Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood by Maureen Ryan, MAGE and the Endless Unknown by SJ Miller, and Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad. Mariner Books.

The Mary Sue Book Club, June 2023: Reflecting on the ’00s & 2010s

We’ve reached the middle point of the year, but the number of exciting and thoughtful books has not slowed down. This month’s edition of The Mary Sue Book Club mostly features stories centering on the last 25 years. Whether it be in fantasy or a series of fiction novels diving into topics of identity, love, and family, the recent past is at the forefront of many people’s minds as we’re finding our footing in this new decade.

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This reflection includes a non-fiction exposé on abuse and bigotry in Hollywood. The explosive article on the behind-the-scenes LOST toxicity was an excerpt from the many shows featured in the book. On the other hand, another story looks at AI’s role in policing through a queer sci-fi adventure.

Between the monthly difficulty of whittling down this list and it going live quite a bit later than usual, we’ve added two bonus books!

Countries of Origin by Javier Fuentes

Countries of Origin by Javier Fuentes.
(Pantheon Books)

It is 2007, and twenty-four-year-old Demetrio is a celebrated pastry chef in New York at the French restaurant Le Bourrelet. This will be his seventh year as the pâtissier and the chef-owner, stern but paternal, feels he should move on. When Demetrio is offered a position as head of pastries at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, he wants nothing more than to accept it.

But as an undocumented immigrant he is terrified that he will be found out, so Demetrio makes the difficult decision to return permanently to his homeland which he has not seen since he was a small child. It will mean leaving the only family he knows—his beloved uncle Chus who has brought him up. On his flight to Madrid, Demetrio sits next to the handsome, playful, and sensitive Jacobo, a student at NYU going home to his aristocratic, fascist family and there is an instant, unacknowledged electricity between them.In dimly lit bars in Madrid and on pebbled beaches by the sea far outside the city, Demetrio and Jacobo’s subtle but intense relationship unfolds. Demetrio is tortured by a fear of true intimacy and by anxiety about their class difference. Both are struggling with their identities and sexuality, and they avoid their true feelings until a family tragedy sets them on a collision course back into one another’s lives.

Release date: June 6.

Turning Japanese: Expanded Edition by MariNaomi

"Turning Japanese: Expanded Edition" by Marinaomi.
(Oni Press)

The year is 1995. Fresh out of a long-term relationship, twenty-two-year old MariNaomi finds themself in San Jose, California. Mari, a mixed-race Japanese American, has for many years felt disconnected from the culture of their mother. Immersed in the pan-Asian diaspora of San Jose, Mari searches for cultural and romantic connections. It doesn’t take long for Mari to find new loves, and a new job—at a hostess bar for Japanese expats—in a bid to learn the Japanese language and culture. Turning Japanese moves as Mari does, from San Jose to Tokyo, as they try to get by in an unfamiliar city with rudimentary language skills—all in the hopes of finally connecting with their Japanese relatives without the use of their mother as a translator.

Release date: June 6. Check out an exclusive preview of this graphic novel here!

Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood by Maureen Ryan

Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood by Maureen Ryan.
(Mariner Books)

It is never just One Bad Man.

Abuse and exploitation of workers is baked into the very foundations of the entertainment industry. To break the cycle and make change that sticks, it’s important to stop looking at headline-making stories as individual events. Instead, one must look closely at the bigger picture, to see how abusers are created, fed, rewarded, allowed to persist, and, with the right tools, how they can be excised.

In Burn It Down, veteran reporter Maureen Ryan does just that. She draws on decades of experience to connect the dots and illuminate the deeper forces sustaining Hollywood’s corrosive culture. Fresh reporting sheds light on problematic situations at companies like Lucasfilm and shows like Saturday Night Live, The Goldbergs, Lost, Sleepy Hollow, Curb Your Enthusiasm and more. Interviews with actors and famous creatives like Evan Rachel Wood, Harold Perrineau, Damon Lindelof, and Orlando Jones abound. Ryan dismantles, one by one, the myths that the entertainment industry promotes about itself, which have allowed abusers to thrive and the industry to avoid accountability–myths about Hollywood as a meritocracy, what it takes to be creative, the value of human dignity, and more.

Release date: June 6.

Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad

Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad.
(Doubleday Books)

It’s the holy month of Ramadan, and twin sisters Amira and Lina are about to graduate high school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. On the precipice of adulthood, they plan to embark on a summer of teenage revelry, trying on new identities and testing the limits of what they can get away with while still under their parents’ roof. But the twins’ expectations of a summer of freedom collide with their older brother’s return from prison, whose mysterious behavior threatens to undo the delicate family balance.

Meanwhile, outside the family’s apartment, a storm is brewing in Bay Ridge. A raid on a local business sparks a protest that brings the Arab community together, and a senseless act of violence threatens to tear them apart. Everyone’s motives are called into question as an alarming sense of disquiet pervades the neighborhood. With everything spiraling out of control, how will Amira and Lina know who they can trust?

Release date: June 6.

MAGE and the Endless Unknown by SJ Miller

MAGE and the Endless Unknown by SJ Miller.
(Iron Circus Comics)

Peek through the leaves, beyond the clouded mountains, and you will find a garden with a strange attendant and an even stranger purpose. A young mage, asleep in a meadow, wakes to delights and fanciful spells that open a door to unknown wonder. Then, they eagerly step through to find only horror and death. There is no swashbuckling adventure in store; this world means them cold and deadly harm, and they’ll need all their resilience, wit, and magic to push it back.

Gaze through fascinating silent windows into a terrifying dimension and follow the wordless Mage and their companions as they travel a shadowy fantastical land of monsters. Will they survive this endlessly curious mystery, or will the unforgiving darkness swallow them whole?

Release date: June 20.

Can’t Let Her Go by Kianna Alexander

Can’t Let Her Go by Kianna Alexander.
(Montlake)

Peaches Monroe and Jamie Hunt are core members of their Texas friend squad and have so much in common. They’re successful at their careers in personal care. They take Austin’s “Keep It Weird” vibe to heart, each leaning into their own unique talents and sense of style. And they’re both ready to go on to even bigger things. Is pushing past the boundaries of friendship into something deeper one of them? The red-hot fantasy is there…but so is real life.

Jamie’s college dreams will take her far from her hometown. She’s already road-tripping to possibilities from San Antonio to Houston. And Peaches has obligations of her own. Not only is she planning to expand her business, but she’s taking care of her family after her mother’s passing, leaving her overwhelmed and under pressure.

No matter how perfect Jamie and Peaches are for each other, is this the right time for romance? Finding their true selves comes first. Only then can they hope to pursue a future of lasting love—together.

Release date: June 20.

Playing for Keeps by Tristen Crone

Playing For Keeps by Tristen Crone.
(Lake Country Press & Review)

Farren puts on a good front, feigning confidence despite literally not fitting into society’s narrow ideas of beauty and success. Inside, she’s stuck, afraid to put herself and her ideas out there, especially the board game design she’s kept a secret. She keeps things light and temporary-both at work as a substitute teacher and in her relationships.

Overworked Sebastian abhors anything that gets in the way of his goals, including procuring the perfect pastry. The two meet when Sebastian accuses her of stealing his pastry in an amusing and awkward café incident. When Farren gets in the way of his coffee order with her huge personality she turns out to be even more than he bargained for.

Instead of shrinking beneath his usually intimidating stare, Farren issues a challenge back: take a second away from his phone calendar with its down-to-the-minute scheduling and play her for it-live a little. If Sebastian wins the board game battle he gets to keep his precious croissant, if she wins he has to join their game night next week.

Release date: June 27.

The Archive Undying by Emma Mieko Candon

The Archive Undying by Emma Mieko Candon.
(Tordotcom)

WHEN AN AI DIES, ITS CITY DIES WITH IT
WHEN A CITY FALLS, IT LEAVES A CORPSE BEHIND
WHEN THAT CORPSE RUNS OFF, ONLY DEVOTION CAN BRING IT BACK

When the robotic god of Khuon Mo went mad, it destroyed everything it touched. It killed its priests, its city, and all its wondrous works. But in its final death throes, the god brought one thing back to life: its favorite child, Sunai. For the seventeen years since, Sunai has walked the land like a ghost, unable to die, unable to age, and unable to forget the horrors he’s seen. He’s run as far as he can from the wreckage of his faith, drowning himself in drink, drugs, and men. But when Sunai wakes up in the bed of the one man he never should have slept with, he finds himself on a path straight back into the world of gods and machines.

Release date: June 27.

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

(featured image: Mariner Books, Iron Circus Comics, and Doubleday Books)

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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.