Saturday, October 16, 2021

Civil Rights, South American Gothic, Miami’s Drug Heyday: New Book Picks

Once more, we asked Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan to offer his recommendations on the newest buzz-worthy titles, as well as a classic worth exploring again. Support your local bookstore by ordering these titles from the links below.


Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Guardian succinctly described this horror-sci-fi mélange as “Lovecraft meets the Brontës in Latin America.” Praised as a riveting, vividly detailed homage to gothic novels of yore, the 1950s-set Mexican Gothic centers on Noemi Taboada, a modern debutante from Mexico City, who, with her trendy cigarette habit, convertible car and red lipstick, seems a fish out of water at High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside. But she’s summoned there by her cousin, who has just married into an aristocratic English family, and is justifiably having second thoughts. The family’s servants don’t speak, the patriarch speaks fondly of eugenics, and mold spreads along the wallpaper; that’s just the beginning of the high strangeness inside a house that feels positively alive.


Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

One of the country’s foremost scholars on civil rights and African-American history, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. has become a fixture on the cable news networks following the protests and resurgence of Black Lives Matter this spring and summer. It’s an opportune time to dive into his debut book, Begin Again, which explores the life and politics of pioneering Black multihyphenate James Baldwin during the pivotal period of 1964 to 1972. Combining Baldwin’s biography with history, memoir and analysis of the current struggle for Black equality, Glaude endeavors to carry Baldwin’s torch in a time when its flame is once again necessary.


The Year of Dangerous Days: Riots, Refugees, and Cocaine in Miami 1980 by Nicholas Griffin

As anyone who has watched, slack-jawed, any of “Cocaine Cowboys” movies—or their insightful play adaptation of 2019, from Miami New Drama—can recall, the superficial image of Miami as the vacation capital of America was gradually being eroded during the tumultuous 1970s. In this acclaimed read, investigative journalist Griffin pinpoints the year 1980 as the time Miami’s various crises, including the drug wars, race riots and the unsustainable arrival 120,000 refugees from Cuba, all came to a head and forced the city to confront its own demons. The author sets his three-pronged narrative primarily on crime writer Edna Buchanan, homicide captain Marshall Frank and Miami Mayor Maurice Ferré, but familiar figures such as Jimmy Carter, Janet Reno and Fidel Castro play into the drama as well.


Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

Prizewinning writer Ondaatje, most famous for his international breakthrough The English Patient (1992), released this postmodern spin on the family memoir a decade earlier, and it continues to feel ahead of its time. Daring to muddy the waters of fact and fiction, memoir and speculation, Running in the Family is an account of his prodigal return to his native Sri Lanka, where he confronts unresolved issues from his past—especially involving his alcoholic father and the frivolous luxuries of his upper-class heritage. His magical realist treatment of real-life trauma has made the book a singular curiosity, justified by the supposition that, as Ondaatje writes, “in Sri Lanka a well-told lie is worth a thousand facts.”

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John Thomason
As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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