Last Week In Books: May 18-24, 2020

So here we are in the last full week of May, beautiful people. It seems like just yesterday it was the 78th day of March, but we’ve made it all the way to the beginning of summer and hopefully no-one’s broken their glasses yet.

This week sees sea creatures, fictionalized president’s wives, and a very puzzling and sad revelation on the life of a critically acclaimed writer…

It seems like merfolks, particularly mermaids of color, are going to be the next supernatural fad in fiction–there’s the slow momentum of the Freeform network’s show Siren, Rivers Solomon’s watery cultural redemption novel The Deep and now this…Den Of Geek reports on new YA fantasy novel A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow.

The Hunger Games prequel novel, The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes, was released last Tuesday. I don’t care. This audiobook excerpt can’t make me. So there.

A new novel called Rodham was published last week as well, and everything about it seems, well, rather weird. It’s a fictionalized account of the life of Hilary Rodham Clinton if she had never married former President Bill. Aside from being supremely bizarre timing, the concept seems fetish-y and irreverent in such a way that keeps me from wanting to read it any time soon. This NPR review captures a lot of my feelings, only they’ve already read the book.

Okay so for this next bit of news, you’ll need to sit down…

The late author H.G. Carrillo, who succumbed to COVID-19 complications on April 20th. Rest in power and peace, sir.

The above video is the Philip Freund Prize Alumni Reading being given by Cuban-American writer H. G. Carrillo, one of the more critically acclaimed Cubano writers of recent years. On April 20th, the artist passed away due to combined complications from prostate cancer and COVID-19. I can’t say I was a huge fan but I remember skimming through his 2005 novel Loosing My Espanish, and thinking how incisive and unique (to me) the voices of the characters were. As you can see from the video reading above, the late Carrillo and his work had quite a presence and soft humility to them, and I always found him an interesting voice from a community that often does not get to tell their own stories in English fiction.

However, the author H.G. Carrillo was never Cuban at all. He was a Black American Detroit native born Herman Glenn Carroll, and perpetuated a 30-year facade of Latinidad for reasons that unfortunately, have passed on with him.

It’s always a little ghoulish to discuss someone’s seemingly transgressive behavior so soon after they’ve left us, but this Washington Post obituary does a very kind and compassionate job of memorializing the man that Carrillo/Carroll is remembered as both before and after his writing career. I’m sure there will be a lot more discussion of this in coming days, but for now, all I can say is that I hope his soul is resting well and in respite from the lifelong stress of maintaining this persona.

This is a bit of a sad note to end on, but an intriguing one, I think. I’m going to try to do a weekly recap of bookish news every week so here’s hoping for good things.

(As always, this blog contains affiliate links to my Bookshop, the bookseller’s website that supports indie bookshops and the addictions of bibliophiles like me! If you click and purchase anything through a link on this site, I will earn a commission.)

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