New novels from masterful writers Namwali Serpell and Amber McBride are available this fall. Serpell, a Zambian-American novelist and a professor of English at Harvard University, has offered her second novel, “The Furrows,” following her award-winning debut, 2019’s “The Old Drift.” Serpell’s depth and ability to intertwine emotion and narrative storytelling create a searing story of mourning and mystery. In “The Furrows,” the narrator is Cassandra, or Cee, who recounts the story of how, when she was 12, her 7-year-old brother, Wayne, disappeared beneath the ocean’s waves, “‘the great grooves in the water’ like furrows in a field,” writes The New Yorker.
Amber McBride is a lesser-known author whose prose and touching literary language acquired a two-book deal with Feiwel & Friends, an imprint publisher of Macmillan, in 2020. Her latest book due out in October 2022 is entitled “We Are All So Good at Smiling,” her second young adult novel following her debut, “Me: Moth.” The book tells the story of the young Whimsy who finds themselves “back in the hospital for treatment of clinical depression. When she meets a boy named Faerry, she recognizes they both have magic in the marrow of their bones. And when Faerry and his family move to the same street, the two start to realize that their lifelines may have twined and untwined many times before,” describes Feiwel & Friends.
Both authors, who are just beginning their careers as novelists, unfold the worlds of their protagonists in their unique ways. Both books are written through the eyes of young people. McBride chooses to embed fantasy and magical elements to embolden and push the conflict of her character’s depressive predicament. And Serpell chooses to focus on the feeling, the inner experience and the pain alongside the gripping detail of the mystery of the swallowing of a girl’s younger sibling. They approach the experience of a young child in different ways: one through the lens of mental illness and fantastical imagery and the other through reality and the physicality of being lost.
As the careers of these writers unfold, it would be beneficial and positive to pay close attention to the structure and beauty of their writing. These books are the foundations of their personal styles and ability to execute the articulation of a character’s perspective. “The Furrows” and “We Are All So Good at Smiling” are already refined and reveal a glimpse of what they are capable of through the gracefulness of their current voices. They have the ability to become masterful, and in a world where Black women novelists and their stories have been overlooked and under-published, the newfound inclusiveness in major publishing offers these writers, and others, opportunities to hone their craft—to keep writing and explore as many complex and interesting scenarios and circumstances as they choose.