Briefly Rated Book Reviews | The New Yorker

Whatever she wore, by Tiya Miles (Random House). This powerful story of women and slavery revolves around a 19th-century cotton bag found at a flea market in 2007, now on display at the Smithsonian. A slave woman named Rose gave it to her daughter Ashley when it was sold and they were separated. As Miles tries to add to this information, embroidered on the bag by Ashley’s granddaughter, she finds that reconstructing marginalized stories “requires attention to absence as well as presence.” She uses the object and its contents – a tattered dress, a handful of pecans, and a braid of hair – to explore the lives of black women in the 19th and 20th centuries, and her meticulous research ultimately reveals the likely origins of the old memory of memory. the owners.

Upper Bohemia, by Hayden Herrera (Simon & Schuster). The author of these memoirs recalls being raised by glamorous and impoverished offspring of the East Coast aristocracy, whose parenting style was centered on a belief in “a moral imperative to follow their desire.” As each pursued a series of weddings and adventures, their two daughters experienced itinerant childhoods – Boston, New York, Mexico City, Cape Cod – within a sparkling social circle of writers and artists. Herrera, art historian and biographer of Frida Kahlo (whom her mother knew) and Henri Matisse, successfully summons a child’s point of view, and through her eyes we see both romance and the rupture of his parents’ world.

The other black girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria). Nella, editor assistant and protagonist of this incisive first novel, is initially delighted with the arrival of Hazel, a black ally in an office where “her colleagues could publish books on Bitcoin and the conflicts of the Middle East. East and black holes, but most of them I couldn’t understand why it was so important to have a more diverse publishing house. But after Nella is undermined by Hazel and receives anonymous and threatening notes, she probes her antagonist’s background and makes surprising sci-fi-tinged discoveries. The author, herself a former editorial assistant, delivers not only a critique of the industry’s lack of diversity, but an imaginative commentary on the personal and professional sacrifices black women make to fit into spaces. dominated by whites.

Loyalty of the site, by Claire Boyles (Norton). Tracing a landscape of deserts, mountains, sagebrush and ranches, this collection of stories evokes life in the contemporary American West. Boyles’ characters are imbued with a sense of connection to place and aware of the precariousness of their surroundings; they transform old quarries into open spaces, confront breeders with ecological requirements and consider creating nurseries for native plants. The inner life of a young woman is shaped by the desire to protect endangered birds. Another, pregnant and anxious to preserve the land she loves, dreams of her old home in the Colorado countryside: “The future of yesterday had turned into a vaguely gloomy present, which made the past particularly bright.

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