Fiction

" Saga. Volume One,” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Eisner-winner Vaughan (“Y the Last Man”) teams up with veteran illustrator Staples (“North 40”) in the epic, galaxy-spanning war story of a star-crossed couple protecting their infant daughter. The story opens with the narrator’s birth, in the middle of a machine shop on a war-torn planet. Her parents, Alana, a winged soldier from the planet Landfall, and Marko, a horned former prisoner of war from Landfall’s moon, have been on the run from both of their militaries. Betrayed, the family is almost murdered just as it forms; sheer luck gives Marko, Alana, and their daughter a chance to brave the wilds and make their way into the galaxy. Vaughan’s witty dialogue is laced with universal commonalities—the sharp fingernails of babies, burping techniques, love—that ground the alien nature of the characters and heighten the sense that the war between planet and moon and the hatred between enemies is tragically pointless. Staples’s character designs are fantastic—even the weirdest aliens reveal human emotion—and her two-page spreads, whether of battle or of tree-grown rocket ships, are glorious. This is a completely addictive, human story that will leave readers desperately awaiting the next volume. For mature readers.

— Publishers Weekly

“Heads of the Colored People: Stories," by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

In Thompson-Spires’s debut collection, she turns her keen eye onto members of the black community that don’t often receive center stage—a maker of YouTube videos that induce the tingly autonomous sensory meridian response in viewers (“Whisper to a Scream”), fruitarians (“The Subject of Consumption”), and the differently abled and the women who love them perhaps a little too much (“This Todd”). Thompson-Spires eschews the easy or sentimental, and there is a satirist in her that lends the stories a dark, funny edge; for example, Fatima learns how to be black from an albino girl named Violet. The confidence she gains from their lessons lands Fatima her first (white) boyfriend, to whom she betrays Violet’s insecurities about her albinism. In the title story, an anime cosplayer named Riley brawls with self-published comics artist Brother Man outside the Los Angeles Convention Center—the police, of course, misconstrue this, and an artist takes the opportunity to use the altercation and its aftermath in a personal project. This is also the most metafictional of the stories, with an omniscient “I” stepping away at the end to acknowledge the narrative clumsiness of the story before the reader can. Though the characters sometimes feel one-note, Thompson-Spires proves herself a trenchant humorist with an eye for social nuance.

— Publishers Weekly

Nonfiction

"I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" by Nujood Ali

Headlines traveled around the globe in the spring of 2008 when the barely 10-year-old Nujood Ali “found the courage to knock on the courtroom door”; she had come seeking a divorce from the sexually abusive and violent 30-ish man, a marriage arranged by her father. French journalist Minoui renders Ali's life from the young child's perspective without sensationalism, as respectful of Ali's faith as affected by her courage. Through her unwavering focus on Ali's young life and her big victory, on her pre-pubescent innocence and ignorance, the reader is taken inside one poor, recently rural Yemeni household. As Ali's life (“I have always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers”) moves into the public sphere, she discovers (fortunately) the compassionate judges and the dedicated lawyer of a more urbane Yemen. Simple and straightforward in its telling, this is an informative and thoroughly engaging narrative—making more painful a disquieting sense as the book ends that Ali's big victory offers the promise of change to other young girls but no true restoration of her girlhood; she's about 12 now.

— Publishers Weekly

"My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past," by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair

In this unforgettable memoir, Teege, writing with journalist Sellmair, discovers secrets about her family during WWII. Teege, a part-Nigerian German working in the advertising industry, shakes up her quiet married life after discovering a book, Matthias Kessler’s “I Have to Love My Father,” that inspires her to unravel her convoluted family history. She’s horrified to learn that her biological mother’s father was infamous SS leader Amon Goeth. As depicted in “Schindler’s List,” Goeth liquidated the Krakow ghetto in Poland, ran the Plaszow death camp, and was captured by Americans and hanged in 1946. Teege’s travels in Poland, Germany, and the Middle East further expose her family’s troubled legacy. Her biological mother, Monika, became pregnant with Teege after an affair with a Nigerian student, and placed the baby for adoption; Monika’s unapologetic mother, Ruth, makes excuses for Goeth, who was her lover. Teege’s quest to discover her personal history is empowering.

— Publishers Weekly

Others

"Coming Up for Air," by George Orwell (fiction)

"Murder Simply Brewed," by Vannetta Chapman (fiction)

“I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson," by Jackie Robinson and Alfred Duckett (nonfiction)

"Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation," by Dan Fagin (nonfiction)