I love you but I chose the darkness, by Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead). “I have tried to tell this story several times,” writes the protagonist of Watkins’ startling novel. “This will be my last try.” Struck with a sense of alienation after having her first child, she leaves her baby and her husband in Michigan and travels to Nevada, where she grew up. She revisits her family’s ranch, which is about to be demolished; remembers a deceased boyfriend; think of his father, who (like the author’s) was in the Manson family; and read the letters her mother wrote before retiring into opioid addiction. Her search for a sense of self culminates in a trip to a particular desert region steeped in family traditions, which she calls an “invented place”.
Happy Hour, by Marlowe Granados (Verso). Isa, the 21-year-old Canadian columnist-narrator of those effervescent beginnings, arrives in New York with her best friend, Gala, determined to have a summer of experience. They have little money and no work permits, but they have youth, beauty, charm and keen swindle instincts. Granados makes a picaresque of art galleries, SoHo lofts, and Hamptons mansions, skillfully satirizing the rich without denying the value of what wealth can buy: gorgeous clothes, superb champagne, easy confidence. The combination of naivety, intelligence and panache of Isa seduces. “I always prefer my way of looking at things,” she says. “Because everything is mine, and no one can convince me otherwise. “
Walk with me, by Kate Clifford Larson (Oxford). This biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, the civil rights lawyer who challenged segregationists in Mississippi with her powerful oratory and “unforgettable” song, places the popular women’s organization at the heart of the battle for black emancipation. Born in 1917, Hamer grew up at a time when Klan membership was booming and making a living as a sharecropper. Her expected fate was, in her words, that she “wouldn’t really live”, but “would exist”. His political will was catalyzed when a white surgeon performed a hysterectomy on him without his knowledge or consent. Larson details the retaliation Hamer faced for attempting to vote, including a heart-wrenching fake arrest from which she emerged beaten but provocative: “If these Winona crackers thought they would discourage me from beating myself up, I guess they discovered the opposite.
Man ray, by Arthur Lubow (Yale). By approaching his subject “from an angle, through an investigation of his most important relationships”, the author of this biography ingeniously captures one of the most enigmatic artists of the 20th century. The capsule portraits of Ray’s many friends, lovers and acquaintances – both famous peers, such as Duchamp, and under-recognized collaborators, such as Meret Oppenheim – trace his path from Brooklyn, where he was raised by immigrant Jewish parents, until his development. among the Dadaists and Surrealists in Paris and beyond. Examining Ray’s multifaceted production, which included paintings, readymades, fashion photographs and experimental films, Lubow nonetheless manages to retain the central mystique of an artist whose “masterpiece was its own public image ”.