November Book Club: ‘Transcendent Kingdom’ by Yaa Gyasi

This month’s pick for the Austin360 Book Club powered by TBF is Transcendent Kingdom by #1 New York Times bestselling author of Homegoing and 2020 Texas Book Festival author Yaa Gyasi.

Yaa Gyasi’s second novel is an emotionally searing, powerful, and intimate portrait of a Ghanian immigrant family living in Alabama who is ravaged by depression, addiction, and grief.

Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her.

But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. This exquisitely written follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut explores questions of faith, science, religion, and love.

We highly recommend ordering Transcendent Kingdom from our friends at BookPeople, and be sure to save the date for November 12 at 12:00 PM CST, when Yaa Gyasi will discuss Transcendent Kingdom!

Past 2020 book club picks:

2020 Texas Writer Award recipient: Stephen Graham Jones

Every year, the Texas Book Festival awards the Texas Writer Award to one author who has significantly contributed to the state’s literary landscape. These authors put Lone Star narratives on the national radar, connecting people everywhere to the depths and joys of Texas literature. Previous recipients include Attica Locke, James Magnuson, Dan Rather, and Benjamin Alire Sánez, as well as many, many other talented individuals.

This year, we are so excited to present this award to Stephen Graham Jones, whose latest book is The Only Good Indians. We recently read The Only Good Indians in our Austin360 Book Club and were gripped by Jones’ new tale of horror, guilt, and revenge.

The story centers on four Native American friends haunted—quite literally—by a hunting trip gone wrong. Years after the incident, one of the men, Lewis, is suddenly forced to face his past before it first confronts him. With its expert blend of chilling imagery and social commentary, Jones’s novel tackles themes of tradition and cultural identity while keeping readers hooked.

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of seventeen or eighteen novels, six story collections, a couple of standalone novellas, and a couple of one-shot comic books. Jones is a former NEA recipient, winner of the Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, and a Bram Stoker Award, among many others. A Blackfeet Native American, he was born in Midland, Texas, and holds degrees from Texas Tech University and the University of North Texas. He currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he serves as the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder. Stephen Graham Jones’s writing is dynamic, illuminative, and downright beautiful, and we are so excited to honor him at this year’s Festival.

RSVP for Stephen Graham Jones’ Festival session with Otessa Moshfegh.

Get The Only Good Indians from BookPeople.

5 new books to read this October

October has finally arrived, and we can’t wait to see you all at our Virtual Festival! Below, we’ve listed five upcoming books we cannot wait to dive into. We recommend purchasing and preordering these captivating reads from our friends at BookPeople.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Released October 6th, 2020

This suspenseful and provocative novel was a Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in the Fiction category. Rumaan Alam writes a gripping story of two families, strangers to each other, who are forced to spend an eventful weekend together after a peculiar turn of events.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Released October 6th, 2020

Sayaka Murata writes an engrossing, dreamlike, and inventive story of feeling out of place. Growing up, Natsuki spent her summers with her cousin Yuu in the wild Nagano mountains before they were driven apart. Now adults and soon to be reunited, Natsuki and Yuu must utilize their strengths and do what it takes to survive.

Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates by Rebekah Manley

Coming: October 13, 2020

Rebekah Manley’s debut work is a heartfelt and hilarious picture book parody for adults. Follow along with the main character Alex as she ventures on thirty dates in thirty days. We are thrilled to feature Rebekah Manley and her book at this year’s Festival – register to attend a panel with Manley in conversation with Twenty Guys You Date in Your Twenties author Gabi Conti on Sunday, November 8 at 7:30 p.m. CST!

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Coming: October 20, 2020

We are looking forward to reading this brand new memoir from our 2020 festival author Matthew McConaughey. The first 350 people who register for our event with McConaughey on November 7 will receive a copy of the book with a signed bookplate. All other registrants will receive a copy of Greenlights.

Memorial by Bryan Washington

Coming: October 27, 2020

We loved the stories in Bryan Washington’s Lot and cannot wait to read his upcoming narrative. A heartfelt novel about love in a time of change, Bryan Washington’s Memorial stars Mike, a Japanese-American chef, and Benson, a Black daycare teacher, a gay couple in Texas. At this year’s Virtual Texas Book Festival, Washington will be in conversation with fellow Texan debut novelists Richard Z. Santos and James Wade. Register to attend their session here.

Additional October 2020 releases on our to-read lists:

Books Connect Texas: Become a Festival Friend today!

We may not be able to connect with you in person this year, but at Texas Book Festival, we celebrate the power of literature as a community and stay connected through our love of books and reading.

