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5 Books to Watch for This May
Finding a book you love can be a bittersweet experience: How can your next choice ever compare to what you just finished? We revisit the page-turners of the past and recommend titles we're betting will become the stars of the future.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden
Same Era, Different Points of View

Then: The Help
By Kathryn Stockett
464 pages; Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Practically from the moment it was published in 2009, the reading world embraced Kathryn Stockett's The Help, a debut novel about black maids who finally speak up about their white employers during the civil rights movement. A fixture at the top of most best-seller lists, it became the feel-good book of the year.
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Now: Glorious
By Bernice L. McFadden
250 pages; Akashic

Bernice L. McFadden's riveting novel, Glorious, starts in the Jim Crow South and moves to the Harlem Renaissance, and finally to the same civil rights era Stockett chronicled, but it's a grittier, more brutal tale. Easter Bartlett, a young black woman, flees Georgia after seeing too much, including a mob lynching of a pregnant woman. Easter is no victim, though. In Harlem she encounters a world where crowds gather to cheer the "Black Moses" Marcus Garvey and publishers enthuse about the exotic genius of "Negro" writers. Still, it's hardly a postracial paradise. McFadden—in vivid vernacular—brilliantly skewers the vanity of self-congratulatory liberals. A white woman returning from Paris with her black lover gushes, "Before our encounter, I had never even spoken to a Negro. They were invisible to me and now I see them everywhere!" Easter achieves some brief literary fame, but by 1961, she is tired, and battered by stubborn racial attitudes. In confronting one final injustice, she doesn't just survive; she triumphs—gloriously. — Karen Holt
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Next: Mother knows best, in China and Jamaica...