The seventh month of the year has finally drawn to a close. But before we can move on to August, let me take a brief throwback to the month that was, at least in terms of book haul. July was not as prolific as June but I still managed to cop some amazing titles. Without more ado, here are the books that are part of my July 2021 haul. Happy reading and I hope everyone will have a blessed Sunday!

Title: Breasts and Eggs
Author: Mieko Kawakami
Translator: Sam Bett and David Boyd
Publisher: Picador
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 430

Synopsis: “On a hot summer’s day in Tokyo we meet three women: thirty-year-old Natsuko, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s twelve-year-old daughter Midoriko. Makiko, an ageing hostess despairing the loss of her looks, has travelled to Tokyo in search of the breast-enhancement surgery she thinks will change her life. She’s accompanied by an anxious Midoriko, who has recently fallen into communicating only in writing. Her silence gradually dominates Natsuko’s small, stuffy apartment, providing a catalyst for an explosive reckoning.

Ten years later, we meet Natsuko again. Now a writer, she finds herself on a journey back to her native city, returning to memories of that summer and her family’s past as she faces her own uncertain future.

In Breasts and Eggs, Mieko Kawakami paints a radical portrait of working-class womanhood in contemporary Japan, recounting the heartbreaking journeys of three women in a society where the odds are brutally stacked against them This is an unforgettable debut from a major new international voice.”

Title: Heaven
Author: Mieko Kawakami
Translator: Sam Bett and David Boyd
Publisher: Picador
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 167

Synopsis: “From the bestselling author of Breasts and Eggs and international literary sensation Mieko Kawakami comes a sharp and illuminating novel about the impact of violence and the power of solidarity.

In Heaven, a fourteen-year-old boy is subjected to relentless torment for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, he chooses to suffer in silence. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate, Kojima, who experiences similar treatment at the hands of her bullies. Providing each other with immeasurable consolation at a time in their lives when they need it most, the two young friends grow closer than ever. But what, ultimately, is the nature of a friendship when your shared bond is terror?

Unflinching yet tender, sharply observed, intimate and multi-layered, this simple yet profound novel stands as yet another dazzling testament to Mieko Kawakami’s uncontainable talent. There can be little doubt that is has cementer her reputation as one of the most important authors at work today.”

Title: Earthlings
Author: Sayaka Murata
Translator: Ginny Tapley Takemori
Publisher: Grove Press
Publishing Date: October 2020
No. of Pages: 247

Synopsis: “From the beloved author of cult sensation Convenience Store Woman, which has not sold more than one million copies worldwide and has been translated into thirty-three languages, comes a spellbinding and otherworldly novel about a woman who believes she is an alien.

Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman was one of the most unusual and refreshing bestsellers of recent years, depicting the life of a thirty-six-year-old clerk in a Tokyo convenience store. Now, in Earthlings, Sayaka Murata pushes at the boundaries of our ideas of social conformity in this brilliantly imaginative, intense, and absolutely unforgettable novel.

As a child, Natsuki doesn’t fit in with her family. Her parents favor her sister, and her best friend is a plush toy hedgehog named Piyyut, who talks to her. He tells her that he has come from the planet Popinpobopia on a special quest to help her save the Earth. One summer, on vacation with her family and her cousin Yuu in her grandparents’ ramshackle wooden house in the mountains of Nagano, Natsuki decides that she must be an alien, which would explain why she can’t seem to fit in like everyone else. Later, as a grown woman, living a quiet life with her asexual husband, Natsuki is still pursued by dark shadows from her childhood, and decides to flee the “Baby Factory” of society for good, searching for answers about the vast and frightening mysteries of the universe – answers only Natsuki has the power to uncover.

Dreamlike, sometimes shocking, and always strange and wonderful, Earthlings asks what it means to be happy in a stifling world, and cements Sayaka Murata’s status as a master chronicles of the outsider experience and our own uncanny universe.”

Title: Of Women and Salt
Author: Gabriela Garcia
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 204

Synopsis: “In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets form the past destined to erupt.

From nineteenth-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals – personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others – that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.”

Title: The Chosen and the Beautiful
Author: Nghi Vo
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 260

Synopsis: “Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarified circles of 1920s American society – she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer and Asian, a Vietnamese adoptee treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonder: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut-paper heart out of a man. She just has has to learn how.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel, The Chosen and the Beautiful, reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.”

Title: How Beautiful We Were
Author: Imbolo Mbue
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 360

Synopsis: “We should have known the end was near.

So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American coil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made – and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle will last for decades and come at a steep price.

Told from the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold on to its ancestral land a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.”

Title: The Things We Lost to the Water
Author: Eric Nguyen
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 289

Synopsis: “When Huong arrives in New Orleans in 1979 with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle into life in America, she continues to send letter and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up knowing their father.

But with time, Huong realizes she will never see her husband again. While she attempts to come to terms with this loss, her sons, Tuan and Binh, grow up in their absent father’s shadow, haunted by a man and a country trapped in their memories and imaginations. As they push forward, the three adapt to life in American in different ways: Huong gets involved with a Vietnamese car salesman who is also new in town; Tuan tries to connect with his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Binh, now going by Ben, embraces his adopted homeland and his burgeoning sexuality. Their search for identity – as individuals and as a family – threatens to ear them apart, until disaster strikes the city they now call home and they are suddenly forced to find a new way to come together and honor the ties that bind them.”

Title: The Woman in the Purple Skirt
Author: Natsuko Imamura
Translator: Lucy North
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 216

Synopsis: “Almost every afternoon, the Woman in the Purple Skirt sits on the same park bench, where she eats a cream bun while the local children make a game of trying to get her attention. Unbeknownst to her, she is being watched – by the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, who is always perched just out of sight, monitoring which buses she takes, what she eats, whom she speaks to.

The Woman in the Yellow Cardigan lures the Woman in the Purple Skirt to a job as a housekeeper at a hotel, where she too is a housekeeper. Soon, the Woman in the Purple Skirt is having an affair with the boss and all eyes are on her. But no one knows or cares about the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. That’s the difference between her and the Woman in the Purple Skirt.

Studiously deadpan and chillingly voyeuristic, The Woman in the Purple Skirt explores envy, loneliness, power dynamics, and the vulnerability of unmarried women in a taut, suspenseful narrative about the sometimes desperate desire to be seen.”

Title: The White Book
Author: Han Kang
Translator: Deborah Smith
Publisher: Granta
Publishing Date: 2019
No. of Pages: 161

Synopsis: “From the Man Booker International Prize-winning author of The Vegetarian comes a book like no other.

The White Book is a meditation on colour, beginning with a simple list of white things. It is a book about mourning, rebirth and the tenacity of the human spirit. It is a stunning investigation of the fragility, beauty, and strangeness of life.”