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2021 Summer Book Preview: Nonfiction

Dive deep into some of the most talked-about nonfiction and hybrid books of the season.

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The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

Release date: May 4

Author and cartoonist Alison Bechdel of Fun Home fame returns to graphic memoir for the first time in nearly a decade with this book on Bechdel’s long relationship with exercise. “Grappling with the desire for spiritual transcendence in the most intensely personal terms, Bechdel achieves a tricky – even enlightening – balance,” notes Publishers Weekly in a starred review.

 

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

Release date: June 1

The Atlantic staff writer and poet Clint Smith journeys across the United States to chronicle monuments and landmarks related to American slavery, including both “those that are honest about the past and those that are not.” In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls the book “an essential consideration of how America’s past informs its present.”

 

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

Release date: June 1

Writer, host, and educator Ashley C. Ford’s coming-of-age memoir details how her family and her childhood were deeply affected by her father’s incarceration, which spanned more than two decades. Ford’s book is “sure to be one of the best memoirs of 2021,” promises Kirkus in a starred review.

 

WAKE: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall (illustrated by Hugo Martinez)

Release date: June 1

This hybrid work is part memoir and part graphic novel, combining both research and informed information to recount historian Rebecca Hall’s attempts to uncover the women throughout history who led slave revolts. In a starred review, Kirkus calls the book “an urgent, brilliant work of historical excavation.”

 

Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Emezi

Release date: June 8

Akwaeke Emezi, author of three critically acclaimed novels (Freshwater, Pet, and The Death of Vivek Oji), turns to memoir for the first time in one of the most hotly anticipated releases of the year. “Name a writer more essential to the recent landscape of contemporary fiction – and more prolific – than Akwaeke Emezi has been over the last five years…I’ll wait,” challenges Harper’s Bazaar.

 

Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice by Rupa Marya and Raj Patel

Release date: August 3

Bestselling author Raj Patel (The Value of Nothing) and Do No Harm Coalition co-founder Dr. Rupa Marya highlight the many places where medicine and social justice intersect, highlighting injustice around the world and offering a way forward via the deep medicine of decolonization. “Inflamed mixes medicine, argument, and metaphor into a post-pandemic poultice: reading it is the first step in the deep medicine it prescribes,” says On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal author Naomi Klein.