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Books to Watch | August 16, 2022

August 16, 2022

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Looking for your next great read? We're here to help! Each week, our marketing team—Dylan Schleicher (DJJS), Gabbi Cisneros (GMC), Emily Porter (EPP), and Jasmine Gonzalez (JAG)—highlights four newly released books we are most excited about. 

Book descriptions are provided by the publisher unless otherwise noted.

This week, our choices are:

Benevolence by Julie Janson, Harper Via (EPP) 

For all known time, Muraging’s people, the Darug, have lived on this land between the river and the sea. But change comes swiftly in the early years of the nineteenth century when White settlers begin to arrive, laying claim to the continent, long inhabited by Aboriginal tribes like Muraging’s, for the British empire.  

At ten years old, Muraging is given over to the Parramatta Native School by her father, where the missionaries call her Mary James, force her to abandon her culture and language, and teach her subjects they believe will save her soul: English, Christianity, and housework. Six years later, seeking a brighter future, Muraging flees the school, embarking on a journey of discovery and a search for a safe place in an unfamiliar and unsteady new world—an odyssey far more winding and treacherous than she ever dreamed.  

Spanning two decades, from 1816-1835, and set around the Hawkesbury River area, the home of the Darug people in Parramatta and Sydney, Benevolence sheds light on the heartbreaking violence and erasure of colonization, as well as remarkable survival and resistance—a vivid and compelling portrait of the  Aboriginal Australians whose way of life is forever altered.  

Award-winning Australian writer Julie Janson’s draws on historical events to recreate this pivotal time—things that may have happened to her own ancestors—giving voice to an Aboriginal experience of early-settlement in Australia. 

 

Eating While Black: Food Shaming and Race in America by Psyche A. Williams-Forson, The University of North Carolina Press (JAG) 

Eating should be easy, but it’s not 
 
Psyche A. Williams-Forson is one of our leading thinkers about food in America. In Eating While Black, she offers her knowledge and experience to illuminate how anti-Black racism operates in the practice and culture of eating. She shows how mass media, nutrition science, economics, and public policy drive entrenched opinions among both Black and non-Black Americans about what is healthful and right to eat. Distorted views of how and what Black people eat are pervasive, bolstering the belief that they must be corrected and regulated. What is at stake is nothing less than whether Americans can learn to embrace nonracist understandings and practices in relation to food. 
 
Sustainable culture—what keeps a community alive and thriving—is essential to Black peoples' fight for access and equity, and food is central to this fight. Starkly exposing the rampant shaming and policing around how Black people eat, Williams-Forson contemplates food's role in cultural transmission, belonging, homemaking, and survival. Black people's relationships to food have historically been connected to extreme forms of control and scarcity—as well as to stunning creativity and ingenuity. In advancing dialogue about eating and race, this book urges us to think and talk about food in new ways in order to improve American society on both personal and structural levels. 

 

Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis by Beth Macy, Little, Brown and Company (DJJS) 

Nearly a decade into the second wave of America's overdose crisis, pharmaceutical companies have yet to answer for the harms they created. As pending court battles against opioid makers, distributors, and retailers drag on, addiction rates have soared to record-breaking levels during the COVID pandemic, illustrating the critical need for leadership, urgency, and change. Meanwhile, there is scant consensus between law enforcement and medical leaders, nor an understanding of how to truly scale the programs that are out there, working at the ragged edge of capacity and actually saving lives. 
 
Distilling this massive, unprecedented national health crisis down to its character-driven emotional core as only she can, Beth Macy takes us into the country’s hardest hit places to witness the devastating personal costs that one-third of America's families are now being forced to shoulder. Here we meet the ordinary people fighting for the least of us with the fewest resources, from harm reductionists risking arrest to bring lifesaving care to the homeless and addicted to the activists and bereaved families pushing to hold Purdue and the Sackler family accountable. These heroes come from all walks of life; what they have in common is an up-close and personal understanding of addiction that refuses to stigmatize—and therefore abandon—people who use drugs, as big pharma execs and many politicians are all too ready to do.  
 
Like the treatment innovators she profiles, Beth Macy meets the opioid crisis where it is—not where we think it should be or wish it was. Bearing witness with clear eyes, intrepid curiosity, and unfailing empathy, she brings us the crucial next installment in the story of the defining disaster of our era, one that touches every single one of us, whether directly or indirectly. A complex story of public health, big pharma, dark money, politics, race, and class that is by turns harrowing and heartening, infuriating and inspiring, Raising Lazarus is a must-read for all Americans. 

 

We Are Still Here: Afghan Women on Courage, Freedom, and the Fight to Be Heard by Nahid Shahalimi (ed.), Plume (GMC) 

After decades of significant progress, the prospects of women and girls in Afghanistan are once again dependent on radical Islamists who reject gender equality. When the United States announced the end of their twenty-year occupation and the Taliban seized control of the country on August 15th, 2021, so began a steep regression of social, political, and economic freedoms for women in the country. 
  
But just because a brutal regime has taken over doesn't mean Afghan women will stand by while their rights are stripped away. In We Are Still Here, artist and activist Nahid Shahalimi compiles the voices of thirteen powerful, insightful, and influential Afghan women who have worked as politicians, journalists, scientists, filmmakers, artists, coders, musicians, and more. As they reflect on their country's past, stories of their own upbringing and the ways they have been able to empower girls and women over the past two decades emerge. They report on the fear and pain caused by the impending loss of their homeland, but above all on what many girls and women in Afghanistan have already lost: freedom, self-determination, and joy. 
  
The result is an arresting book that issues an appeal to remember Afghan girls and women and to show solidarity with them. Like us, they have a right to freedom and dignity, and together we must fight for their place in the free world because Afghanistan is only geographically distant. Extremist ideas know no limits.

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