Feel Free by Zadie Smith
Feel Free is an upcoming book of essays by Zadie Smith, scheduled for release in February. Split into five sections – ‘In the World’, ‘In the Audience’, ‘In the Gallery’, ‘On the Bookshelf’, and ‘Feel Free’ – it covers a range of topics such as the way we use social media, the increasingly endangered public library, and apathy towards global warming. According to its publishers, Penguin Random House, the book “offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith’s own life.”
Although best known for her fiction, including White Teeth, On Beauty, and NW, Smith is also a prolific essayist as a contributor to publications like the New Yorker as well as in her own books, such as 2009’s Changing My Mind. Smith’s work never shies away from being political and scrutinising complex issues like race, gender, and class. The characters in her fiction are interesting, flawed, and human, and their stories always seem to remain timely despite the turbulence of current events. Her nonfiction work is no different. Intercutting political commentary with pop culture references, she advocates for art and literature’s power to free the mind. And here at Arts + Lit, we approve this message.
– Emily Garbutt, Online Arts + Lit editor
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Nigerian American writer Tomi Adeyemi is only twenty-four years old but already has managed to land a seven-figure book deal for her new fantasy trilogy, alongside a movie deal with Fox 2000. The first book, and her debut novel, titled Children of Blood and Bone, is set be released on 6th March.
There is astounding hype surrounding the first book in Adeyemi’s Legacy of Orïsha Trilogy, which is prophesised to spark a cultural revolution in young adult literature to the likes of the Harry Potter series. This comparison certainly puts pressure on Adeyemi, but the confidence that both the film production company and the publishing house have in this story affirm and attest to the quality of Adeyemi’s craft.
The story inspired by West African mythology and tradition is also a response to the current political climate describes Adeyemi, in which “…men, women, and children of color are being dehumanized and oppressed and unjustly murdered”. For Adeyemi, her fantasy narrative is still deeply realistic; the world of Orïsha includes the protagonist Zélie Adebola fighting oppressive power structures that resulted in the genocide of the maji and the disappearance of magic—such dynamics are familiar in our present day. This unapologetically black debut novel is set to make waves in popular culture this upcoming year.
– Mubanga Mweemba, Print Arts + Lit editor
The Future by Neil Hilborn
In the wake of the viral sensation of his poem “OCD”, the huge success of his first book – Our Numbered Days – and his sell-out tours across the UK, America and Australia, Hilborn is releasing his second collection of poetry, The Future. This collection, written primarily on the road, promises to be as emotionally hard-hitting and resonant as all his previous work.
Whilst Hilborn is known for being a performance poet as a College National Poetry Slam champion, his written page poems are equally impressive and his emotional experience is just as successfully conveyed, if not more so. Hilborn manages to balance humour with uncompromisingly direct descriptions of mental health and relationships in a blend that makes you laugh and cry within the same poem. With mental health problems at an all time high in the current state of society, Hilborn’s poems are as important as ever, describing themselves as “fireworks for the numb”. Hilborn has a talent for depicting modern life and its ensuing issues exactly as they are, but in such a way that it is not despairing. There is an undertone of hope to all his poems; indeed, the title poem of this collection perfectly summarises this undertone of hope in an otherwise hopeless world – “The Future is a blue sky and a full tank of gas, and in it, we are alive.”
– Emma Fear
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
An author’s second publication is never easy, but when your debut novel wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, that challenge becomes immense. Viet Thanh Nguyen, however, does not seem to be feeling the pressure. His latest work, The Refugees – a collection of short stories – looks set to build on the vibrant literary tapestry that so far constitutes his corpus. Himself a Vietnamese migrant to America, Nguyen’s creation honours its title and dedication; ‘For all refugees, everywhere’. These are tales of the lonely, contrasted, occasionally chameleonic lives of those who have had to leave their homelands. The collection rises and sets with two tales of the sibling experience; those united in separation, and those riven by it. Every character is wreathed in the newness of a new land, but the struggle is not just to assimilate, it is to discover how one can nourish their past without it consuming their present.
Nguyen’s first novel, The Sympathiser, begins with the words “I am a spy, a spook, a sleeper, a man of two faces”. The following novel interprets this literally, delivering us a rollicking spy thriller. However, this is an author who specialises in the duality of lives. Covert or overt, the life of any immigrant pertains some form of cognitive dissonance, and this is a writer who excels in its articulation.
– Adam Robertson Charlton