Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

May 8, 2022
New Paperbacks: Ambitious Saga of Black Family's Centuries-Long Journey and a Wife At the Crossroads With the Loves of Her Life
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers. This is her first novel, but Jeffers is the accomplished author of five poetry collections, including the 2020 collection The Age of Phillis, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry. Now, she has scored big time with an ambitious work of historical fiction that chronicles the journey of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era.

The scholar W. E. B. Du Bois once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans—the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers—Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders.

Seeking to ease that burden and come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through here family's past. In doing so, she uncovers shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and White—in the deep South. It's a saga covering two centuries of an American family's life that includes a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience. It also provides the young Black Ailey with insights on how to reconcile her history and imagine her future.

Among the myriad glowing reviews of the book was this from NPR's Noel King: “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is epic in its scope. [It] traces the story of a family, the town in Georgia where they come from, and their migration outward over generations. The word epic is overused these days, but this book was meant to be an epic and it is. . . . This is one of the most American books I have ever read. It’s a book about the United States. It’s a book about the legacy of slavery in this country. . . . And it’s also a book about traumas and loves that sustain over generations.”
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller. In a novel that Publishers Weekly described as a "captivating debut… full of lush atmospheric details," Heller offers up a story of summer, secrets, love, and lies. A bestseller in hardcover, the newly released paperback edition has followed suit on both national and regional independent bookstore bestseller lists. And although this is her first novel, Heller is no stranger to storytelling, having worked as the head of drama series at HBO, developing and overseeing such shows as The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, and Big Love.
"This house, this place, knows all my secrets.” Such is the power of the Paper Palace - a family summer retreat that Heller's protagonist Elle Bishop has visited every summer of her life. But this summer is different for Elle, now the 50-year-old happily married mother of three. Because of a single act triggered by roads not taken years earlier, she must make a life-changing decision that has been brewing for decades and that will have lasting impact on the two great loves of her life. So much for a relaxing vacation.

The Paper Palace attracted many favorable reviews, including a good number from fellow fiction writers, among them Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings and The Female Persuasion: "Tightly woven and immediate, The Paper Palace takes us deep into a vivid summer landscape, a family, and a private, longstanding love story, and holds us there from start to finish."