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Summer 2021 Faves

Have you already chosen your summer reading list? We're only halfway through 2021, but a lot of great books have already been translated into English. The choice was very hard... but the team of the book department team has made up a small selection for you. Nonfiction, fiction, comics and children books: there's something for everyone!

King Kong Theory, Virginie Despentes (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2021, new edition, Tr. Frank Wynne, published in French by Grasset) 

King Kong Theory has risen from the ashes in the US and we are thrilled! The feminist writer Virginie Despentes is back in bookstores with her landmark essay that shook up a whole generation. This scathing pro-pornography and pro-prostitution manifesto, which analyzes the mechanisms of male domination, still remains a profound symbol of modern feminism in which Despentes writes for every woman, "the ugly, the old, the bull dykes, the frigid, the unfucked, the unfuckable, the hysterics, the freaks, all those excluded from the great meat market of female flesh...”. A real literary sensation at the time of its release fifteen years ago, King Kong Theory continues to pertinently question the themes of gender and sexuality in our current society, pushing right where it hurts. Revived by Frank Wynne's incisive translation, a pamphlet to be reread and put in all hands, those of the convinced and the skeptics, for an explosive summer! 

Virginie Despentes is a writer and filmmaker. She worked in an independent record store in the early ’90s, was a sex worker, and published her first novel, Baise-Moi, when she was twenty-three. Despentes is also the author of more than fifteen other works, including Apocalypse BabyBye Bye BlondiePretty Things, and the famous saga Vernon Subutex (volume 3: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, May 2021, Tr. Frank Wynne). 

The Ungovernable Society: A Genealogy of Authoritarian Liberalism by Grégoire Chamayou. (Polity Press, 2021, Tr. Andrew Brown with an introduction by Michael Hardt, published in French by La Fabrique) 

After A Theory of the Drone and Manhunts: A Philosophical History, Grégoire Chamayou pens a brilliant essay on governing, liberalism, and authority. Dissecting the rationale that has shaped and transformed our world, our economy and the workspace from the 70’s onward, he depicts how the business world (with a particular focus on the US) has countered policies and arguments that did not fit its narrative. Addressing how it has done away with uncertainties, fostered alliances, quelled protest, framed arguments, and shaped policies, The Ungovernable Society: A Genealogy of Authoritarian Liberalism looks at the business world in its interactions with a variety of actors, employees and unions, shareholders, the government, and activists alike. Chamayou builds a strong and urgent argument against authoritarian liberalism by unearthing a dizzying number of source material from managers or economists, carefully selecting quotes that he weaves seamlessly into his own prose. With this elegant and important work, Chamayou will surely succeed in bringing out your inner critic of the powers that be. 

Grégoire Chamayou is a philosopher, and publisher at the Zones --a vibrant collection of the French publishing house La Découverte that has printed the works of Mona Chollet, Razmig Keucheyan and Elsa Dorlin among others.

The Mediterranean Wall, by Louis-Philippe Dalembert (Schaffner Press, 2021, Tr. Marjolijn De Jager, published in French by Sabine Wespieser)

Three women, different in every way, from their native countries— Eritrea, Syria, and Nigeria—to their social status and future aspirations, set off on a boat towards Lampedusa. Each has her own history and unique dreams, but all face the horror of an endless journey under nightmarish conditions. Inspired by true events, The Mediterranean Wall is a striking and essential novel, that confronts us with an unacceptable reality. The author nevertheless never falls into pity and succeeds—thanks to his poetic writing style and sense of humor—in dignifying his characters, even as they endure terrible hardships. 

Louis-Philippe Dalembert is an award-winning Haitian poet and novelist (The Other Side of the Sea). He writes in both French and Haitian Creole. His works have been translated into several languages. He now divides his home between Berlin, Paris and Port-au-Prince. 

