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This Way Out by Tufayal Ahmed
Amor is affianced to Joshua. He’s Muslim, Joshua’s upper-middle class white, and they seem very compatible. But when Amor lets his family know by text because he’s afraid of facing them with the news, all hell breaks loose. He’s in effect banished. Joshua’s parents are very supportive but at the engagement party his mother gives a little speech that totally steps in it; she means well but it’s deeply embarrassing. Amor, horrified by the gulch in awareness, breaks things off. He gets into therapy and finds a gay Muslim support group. Shades of Rom-Com: true love prevails but Amor first needs to grow up, claim himself and find what détente he can with his family. London setting. I appreciated learning about the nuances of cultural conflict embedded in a good story. Note: Amor works in a bookstore and saves it when facing closing by employing his best friend’s social media chops.
The Museum of Rain by Dave Eggers
This little surprise fell into my hands on check-in. A fable in which Oisin finds himself leading a gaggle of kids to a place in the forest he created long ago and never revisited. It’s his 75th birthday party, arranged by relatives on his land, and as a hermit for all these years, not what he signed up for. But it turns out that despite his strict and grumpy demeanor, he has a knack for connecting with them and after a rocky start, there are delightful discoveries in both directions. A nifty pronunciation clue: we learn that one of the kids who bears the protagonist’s name is known as “Oshey.” 44 pages, utter joy.
A Career in Books by Kate Gavino
Subtitled A Novel about Friends, Money, and the Occasional Duck Bun. Three AAPI friends have big NYC dreams but are stuck as editorial assistants. Their octogenarian neighbor Vo, once a prize winner author, is now living in obscurity. They bitch, commiserate, and plot about how to move out of their soul-crushing jobs. Vo becomes an inspiration, a good friend, and provides helpful perspective as they struggle through the thickets of the publishing world. An utterly charming graphic novel.
Rough Sleepers by Tracy Kidder
Subtitled Dr. Jim O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People. The problem is huge and seemingly unsolvable but one dedicated guy could do something—and did. O’Connell thought it would be a one-year commitment but ended up launching a program in Boston that made a great difference in many lives. Initially seat of the pants, facing resistance from the nurses who’d been running things and then from tangles of bureaucracy as the effort grew. Kidder is a wonderful storyteller, and we get to know O’Connell’s clients, especially Tony, a complex character who provided healing to others but was eventually felled by his own addictions. Up close to a milieu that most of us try to avoid, heart-lifting and heart-breaking in turn.