“Beyond the usual stereotypes of thieves in caravans, this drama of finding a home at last strikes universal chords, not least with the hilarious family theatrics and the contemporary immigrant mess-ups . . . [A] wry, unforgettable memoir.” —Booklist
Fiction | Cambodia History | Refugees
In the Shadow of the Banyan, by Cambodian writer Vaddey Ratner, reveals a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when an estimated two million people lost their lives. For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. (Excerpted from Simon & Schuster, Publisher.)
“This tale of physical and emotional adversity grips readers without delving into the graphic nature of the violence that occurred at the time . . . Ratner’s contemplative treatment of her protagonist and the love shared among the family stands in stark contrast to the severe reality they faced each day to survive. Knowing that the story was culled from Ratner’s experiences as a child brings a sense of immediacy to this heartrending novel. . .”—Library Journal
Biography| Paris, France | Women Journalists
In Paris: A Love Story, award-winning journalist and distinguished author Kati Marton narrates an impassioned and romantic story of love, loss, and life after loss. Paris is at the heart of this deeply moving account. At every stage of her life, Marton finds beauty and excitement in Paris, and now, after the sudden death of her husband, Richard Holbrooke, the city offers a chance for a fresh beginning. With intimate and nuanced portraits of Peter Jennings, the man to whom she was married for fifteen years and with whom she had two children, and Holbrooke, with whom she found enduring love, Marton paints a vivid account of an adventuresome life in the stream of history. (Excerpted from Simon & Schuster, Publisher.)
“Kati Marton has written movingly about her love, loss, and the healing power of an elegant city. She takes readers on a journey, as she writes, to find a place where there is joy in remembered joy.” —Diane Sawyer