The Sun and the Void by Gabriela Romero Lacruz; The Bomb: The Weapon That Changed the World by Didier Alcante, Laurent-Frédéric Bollée, Denis Rodier, Ivanka Hahnenberger; and The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera.

The Mary Sue Book Club, July 2023: Reflecting on the Past as We Head Into the Future

With July being the year’s midway point, it’s about that time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished or haven’t accomplished so far in 2023. Yes, those New Year’s resolutions. It’s only fitting that so many stellar titles released this month feature themes of reflection and tackling the past. In non-fiction, we have a graphic novel memoir by Natalie Norris, revisiting the trauma of the author’s late-teen years. Another graphic novel recounts the science history that led to the atomic bomb (just in time for Oppenheimer). And finally, a first-hand look at important texts in the always-under-attack studies in Black History.

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With fiction, the manifestations of this theme are just as varied and unique. TMS favorite Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes us to Mexico City, where artists in the ’90s film scene are attempting to lift a curse. Gabriela Romero Lacruz’s debut novel explores the effects of colonialism and family in a fantasy epic. Our second debut novelist, Vajra Chandrasekera, shares a story of a person raised as a weapon and seeking to rewrite his preordained destiny.

Dear Mini by Natalie Norris

"Dear Mini: A Graphic Memoir, Book One" by Natalie Norris.
(Fantagraphics)

Told in the form of an illustrated letter to an old friend, Dear Mini recounts the author’s experience going abroad to attend a language immersion program in France after her sophomore year of high school. She meets Mini, an Austrian student who shares her predilection for illicit adventure, and the two quickly form a bond that they expect to last well after they go their separate ways. But when Natalie visits Mini ten months after their last face-to-face, something has changed. Their nocturnal exploits veer head-on into disaster. Norris’s spirited and free-flowing page designs and full color cartooning bring her frank voice and personality to life, making Dear Mini one of the most compelling graphic memoir debuts of 2023.

Released: July 4. Check out an exclusive preview of this graphic novel here!

Our History Has Always Been Contraband: In Defense of Black Studies, edited by Colin Kaepernick, Robin D. G. Kelley, & Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Our History Has Always Been Contraband: In Defense of Black Studies edited by Colin Kaepernick, Robin D. G. Kelley, & Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
(Haymarket Books)

Since its founding as a discipline, Black Studies has been under relentless attack by social and political forces seeking to discredit and neutralize it. Our History Has Always Been Contraband was born out of an urgent need to respond to the latest threat: efforts to remove content from an AP African American Studies course being piloted in high schools across the United States. Edited by Colin Kaepernick, Robin D. G. Kelley, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Our History Has Always Been Contraband brings together canonical texts and authors in Black Studies, including those excised from or not included in the AP curriculum.

Featuring writings by: David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, James Baldwin, June Jordan, Angela Y. Davis, Robert Allen, Barbara Smith, Toni Cade Bambara, bell hooks, Barbara Christian, Patricia Hill Collins, Cathy J. Cohen, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Saidiya Hartman, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and many others.

Released: July 4

The Bomb: The Weapon That Changed the World by Didier Alcante, Laurent-Frédéric Bollée, Denis Rodier, Ivanka Hahnenberger

The Bomb: The Weapon That Changed the World by Didier Alcante, Laurent-Frédéric Bollée, Denis Rodier, Ivanka Hahnenberger. Image: Abrams Comicarts.
(Abrams Comicarts)

On August 6, 1945, at 8:15 in the morning, an explosive charge of more than 15 kilotons fell on the city of Hiroshima. Tens of thousands of people were pulverized, and everything within four square miles was instantly destroyed. A deluge of flames and ash had just caused Japan’s greatest trauma and changed the course of modern warfare and life on Earth forever. The world was horrified by the existence of the bomb—the first weapon of mass destruction. But how could such an appalling tool be invented?

To answer this question, Alcante, Laurent-Frédéric Bollée, and Denis Rodier return to the origins of its main component, uranium, and shed light on the scientific discoveries around this element and its uses both civilian and military. Sifting through the history, from Katanga to Japan, through Germany, Norway, the USSR, and New Mexico, The Bomb is a succession of incredible but true stories. Alcante, Bollée, and Rodier have created an exhaustive and definitive work of nonfiction that details the stories of the unsung players as well as the remarkable men and women who are at the crux of its history and the events that followed.

Released: July 11

The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera

The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera
(Tordotcom)

Fetter was raised to kill, honed as a knife to cut down his sainted father. This gave him plenty to talk about in therapy.

He walked among invisible powers: devils and anti-gods that mock the mortal form. He learned a lethal catechism, lost his shadow, and gained a habit for secrecy. After a blood-soaked childhood, Fetter escaped his rural hometown for the big city, and fell into a broader world where divine destinies are a dime a dozen.

Everything in Luriat is more than it seems. Group therapy is recruitment for a revolutionary cadre. Junk email hints at the arrival of a god. Every door is laden with potential, and once closed may never open again. The city is scattered with Bright Doors, looming portals through which a cold wind blows. In this unknowable metropolis, Fetter will discover what kind of man he is, and his discovery will rewrite the world.

Released: July 11. Read the first chapter here.

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
(Del Rey Books)

Montserrat has always been overlooked. She’s a talented sound editor, but she’s left out of the boys’ club running the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. And she’s all but invisible to her best friend, Tristán, a charming if faded soap opera star, though she’s been in love with him since childhood.

Then Tristán discovers his new neighbor is the cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the legendary auteur claims he can change their lives—even if his tale of a Nazi occultist imbuing magic into highly volatile silver nitrate stock sounds like sheer fantasy. The magic film was never finished, which is why, Urueta swears, his career vanished overnight. He is cursed.

Now the director wants Montserrat and Tristán to help him shoot the missing scene and lift the curse … but Montserrat soon notices a dark presence following her, and Tristán begins seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend.

As they work together to unravel the mystery of the film and the obscure occultist who once roamed their city, Montserrat and Tristán may find that sorcerers and magic are not only the stuff of movies.

Release date: July 18

The Sun and the Void by Gabriela Romero Lacruz

The Sun and the Void by Gabriela Romero Lacruz
(Orbit)

Reina is desperate.

Stuck on the edges of society, Reina’s only hope lies in an invitation from a grandmother she’s never met. But the journey to her is dangerous, and prayer can’t always avert disaster.

Attacked by creatures that stalk the mountains, Reina is on the verge of death until her grandmother, a dark sorceress, intervenes. Now dependent on the Doña’s magic for her life, Reina will do anything to earn—and keep—her favor. Even the bidding of an ancient god who whispers to her at night.

Eva Kesaré is unwanted.

Illegitimate and of mixed heritage, Eva is her family’s shame. She tries to be the perfect daughter, but Eva is hiding a secret: Magic calls to her.

Eva knows she should fight the temptation. Magic is the sign of the dark god, and using it is punishable by death. Yet it’s hard to ignore power when it has always been denied you. Eva is walking a dangerous path. And in the end, she’ll become something she never imagined.

Release date: July 25

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

(featured image: Orbit, Abrams Comicarts, and Tordotcom)

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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.