Below, we’ve shared the Books Connect Texas videos of Texas Book Festival supporters and listed the featured books in the order in which they appear. We thank you for your support and encourage you to join our mission by becoming a Festival Friend today!

Video 1 Books (in order featured)

Video 2 Books (in order featured)

Shop our BookPeople page for books from this year’s Festival and Gala authors!

Our September reading recommendations

This September, as we are gearing up for our 25th Anniversary and virtual Festival, we are adding this month’s new releases to our to-read lists! Below, we’ve listed ten recent and upcoming reads that have caught our attention. We recommend continuing the celebration of Independent Bookstore Day, which took place in late August, and preordering and purchasing these captivating reads from your favorite independent bookstore.

Email us at bookfest@texasbookfestival.org if there are any additional books we’ve missed that you think we should share.

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Released September 1st, 2020

In this new Ferrante novel, protagonist Giovanna transitions from childhood to adolescence to adulthood and searches for refuge and understanding in the city of Naples. This gripping, highly addictive, and totally unforgettable Neapolitan story is translated by Ann Goldstein, known for her previous translations of Elena Ferrante’s works.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Released September 1st, 2020

Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut. We are honored to feature Author Yaa Gyasi at this year’s Festival.

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Released September 1st, 2020

The child of a Japanese aristocrat and her African American GI lover, Nori has long felt like an outsider. From debut author Asha Lemmie comes a sweeping, heartrending coming-of-age novel about a young woman named Nori’s quest for acceptance in post-World War II Japan.

Homeland Elegies: A Novel by Ayad Akhtar

Coming: September 8th, 2020

Author Ayad Akhtar writes a deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams. Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world after 9/11. Part family drama, part social essay, and part picaresque novel, the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home.

A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son by Michael Ian Black

Coming: September 15th, 2020

Honest, funny, and hopeful, one of this year’s featured authors, Michael Ian Black skillfully navigates the complex gender issues of our time and delivers a poignant answer to an urgent question: How can we be, and raise, better men?

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Coming: September 15th, 2020

In this heart-wrenching Young Adult Mystery, Enchanted Jones wakes up with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night. Who killed R&B artist Korey Fields? In her pursuit of the truth, she discovers behind Korey’s charm and star power was a controlling dark side. Now he’s dead, the police are at the door, and all signs point to Enchanted.

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour

Coming: September 15th, 2020

Recent high school graduate, Mila is used to being alone. So when she’s offered a teaching job and a place to live on an isolated part of the Northern California coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home—a real home. The farm is a refuge, but it’s also haunted by the past. And Mila’s own memories are starting to rise to the surface.

Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera

Coming: September 15th, 2020

Featuring contemporary Afro-Latinx characters, Rivera writes a Young Adult retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice. Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted after losing everything in Hurricane Maria. Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. A touching story of first love, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami

Coming: September 22nd, 2020

Author Laila Lalami recounts her journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen, using her experience as a lens for her exploration of the rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship. Conditional citizens, she argues, are all the people with whom America embraces with one arm and pushes away with the other.

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Coming: September 29th, 2020

The story of John Ames Boughton, the loved and grieved-over prodigal son of a Presbyterian minister in Gilead, Iowa, a drunkard and a ne’er-do-well. In segregated St. Louis sometime after World War II, Jack falls in love with Della Miles, an African-American high school teacher, also a preacher’s child, with a discriminating mind, a generous spirit and an independent will.

Additional September 2020 releases on our to-read lists:

10 new books to read in August

August is the Sunday of Summer, where the days melt and slide into one another like melting poolside popsicles and students begin to return to school (whether in person or virtually this year). Though these final summer days may feel sleepy, there are many exciting, energizing books coming out this month that we can’t wait to read. Below, we’ve listed ten recent and upcoming releases that have caught our eye.

Email us at bookfest@texasbookfestival.org if there are any additional books we’ve missed that you think we should share.

The Comeback by Ella Berman

Released August 4th, 2020

Novelist Ella Berman shares her debut work: a psychological fiction thriller that tells of a mistreated child actress who ran away in order to protect herself. Finally, she has returned, deciding it is now her time to strike back.

You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

Released August 4th, 2020

This new romantic comedy features soap opera stars Jasmine Lin Rodriguez and Ashton Suárez. With their respective careers on the line, the two actors must work together to display convincing on-screen chemistry, and to not get too distracted by one another behind-the-scenes.

Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon

Released August 4th, 2020

First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz faces bigotry towards she and her family at her new nearly all-white school. There comes a point where Liliana must decide whether she will stand up for herself and speak her truth or risk losing what matters most.