Winter in Sokcho, Elisa Shua Dusapin (Open Letter, 2021, Tr. Aneesa Abbas Higgins, published in French by Zoe) 

Title notwithstanding, Elisa Shua Dusapin’s Winter in Sokcho is a suitable summer read for the nostalgic, the wistful, the travel-starved; in short, just about everyone who is emerging from the pandemic in a state of lostness. Her unnamed narrator feels more stuck than settled in her current situation, working in a run-down guesthouse in the tourist town’s off-season. Rather than falling prey to its characters’ ennui, the novel continues to grip the reader due to its striking writing style. Dusapin is a veritable master of imagery, building the tension in her story around poignant moments enlivened by her fluid prose. With Winter in Sokcho, she has crafted a unique work that treats dynamics of national and familial identity specific to her French-Korean narrator, yet is nonetheless relevant for readers of many backgrounds. 

Elisa Shua Dusapin was born in France in 1992 and raised in Paris, Seoul, and Switzerland. Winter in Sokcho is her first novel. Published in 2016 to wide acclaim, it was awarded the Prix Robert Walser and the Prix Régine Desforges and has been translated into six languages. 

A Sister, by Bastien Vivès (Ablaze, 2021, published in French by Casterman)

Spending the summer in the city and in need of a break? Then grab the new graphic novel of Bastien Vivès, and travel to Brittany with Antoine! The 13-year-old boy spends the summer with his family in a village close to the beach. He draws, hunts crabs with his little brother, Titi, and enjoys his holiday until a friend of their parents arrives for a week with her daughter, Hélène. With Hélène, Antoine experiences his first thrills, starts exploring his sexuality, and enters his teenage years. A Sister will let you escape New York and feel the beauty of summers in Brittany, while relating a tender story of brotherhood and a teenager’s first love. 

With a diploma from the prestigious École des Gobelins, where he studied animation, Bastien Vivès got his start thanks to a comics workshop he cofounded in Paris. The young French author first gained attention with Le Goût de Chlore and Amitié étroite (both published by Casterman). He then teamed with Merwan on Pour l'empire (For the Empire, Europe Comics 2017), an engrossing adventure trilogy, before shifting to Dupuis, where he collaborated on the two-part crime fiction story La Grande Odalisque (Dupuis 2012, Europe Comics in English 2018) alongside Jérôme Mulot and Florent Ruppert. 

Cici's Journal: Lost and Found, by Joris Chamblain and Aurélie Neyret (First Second, 2021, Tr. by Anne Collins Smith and Owen M. Smith, published in French by Éditions Soleil) - For ages 8 and up 

The sequel to Cici's adventures is coming to the United States! If your kids haven't read the first two volumes, now is the time to get started! This graphic novel in five volumes, which interweaves journal entries, scrapbook pieces and doodles, follows a series of investigations led by a curious and resourceful 11-year-old girl. Cerise “Cici” lives alone with her mother and dreams of becoming a novelist. She works to achieve this by writing in her notebooks. Intrigued by the world of grown-ups that she tries to make sense of, Cerise notes and attempts to deduce the secrets of the adults around her, and conducts investigations into their inner  lives. Cici’s Journal fascinates children for its suspenseful stories and delicate, precise and intricate illustrations. Parents will love the adventures of this little girl, who seeks to understand adults and discovers herself within the pages.

Joris Chamblain is a French comic writer and author of children’s books known in particular for having published, in collaboration with the illustrator Aurélie Neyret, Cici’s Journal (Les Carnets de Cerise in French), which won the Youth Prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 2014 and no less than twenty awards. Joris's comics are translated in about fifteen countries. 

Aurélie Neyret is an illustrator from Lyon, France. When she was little, she dreamed of living on a boat; collected all sorts of strange and useless things; she loved to hide and read all night long, to build clubhouses, and—more than anything else—to draw! Today, her approach to life hasn’t changed much. Neyrat created illustrations for various kids’ magazines (J’aime Lire, Histoire Junior) and invited readers on an adventure with Les Vacances de Monsieur Rhino (Mister Rhino’s Vacation). After several graphic novel publications in anthologies, she and Joris Chamblain put together their first book: Les Carnets de Cerise (Cici’s Journal), originally published by the Métamorphose imprint of Soleil.