Teju Cole, David Grossman, Dinaw Mengestu, Muslim Youth | Barbara’s Picks, Mar. 2014, Pt. 1

Aidi, Hisham. Rebel Music : Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture. Pantheon. Mar. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780375424908. $27.95. SOCIAL SCIENCE/ISLAMIC STUDIES
Since 9/11, young Muslims worldwide have worked to forge a distinctively racial, radicalized identity in the face of the West’s War Against Terror, resisting American efforts in particular to subsume Muslims within the larger white culture. As documented by Aidi, a lecturer at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, the Muslim youth movement is shaped by urban culture, political activism, and, interestingly, music from hip-hop and jazz to Gnawa, Andalusian, and Judeo-Arabic. At the same time, he argues, Western governments use music in an effort to defuse Muslim consciousness. Not an academic study; the consequences of a Muslim youth culture, religious or secular, are far-reaching, and there’s considerable in-house excitement about this book.

Cole, Teju. Every Day Is for the Thief. Random. Mar. 2014. 176p. ISBN 9780812995787. $23. LITERARY FICTION
In Cole’s masterly 2011 debut, Open City, a PEN/Hemingway Prize winner and National Book Critics Circle finalist that received best book recognition from nearly two dozen publications, a Nigerian immigrant ambles reflectively through the streets of Manhattan. In this new work, an unnamed Nigerian writer who has returned home ambles reflectively through the streets of Lagos and discovers a grand, passionate city. As John Coltrane’s music blends with the muezzin’s call to prayer, the narrator sees a woman reading Michael Ondaatje and teenagers behaving illegally on  the Internet, even as he talks to old friends and relatives as he tries to find his way. Open City was a distinctive and mesmerizing work, troublesome for some readers but a decided and exciting step ahead in the use of narrative, and readers will be anticipating. With a five-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Grossman, David. Falling Out of Time. Knopf. Mar. 2014. 208p. ISBN 9780385350136. $24.95. LITERARY FICTION
Blending prose and drama and reading like a fable—the main character here is called Walking Man, and other characters include the Net Mender, the Midwife, and the Elderly Math Teacher—this new work from multi-award-winning Israeli novelist Grossman investigates grief, solace, and the finality of death. The novels opens with Walking Man informing his wife that he is departing to search for their dead son, then traveling in expanding circles around the town as others join him to reflect on their own losses. In the end, they all struggle to determine whether memory can overcome tragedy. While Grossman’s recent, triumphant To the End of the Land addresses such questions within a detailed and realistic frame, this brief novel works through Chagall-like luminosity.

Hoffman, Carl. A Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art. Morrow. Mar. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780062116154. $26.99. HISTORY/TRAVEL
Author of The Lunatic Express and a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler who has won four Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers, Hoffman here takes a journey back in time. He travels to New Guinea to investigate the 1961 disappearance of Michael C. Rockefeller, youngest son of then New York State governor Nelson Rockefeller, who had gone to New Guinea to study Asmat art and culture. His body was never found after his boat capsized and he attempted to swim ashore, and theories about his death range from saltwater crocodiles to exposure to cannibalism. Living in an Asmat village and absorbing the language, Hoffman collects hints that generations of villagers have known what happened and considers the Asmat belief that cannibalism (no longer practiced) balanced the spiritual demands of the universe. An enduring mystery and a bit of the sensational to attract readers; with a 100,000-copy first printing.

Mengestu, Dinaw. All Our Names. Knopf. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780385349987. $26.95. LITERARY FICTION
Winner of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award, The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 Award, and a 2012 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Mengestu opened his career with the bittersweetly tantalizing The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, then truly proved himself breathtakingly with How To Read the Air. Here’s his next work, set in an African country racked by revolution. The hero abandons his university studies to join the uprising in the streets, then finds idealism fading into heedless violence and flees to America, where he’s haunted by memories of what he has done. He also recalls the revolutionary leader who brought him to the streets and thereafter assured his safe passage from the country through personal sacrifice. I’m expecting another knockout; with an eight-city tour to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.