Vera Violet by Melissa Anne Peterson
A sense of grim drama suffuses this debut novel. You can feel it in the setting: Shelton, Washington, the logging town out on the peninsula. Feel it in the plot: about a group of teens, centered on the narrator Vera Violet O’Neely, dealing with the roughness of rural Washington, its meth and violence. Feel it in the taut sentences: “I beat the boy after school. I did not say a word before or after. I beat him because he stood against the brick wall alone like he was a fighter.”
The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh
A couple years ago, the local poet E.J. Koh began handwriting love letters to strangers, with the aim of eventually reaching thousands. Her new memoir The Magical Language of Others inverts this conceit—responding, in a way, to long-unanswered letters from her mother, who moved back to Korea when Koh was 15. The resulting book parses how and what language means, across continents and generations, in the sort of prose that only poets achieve—lapidary and evocative.
Love Falls on Us by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Once an intern at this very magazine, Robbie Corey-Boulet is now an Ethiopia-based correspondent for AFP. In Love Falls on Us: The Story of American Ideas and African LGBT Lives, he delves into the complicated repercussions Western gay rights advocacy has had for some in Africa, in some cases drawing more attention to people and groups who'd previously flown below the radar. Instead of generalizing about the whole continent, though, he focuses on specific stories in three countries: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Liberia.
A House on Stilts by Paula Becker
Local writer and historian Paula Becker’s memoir takes its name from the “tree house with no tree” in her backyard where her son Hunter played as a kid and where, after he became addicted to opioids as a teenager, he camped out. A House on Stilts: Mothering in the Age of Opioid Addiction is most valuable for its look at how addiction can rend not only a life, but a family. Becker charts in painful, probing detail her own psychology as she tries to reckon with what’s taken hold of her son.
The Slip by Kary Wayson
Seattle poet Kary Wayson’s words have such a particular, spectacular syllable beat, you may want to compare the poems in her new collection The Slip to clocks or watches. But the metaphor also communicates how consistently she swerves and, paradoxically, surprises you—with humor, or a cool snap of wisdom: “I used to think of people, of lovers / of me as ways / to take. I’d take / a way. Each way seemed to seal off the others.”
The Galleons by Rick Barot
Tacoma-based poet Rick Barot’s fourth collection centers on the Manila galleons, ships that from 1564 to 1815 sailed between the Philippine capital and Mexico. Its 10 titular poems become vessels themselves for his associations with the ships—of the trade itself, of present-day U.S. capitalism, of his own and his family’s immigrations from the Philippines, of the loss of his grandmother. The rest of the book, all of it unfolding in couplets, is just as discursive and probing and exquisitely controlled.
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This young-adult coming-of-age novel centers on a pair of brothers going to a mostly white prep school. One appears white, the other black. When the latter, Donte, is unjustly jailed, he sets out to win a fencing competition. Seattle’s Jewell Parker Rhodes is the sort of writer who gracefully invokes Ralph Ellison (“I wish I were invisible,” the book begins) even as she sets out to grip—and teach—younger readers.