By David Canfield and Leah Greenblatt
August 12, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT
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One World; Simon & Schuster

The New American, by Micheline Aharonian Marcom

It's not one book's job to right another's wrongs, but Marcom's wrenching border-crossing tale arrives as a sort of corrective to the ever-controversial American Dirt. The New American offers its own epic sweep, as Emilio, an undocumented Guatemalan-American college student, gets deported from his Bay Area neighborhood and tries to make the dangerous trek home without alerting his mother.

But it's far richer than the pathologizing best-seller to which comparisons will surely be made. Marcom, born in Saudi Arabia, depicts inhumanity with visceral force, but her bracing empathy (and hope) shines above all. —David Canfield

Grade: B+

Love After Love, by Ingrid Persaud

Family — less the biological kind than the ones we find through luck, or fate — lies at the center of this bright, generous debut. When a young Trinidadian widow goes looking for a lodger, she hardly expects her co-worker, the reserved Mr. Chetan, to volunteer. But as he settles in with the woman he still insists on calling "Miss Betty" and her son, Solo, the house becomes a home.

Can it last? Like Nicole Dennis-Benn's Patsy, one of the best books of last summer, Love After Love offers both a window into Caribbean literature and a wider lens on immigration, race, and sexuality. Mostly, though, it's just a great story: funny, tender, and true. —Leah Greenblatt

Grade: A-

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