"Us" by Sara Soler, art by Joamette Gil, and translated by Silvia Perea Labayen; "Family Lore" by Elizabeth Acevedo; and "In Search of Gil Scott-Heron" by Thomas Mauceri, art by Seb Piquet.

The Mary Sue Book Club, August 2023: Summer Love And Tracing Familial History

At the start of the year, we shared some of the most anticipated books (and comics) of 2023. Thus far, most of those stories have been published. However, this month marks the arrival of my favorite author‘s debut adult novel, Family Lore. Her story about family, and generations of secrets and resilience isn’t the only title tackling similar themes. John Manuel Arias’ and Ludia Kiesling’s novels also feature familial journies and share an underlying connection of The Cold War shaping their histories. One story is set mainly in Eurasia, and the other in Costa Rica.

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The love of family isn’t the only type of love represented on this month’s list. Also featured is a southern romance on the backdrop of an upcoming wedding and a queer graphic novel memoir recently translated from Spanish. Finally, there’s a love for art as Thomas Maucéri’s journey to learn more about the “Father of Rap” exposes things about himself and his relationships.

Mobility by Lydia Kiesling

Mobility by Lydia Kiesling
(Crooked Media Reads)

The year is 1998. The Soviet Union is dissolved, the Cold War is over, and Bunny Glenn is a lonely American teenager in Azerbaijan with her Foreign Service family. Through Bunny’s bemused eyes, we watch global interests flock to her temporary backyard for Caspian oil and pipeline access, hearing rumbles of the expansion of the American security state and the buildup to the War on Terror. We follow Bunny from adolescence to middle age—from Baku to Athens to Houston—as her own ambition and desire for comfort lead her to a career in the oil industry, eventually returning to the scene of her youth, where slippery figures from the past reappear in an era of political and climate breakdown.

Released: August 1.

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo. Image: Ecco Press.
(Ecco Press)

Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake—a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she’s led—her sisters are surprised. Has Flor foreseen her own death, or someone else’s? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila.

But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets: her sisters are hiding things, too. And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own.

Released: August 1.

Us by Sara Soler, art by Joamette Gil, and translated by Silvia Perea Labayen

"Us" by Sara Soler, art by Joamette Gil, and translated by Silvia Perea Labayen.
(Dark Horse Books)

Us is Sara and Diana’s love story, as well as the story of Diana’s gender transition. Full of humor, heartache, and the everyday triumphs and struggles of identity, this graphic memoir speaks to changing conceptions of the world as well as the self, at the same time revealing that some things don’t really have to change.

Release date: August 8.

The Secret to a Southern Wedding by Synithia Williams

The Secret to a Southern Wedding by Synithia Williams
(Canary Street Press)

It’s been years since Dr. Imani Kemp has returned home to Peachtree Cove, Georgia. As Tallahassee’s most sought-after OB-GYN, she doesn’t have much time for anything else. But when her mom announces she’s marrying a man she just met on a dating app, Imani knows she has to put a stop to it immediately. Let her mom be hurt again after the disastrous way her last marriage ended? Absolutely not. Always her protector, Imani won’t rest until her mom sees reason. She just never expected sparks to fly with the groom’s son…

After his mother’s tragic death, Cyril Dash and his father relocated to Peachtree Cove to escape the gossip and speculation. Now, in this quirky small town, they’ve made a new life for themselves, and after years of grief, his dad has finally found happiness again. And Cyril refuses to let Imani threaten that. The more determined he is to prove the strength of his dad’s love, the more drawn he is to this beautiful, complicated woman who’s determined to call off the wedding.

But when Cyril’s heartbreaking past comes to light, destiny won’t be denied. Because the secret to this southern wedding is you never know how far you’ll go in the name of love.

Release date: August 15.

In Search of Gil Scott-Heron by Thomas Mauceri, art by Seb Piquet

In Search of Gil Scott-Heron by Thomas Mauceri, art by Seb Piquet
(Titan Comics)

Through his personal experiences, Thomas Maucéri allows us to discover the life of this genius along with other aspects of America’s recent history. Gil Scott-Heron is one of the most important artists of the past 60 years, and is widely credited as laying the foundations for modern hip hop as we know it. This gorgeous graphic novel follows the author as he attempts to track down the elusive “Godfather of Rap” for an interview that never seems to happen, while examining his target’s music, controversial life, and lasting political and cultural legacy.

Release date: August 22.

Where There Was Fire by John Manuel Arias

Where There Was Fire by John Manuel Arias. Image: Flatiron Books.
(Flatiron Books)

Costa Rica, 1968. When a lethal fire erupts at the American Fruit Company’s most lucrative banana plantation burning all evidence of a massive cover-up, the future of Teresa Cepeda Valverde’s family is changed forever.

Now, twenty-seven years later, Teresa and her daughter Lyra are still picking up the pieces. Lyra wants nothing to do with Teresa, but is desperate to find out what happened to her family that fateful night. Teresa, haunted by a missing husband and the bitter ghost of her mother, Amarga, is unable to reconcile the past. What unfolds is a story of a mother and daughter trying to forgive what they do not yet understand, and the mystery at the heart of one family’s rupture, steeped in machismo, jealousy, labor uprisings, and the havoc wreaked by banana plantations in Central America.

Release date: August 29.

Which of these titles are you most excited to read? Let us know in the comments.

(featured image: Dark Horse Books, Ecco Press, and Titan Comics)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.