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Lily Meyer

Like many Franco-Algerians, the novelist Kaouther Adimi has spent much of her life moving between Algiers, where she was born, and Paris, where she now lives. Thanks to France's 132-year colonization of Algeria, the two countries are thoroughly intertwined — a relationship Adimi explores with nuance and determination in her third novel, Our Riches, newly translated by the excellent Chris Andrews.

Rebecca Dinerstein Knight's strange and delightful second novel, Hex, opens with its protagonist in crisis. Nell Barber is an ex-doctoral student at Columbia; her lab, which studied toxins, has been disbanded after a student accidentally poisons herself, and now Nell is floating through New York, grief-stricken and in need of work. She's also profoundly lovesick for her dissertation advisor, a magnetic young botanist named Dr. Joan Kallas. Without Joan's "absolutely necessary nearness," Nell is undone.

The writer Elizabeth Tallent released her first story collection in 1983. Over the following decade, she joined Stanford's prestigious creative writing faculty and published a novel and two story collections, all well-received.

Calling a novel The Gimmicks is a big risk. The title promises charm and entertaining contrivance, perhaps a certain fun boardwalk-prize tackiness. But too much charm becomes phony, and a too-contrived plotline wrecks a reader's suspension of disbelief. As for tackiness — that depends on the novel itself.

In Nicole Krauss's 2017 novel Forest Dark, an Israeli scholar asks a Jewish-American writer, "'You think your writing belongs to you?'" The writer, whose name is Nicole, responds, "'Who else?'" and the professor shoots back, "'To the Jews.'" This scene springs from Krauss's own life. Like the fictional Nicole, Krauss struggles often against readers' desire for her to speak not for herself, but — somehow — for her entire religion.

The Chilean playwright and fiction writer Nona Fernández's Space Invaders, translated into English by the masterful Natasha Wimmer and nominated for a National Book Award, is as addictive as its video game namesake. Fernández writes in short chapters, rarely more than three pages, and each one slides by quickly, but lingers like a dream.

The actress and comedian Jenny Slate opens her memoir-in-essays Little Weirds with an "Introduction/Explanation/Guide for Consumption" — a description of her stage fright, which doubles as a description of her nerves about writing a book.

The Argentine poet and fiction writer Silvina Ocampo (1903-1993) led a truly enviable artistic life. She studied painting with Modernists Giorgio de Chirico and Férnand Leger, then imported their bright, dreamlike techniques into a Surrealist literary style driven by vibrant description. Her sister Victoria Ocampo ran the seminal literary magazine Sur, whose star writers included Ocampo's husband, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and the couple's friend Jorge Luis Borges.

During the 2016 election, I worked in events at Politics and Prose, one of Washington, D.C.'s best-beloved bookstores. My office shared a wall with Comet Ping Pong, a similarly beloved pizza restaurant that became the target of the alt-right conspiracy Pizzagate. The conspiracy, which posited Democratic Party higher-ups trafficking children for sex beneath Comet's concrete floors, was conceptually ludicrous.

Jennifer Croft is among the most accomplished translators working other languages into English today. She translates Polish, Spanish, and Ukrainian — and is perhaps best known for translating the Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk's Flights, a genre-straining work for which Croft and Tokarczuk won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize.

Croft's first non-translated work, Homesick, is similarly boundary-pushing, or boundary-expanding. On Homesick's website, Croft notes:

I have always looked like my mother. When I was a teenager, the resemblance was so extreme that once, two women — total strangers — stopped us on the sidewalk to demand that we write an essay about our lives as lookalikes.

"For Elle," they suggested. "Or Ladies' Home Journal." We laughed them off, but 15 years later, my mother still tells the story.

My grandfather, Bunny Meyer, ran a Chicago tannery called Gutmann Leather. When I was a child, it was a source of both terror and pride.

The tannery was full of frightening, evil-smelling machines and chemicals. It had also been in the family since 1885. Bunny took pride in providing high-quality leather and high-paying, stable employment. My father and his siblings were proud, too, but when he died in 2002, none of them wanted to run Gutmann. The tannery — like most in the United States — shut down.

The novelist Tash Aw has spent his literary career exploring migration and class tension from British-colonized Malaya to contemporary Shanghai. His fourth novel, We, the Survivors, focuses intently on social class in contemporary Malaysia, where his working-class protagonist, Ah Hock, struggles to lead a calm, quiet life. Long ago, Ah Hock killed a man under murky circumstances, which emerge over the novel's course, and was incarcerated.

Early in Family of Origin, CJ Hauser's oddball-brilliant second novel, an aging scientist tells the two protagonists, a pair of estranged sort-of-half-siblings named Nolan and Elsa Grey, that their generation is ruining the human species. The scientist, Esther, belongs to a fringe group of biologists called the Reversalists, who believe evolution has started running backwards — running away from millennials, according to Esther. Family of Origin is a spirited defense of the maligned millennial generation.

The British Sierra Leonean journalist Isha Sesay led CNN's Africa reporting for more than decade — covering stories ranging from the Arab Spring to the death of Nelson Mandela.

But now, in her first book, titled Beneath the Tamarind Tree, Sesay has a chance to explore, in depth, the story most important to her career and closest to her heart: the ISIS-affiliated terrorist group Boko Haram's 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the northern Nigerian town of Chibok.

This March, an FBI sting code-named Operation Varsity Blues broke a massive and infuriating story: Rich, connected parents across the country were buying their kids into college. The scandal generated waves of attention, most of which combined humor, rage, and an absolute lack of surprise. Bruce Holsinger's new social comedy The Gifted School, which revolves around a seventh-grade variation on this drama, offers only the latter two. Its characters' desperate efforts to get their children into a new public magnet school is infuriating, but it's nothing new.

Everybody I know loves reading Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Even though I understand the gender-political problems inherent in referring to female writers by first names, I struggle to resist expressing my love informally, as in "Have you read Taffy's profile of Gwyneth Paltrow?" or "Have you read Taffy's essay about Justin Bieber's church?" If you haven't, please do. You will be enlightened and delighted. You'll laugh and get angry and text the best sentences to whoever in your life deserves them, and at the end, you will be moved and inexplicably grateful.

The Mexican novelist Emiliano Monge's Among the Lost, newly translated by Frank Wynne, takes two phenomenal risks. First, Monge's plot centers on two human traffickers in love. Its protagonists, Estela and Epitafio — Gravestone and Epitaph, in English — are human traffickers working in a hellscape that seems to be a Mexican jungle, transporting truckloads of migrants while worrying about the state of their relationship. This puts Among the Lost in a strange moral place right away: Why should readers care about Estela and Epitafio?

When the French painter and writer Françoise Gilot was 21, she met an older artist at a Paris restaurant. He invited her to visit his studio, and they quickly fell in love.

She defied her bourgeois family by moving in with him, and they remained together for 10 years. They raised two children, and she slowed her own career to be his muse, manager and support system. But this became untenable, and she left him, becoming a highly successful painter in her own right. As for the older artist — well, he was Pablo Picasso.

The Spanish writer Gabriela Ybarra comes from a politically elite family. In the 1970s, her family was one of about a dozen that occupied every position of power in Vizcaya, a province in the Basque region of Spain. This made them targets for the left-wing Basque separatist group ETA, which kidnapped and murdered Ybarra's grandfather, Javier Ybarra, six years before she was born.

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