Hammad’s second novel, which draws its title from a stage direction in Hamlet, is a blend of love story, family drama, and geo-political commentary. The protagonist, a British-Palestinian actress, travels to Haifa, Israel, to stay with her sister, a professor, and re-acquaint herself with the city where her father was born and which she has not visited since childhood. Grudgingly, she agrees to help stage a production of Hamlet in the West Bank. The experience forces a reckoning about her life choices, family roots, and the Palestinian cause. Hammad is an exciting, prize-winning young talent, and her new novel showcases why.
The plot of this novel is familiar: A young immigrant in a neighborhood scarred by poverty and drugs must choose between doing right by the young woman he loves or being lured by the pull of the streets. In Moses McKenzie’s An Olive Grove in Ends, we get a new take on the modern urban fable. McKenzie, a debut author in his early 20s, comes from the place he writes about, a multicultural enclave near Bristol, England. His protagonist, Sayon, is from a Jamaican-English family led by his pastor father. Sayon’s love interest, Shona, also has a father who is a church leader. McKenzie’s raw portrayal captures the textures and tensions of their lives as they weigh the promise of staying in school, the pressures of their elders and the Bible’s teachings, and the reality that the drug trade is an existential part of Sayon’s world. The language of the novel is vernacular, and pleasingly so. Reading the book is akin to walking down the street in Sayon’s neighborhood and absorbing its sounds, smells, and scenes.
If you want to understand how the Republican Party became what it is today, this book will provide the road map. In American Psychosis, journalist and commentator David Corn, the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones, traces the GOP’s lineage back 150 years and documents its episodic, but consistent, ties to white supremacy movements. Corn focuses most of his attention on the last half century, from the McCarthy era until now, with special attention to the rise of Newt Gingrich, the religious right, talk show impresarios like Rush Limbaugh, and most recently Donald Trump, all of whom exerted pressure on mainstream Republicans to adopt a more extreme ideology, lying as a tactic, and conspiracy theories to destroy opponents. Corn shows how demagoguery and hatred have made racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and white supremacy brands of today’s Republican Party. Through dogged reporting and applying historical context, Corn makes his case that the GOP’s extremism is the logical evolution of the party over time, not an aberration. Please read this book if you care about the future of American democracy.