Rumaan Alam's latest novel, Leave the World Behind, centers on a white family and an older Black couple who find themselves together in a beautiful vacation house on Long Island while a power outage — and possibly something much worse — grips much of the East Coast. The novel, which is up for the National Book Award, explores class and race relations — and how we respond to crisis and fear
Leave the World Behind is atmospheric and prescient: Its rhythms of comedy alternating with shock and despair mimic so much of the rhythms of life right now. That's more than enough to make it a signature novel for this blasted year.
Race and belonging are the central themes of Yaa Gyasi's work. Her 2016 debut novel, Homegoing, about slavery, won a National Book critic's circle award, and the National Book Foundation's 5 under 35 honor.
Gyasi's new novel, Transcendent Kingdom, draws on Gyasi's life as the daughter of immigrants from Ghana.
After writing three non-fiction books dealing with race and identity, and relaunching Marvel's black superhero series Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates has written his first novel. Set during slave times, it re-imagines leaders of the underground railroad as having a magical power to help people out of slavery.
Before Wanda Sykes became a comic, she worked as a procurement officer for the National Security Agency and had top security clearance. But she always loved telling jokes, and when a local radio station sponsored a talent show that included a comedy category, she decided to audition.