Lobizona by Romina Garber

Released August 4th, 2020

As an undocumented immigrant on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manuela Azul feels suffocated by her life spent running and hiding. When her family is arrested by ICE, Manuela loses her home and must call on her internal, inherited strength, which brings her closer to her Argentinian heritage.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Released August 4th, 2020

Novelist Christina Hammonds Reed shares her debut work: a bildungsroman novel narrated by Ashley Bennett, a wealthy Black teenager whose family becomes caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots. As protests surge, Ashley embarks on a journey of self-reckoning alongside the City of Los Angeles.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

Released August 4th, 2020

In Akwaeke Emezi’s electrifying novel of family and friendship, one afternoon, a Nigerian family discovers their son’s body has been wrapped in colorful fabric and left at their front doorstep. The reader comes to understand the brilliant protagonist Vivek whose life was mysterious to nearly all but one, his high-spirited cousin, Osita.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Released August 4th, 2020

Famous for her sensational true-crime podcast and her proclivity towards justice, Rachel Krall finds a letter left on her windshield, pleading for her help. She becomes wrapped up in two unsolved small town case trials that will alter the course of her life and her work forever.

Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots by Morgan Jerkins

Released August 4th, 2020

Author Morgan Jerkins explores The Great Migration, a time between 1916 and 1970, when six million Black Americans left their rural homes in the South for jobs in cities in the North, West, and Midwest. Following in her ancestors’ footsteps, Jerkins traces their stories back 300 years and seeks to understand the event that disconnected Black Americans from their roots, their land, and their sense of identity.

The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun

Released August 4th, 2020

The month of August is dedicated to honoring Women In Translation. This work was authored by Yun Ko-Eun and translated from Korean into English by Lizzie Buehler. In this novel eco-thriller, protagonist Yona works as a programming coordinator for Jungle, a travel company that specializes in sending their clients to destinations that have been ravaged by disaster. After a senior colleague acts inappropriately, Yona tries to speak up, and in an effort to silence her, Jungle sends her to the remote desert island of Mui, where Yona learns she and other customers face grave, intentional danger.

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Coming: August 25th, 2020

When justice is denied by the American legal system or the the trial council, Virgil Wounded Horse, local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, is enlisted to deliver his own punishment. However, after drugs make their way from outside into the reservation and raise the stakes, raising questions of money and power, Virgil witnesses first-hand how being Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an astonishing cost.

Additional August 2020 releases on our to-read lists:

Recommended reading about racism against Asian Americans

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and today’s political climate, there has been a surge of racism against Asian Americans. Books enable us to educate ourselves and expand our worldview. Below, we’ve compiled a few resources to help ourselves and our audiences grow in awareness and responsiveness to the discrimination faced by Asian Americans across the country and enact positive change in our communities.

Email us at bookfest@texasbookfestival.org if there are any additional resources we’ve missed that you think we should share.

No Good Very Bad Asian by Leland Cheuk

Join the world of the protagonist Sirius Lee, a fictive famous Chinese American comedian. This novel follows Sirius from his poor upbringing in the immigrant enclaves of Los Angeles to the loftiest heights of stardom as he struggles with substance abuse and persistent racism despite his fame. Ultimately, he must come to terms with who he is, where he came from, and the legacy he’ll leave behind.

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Cathy Hong Park writes a breathtaking collection of personal essays based on her theory of “minor feelings” when American optimism contradicts your own reality – when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity.

Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear by John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats

Two scholars examine one of the oldest racist concepts in Western culture.

The Myth of the Model Minority by Rosalind S Chou and John R Feagin

Sociologists Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin analyze Asian American racial stereotyping and discrimination.

America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan

Published in 1946, this semi-autobiographical novel shares the experiences of a Filipino American writer, immigrant, and member of the working class. This novel is about the United States in the 1930s from the perspective of a Filipino migrant laborer who endures racial violence and struggles with the paradox of the American dream.

The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee

Award-winning historian Erika Lee presents the history of Asian American life in the United States.

Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee

In Chang-Rae Lee’s debut novel, meet the protagonist Henry Park who tries to assimilate into American society. This novel is a story of cultural alienation. It is about fathers and sons, about the desire to connect with the world rather than stand apart from it, about loyalty and betrayal, about the alien in all of us and who we finally are.

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

An incredible memoir of Chung’s adoption and her search for identity and family. From childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hope of giving her a better life. Yet as she grew older, she wondered if the myth was actually the truth.

Additional resources: